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THE PRICE OF OUR LIBERTY (2016–2019)


The death toll of persons involved in military operations totalled 26,662 during the conflict between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-1940, later known as the Winter War. A book entitled Vapautemme hinta (Engl. transl. The Price of Our Liberty) was published soon after the war in 1941, with a few column centimetres reserved for the picture and details of each deceased war hero. The register published by Finnish news magazine Suomen kuvalehti became a bestseller, with an estimated million copies sold in total. Today, over 75 years later, the book can still be found on the shelves of many Finnish homes. It provides a mesmerizing read. 

The Winter War as well as the book proved that deceased soldiers are of value. While the thunder of cannons and guns still echo through the air, they are vital for strengthening a patriotic spirit and sense of community under threat. They uphold morale among troops. After the war, they have a vital role in boosting a communal spirit, shaping identity and preparing for future conflicts. They also contribute to the creation of hero myths and narration of wars. 

The book paints a unified picture of Finland that redeemed its freedom through a blood offering. Although documenting the Winter War, it provides a fascinating link to the 1918 Finnish Civil War:  after the war between the Whites (conservatives) and Reds (socialists) that resulted in a loss of 36,640 lives, Suomen kuvalehti began to publish a column dedicated to perished Whites – with the same name as the book to come. The purpose was to remember the deceased heroes and consecrate their names for future generations. Making a point of honouring victims was a way for the winning side to bolster a certain Finnish identity.

Despite numerous defeats in the Winter War, after the war it has been discussed in an ennobled manner. As the story goes, a small nation managed to beat the great and mighty Soviet Union. The notion of the spirit of the Winter War was born, referring to success on the battlefield, a sense of solidarity in general as well as healing from the Civil War. As the book proves, this time all Finnish deceased soldiers qualified as redeemers of liberty, as the holy war was waged on a unified front against an external enemy.

The Winter War continues to hold a special place in political discourse in Finland, whether hankering for its spirit to crush an economic downturn, or mentioned in the context of security policy. The underlying notion is always freedom and independence redeemed through bloodshed and solidarity. Politics of today is built on a foundation of deceased soldiers.

Soldiers killed during times of war and peace are repeatedly harnessed for political ends. But when you stare at the faces of deceased soldiers one by one, also taking in their names, hometown, profession and age, politics are pushed aside and replaced with a sense of urgency, sadness and reflection on how the war affected each family and village. As a group, the deceased war heroes were important on a national level, but as individuals, their deaths feel like nothing but a loss. What use is it to anyone that all three brothers of a family living in a small village died? Or when a recent graduate gets killed after just two days on the front?

After gazing at the images long enough, one faces what I would call a problem with scalability. Deceased soldiers are important citizens and subordinates, but as individuals they are nothing but a loss. Dying as a war hero does not leave behind warmth, love, work or prosperity for family and friends. Instead, war death is always a violent end that results in immeasurable sorrow.

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For this project, I have scanned all the main characters (26,662) in the The Price of Our Liberty book, and reworked the images into new exhibition pieces. Altogether there are four different chapters or types of works in the series: 100 portraits, 8 appropriations, a church piece and the book installation. Each of the portraits will be made up of 68–415 overlaid head shots. Appropriations are based on images collected from newspapers and the Internet in recent years. The Church is a compilation piece consisting 160 churches in one picture. Also the book The Price of Our Liberty is exhibited. Altogether all the works construct a layered and uncanny view to the role of a dead soldier in contemporary political debates.







Helsinki City Museum 2019









Mänttä Art Festival, Finland 2019
Lightboxes, ed. 1/2
















The Price of Our Liberty
2019
each image 25 x 21 cm
Archival ink print, mounted onto composite aluminium
The installation consists altogether 100 portraits.


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Minister of Defence of Finland and another politician with Assault Rifles
2017
68,5 x 94,5 cm
Archival ink print, framed, glass




HX Fighter Program
2017
56,5 x 78 cm
Archival ink print, framed, museum glass




Protest
2017
68,5 x 94,5 cm
Archival ink print, framed, museum




Squadron 2020
2017
56,5 x 78 cm
Archival ink print, framed, museum





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