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Photography By Mari Hokkanen
by Alexandra Pereira
2008-08-19 09:00:45
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Photographers are one of Finland’s greatest artistic strengths, as the “Helsinki School” developed and broadened its explorations to achieve excellence in most photographic domains, from photojournalism to portrait, landscapes, compositions or documentary photography, using different printing techniques and colours with the same ease as they handle black and white.

The work developed in the last decades produced its own results, with at least a dozen of very talented, well-equipped and well-taught people – at least a dozen top photographers among the dozens of quality ones formed – working simultaneously and achieving high levels of recognition abroad, which actually is quite much for a 5 million people country, and has something to do with the supports given to the Arts/Education as well. Names such as Hannes Heikura, Jyrki Parantainen, Esko Männikkö, Stefan Bremer, Jussi Aalto, Heli Rekula, Miklos Gaál, Elina Brotherus, Sanna Kannisto, Ulla Jokisalo, Ilka Halso, Tiina Itkonen or Susanna Majuri, for example, have a solid international position when talent and technical proficiency are at stake.

Since the nineties, a group of high-quality female photographers arose, who often deal strongly with concepts of femininity in their art works. One of the most interesting facets of the Helsinki School is the expertise shown by many artists when it comes to creating imaginary scenarios and stage-like compositions, besides the typically very specific and thorough concepts which they tend to develop, and the evolution of their work through thematic series. Conjugated with this, I would add that a very unique way of treating colour and contrast can help you to distinguish some photos by artists of the Helsinki School. Nonetheless, originality is highly appreciated, as each artist enjoys enormous freedom to follow his own personal path and his specific work interests.

Mari Hokkanen (b. 1979) is a fantastic young Finnish female photographer: talented, original and technically skilled. Mari appreciates nostalgic places or environments where she feels she can start telling a story: «I am inspired by spaces in which I can imagine people and their stories. Spaces where it is possible to sense the past», like abandoned warehouses and houses, which serve as poetic shelters for her present artistic scripts. These can be shot as far as in the Australian countryside and encompass as different characters as old ladies and alternative circus artists, piercing their skin with sharp instruments while swinging hanged in the air.

Graduated in photojournalism, Mari Hokkanen has held exhibitions in cafeterias and bars in Helsinki and will be having a collective exhibition next Spring in Portugal. Meanwhile, she will present in Nunes Gallery (Helsinki) the solo exhibition Being by your beings – Path of the yellow dress from 24.08-14.09.2008, through which she explores the theme of the elaboration and construction of an identity between the past and the present.

The woman in the photos moves through distinct environments, trying different clothes on, like in a theatrical stage. Here, a very true thought conveyed by Hokkanen is that growth manifests itself between rejection and selection. At the same time, mythological roots are weaved into this process of identity construction, representing broader collective identities and symbols. Human growth is a mystery to oneself – like life is a mystery for the one living it –, and Mari expresses this idea by means of characters who spy on each others, see transparent traces left by the others, hide and show themselves again as if playing a hide and seek game.

Mari follows an experimental and intuitive method inside a plan frame, which need must have been strengthened by her education and technic knowledge: the sceneries, themes and characters are sometimes carefully studied in advance, while the outcomes are somewhat unpredictable, much thanks to the value she gives to spontaneity and improvisation: «My way to take photos is intuitive, although some of the pictures are planned far away. Nevertheless shooting is an experimental process that gives often a surprise by its result.»

From a bird-cage woman on the top of a warehouse staircase, reminding us of a personal interpretation/development of a surrealistic Magritte, to a hide and seek game with characters somewhat similar to (and as mysterious as) forest dwarfs or Santa’s helpers peeking through windows as they research different possibilities, to a travel suitcase inside which someone was “packed” while an umbrella, a colourful overcoat and a woman’s hat, almost alive, patiently wait for their owner outside – everything is possible in Hokkanen’s photos.

The artistic journey as a form of consolidation and elaboration of one’s identity, by allowing the subject-artist to “be different selves” which communicate inside him forming one solid whole, comes again to our mind through the character wearing the yellow stripped dress and overlooking a nocturnal city street, which shows up as a metaphor enwrapped in beautiful golden colours. Motherhood as a stage in which collective identities and hopes are projected, as a place of connection to the divine and the myth is approached in another photo with a wonderful treatment of colour and contrast. And once again the windows open up to one transparent, naked self, both outside and inside the house of the artist, one of her many different houses, her home being nature at times, her nature the stories she likes to tell.


Galleria Nunes
Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu 17 A-a
00100 Helsinki - Finland

The gallery is located just on the other side of the street from Latsipalatsi, next door to AVA Design.
Opening Hours
Tue-Fri 11-17
Sat-Sun 12-16
Mondays Closed

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Sand2008-08-19 18:08:09
Although photographers have always been selective in the material they captured with their cameras and thereby personalized reality while duping the public that a photograph never lies, it was Picasso who noted that an artist tells the truth by lying. Hokkanen obviously is delighted to create extraordinary lies to go far beyond the average Photoshop mechanic who takes to the truth with a sledgehammer and she does it with such a skill in fantasy that the old and very obsolete arguments about whether or not photography is art are thoroughly blasted. Thanks for showing her.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 19:34:27
“Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.”

--Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 19:36:58
P.S. A brief comment: No 20th century philosopher of art has reflected more deeply on how changes in modern art have affected our understanding of art itself than Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). For Benjamin photography and film have had a revolutionary impact on art. He was much concerned with the relationship between art and politics. Writing as Hitler came to power, Benjamin, a Jew, maintained hope that art could be used in the struggle against fascism. In the above essay Benjamin attempts to understand how mechanical reproduction, or the ability to copy a work of art via mechanical means changes art’s social function. Central in this regard is the development of photography with its ability to reproduce unlimited numbers of accurate copies, as well as film, the art form whose photographic basis makes it seem to reproduce the world in time and space.(continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 19:37:27
Benjamin contends that the reproducibility of artworks has cause their aura, or the reverence that people in earlier societies, often in religious contexts, had for art. In establishing this claim, Benjamin draws an analogy between the structure of art objects and commodities or goods produced for the market. The inspiration for this analogy comes from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital where a distinction is made between the ability of a commodity to satisfy a human need (its use value) and its value in the market place (its exchange value), arguing that exchange value predominates under capitalism. In the same way, Benjamin first distinguishes the cult value of the artwork—its place within a cult as a unique object often hidden from view, from its exhibition value—its worth as an object that is accessible to all. He then argues that technological reproduction makes makes the cult value of art recede in favor of its exhibition value. Which is to say, art can no longer be regarded as autonomous from social interplay, as Kant and others had asserted. Benjamin proposed that art be politicized as a weapon in the fight for social justice.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 19:44:49
Errata above: the first sentence above is incomplete, "to disappear" should be added to "had for art" at the end of the sentence.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 19:47:29
Also errata: "cause" should be "caused,"

I regret those typos but do not apologize for them. We all make them, unless we are gods.

Sand2008-08-19 20:00:48
Not to worry, Mr. P. your comments had nothing whatsoever to do with the material in the original article so nobody reads them.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 20:23:01
Not to worry, Mr. S., you and other like-minded cultural philistine have probably already consigned Walter Benjamin to the bonfire, so no one will read him, but they will read your precious pearls of wisdom. Indeed, the dwarf on the giant's shoulder always feels taller than the giant.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 20:30:32
P.S. To the contrary, even a mentally challenged reader can gather that in fact Benjamin's comments on photography and film vis a vis art have everything to do with the above article which was about photography as an art form, as any objective reader can indeed confirm. But within a mutual admiration club where emperors parade naked deluding themselves that they are wearing elegant costumes, objectivity and the search for truth is an illusion bordering on a delusion.

Sand2008-08-19 20:39:17
Very well, Mr.P., I stand aside to anticipate the compliments you should be receiving for the pertinent comments you have contributed. Since a great deal of all art actually is illusion I accept that you have created the illusion of pertinent comment.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 20:55:23
Indeed, it is fitting and proper that you stand aside to a Walter Benjamin: he is the giant and you are the dwarf when it comes to art criticism.

As far as expecting compliments for comments as an art form, is that what the visiting voices in your head have been telling you lately? Don't listen to them; they lie.

Sand2008-08-19 21:20:07
Someone as dim-witted and dim-sighted as you could not distinguish a dwarf or a giant from a toadstool. I can only be insulted by someone I respect.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 21:34:34
Considering the source of this latest boorish and bully-like outburst, the plethora of egregious insults and devious intellectual manouvers you have generously exemplified in this forum, and of which you seem to be very proud, is indeed like spit thrown at heaven; it usually returns to the sender and reveals him for the dim-witted he really is. In ancient Greece they were called sophists, but they at least could carry on a proper debate without descending to ad hominem attacks, now we have the charlatan pure and simple, for whom language is a mere instrument of power. It is sad stuff indeed. O tempora, o mores.

AP2008-08-19 21:57:18
Yes, Sand, that's exactly what I thought when I saw her works in the link above, or the amazing photos of the circus artists piercing themselves while hanging in the air, or the one of naked people with distinct races under the same umbrella, whose faces we cannot see: the old-fashioned discussion on whether or not photography is art becomes so ridiculous!

What I wanted to write about in the article was something very specific: the multifaceted nature of the identity of an artist and the way how he/she elaborates it (through his/her own artistic work).

About Walter Benjamin, well people read him and will continue to do so, that's the domain of art philosophy and although he is an important author, don't forget that there were quite many evolutions in art philosophy, artistic techniques and even in social organization forms since 1940. Of course art has a very strong political role, no one denies that. And no one denies that photography is an art, that's completely not in question nowadays. I would even add that photography doesn't need to be openly political to be art, still of course if it has some substance it becomes much more interesting.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 22:33:53
“The nineteenth century dispute as to the artistic value of painting versus photography today seems devious and confused. This does not diminish its importance, however; if anything, it underlines it. The dispute was in fact the symptom of a historical transformation the universal impact of which was not realized by either of the rivals. When the age of mechanical reproduction separated art from its basis in cult, the semblance of its autonomy disappeared forever. The resulting change in the function of art transcended the perspective of the century; for a long time it even escaped that of the twentieth century, which experienced the development of the film. Earlier much futile thought had been devoted to the question of whether photography is an art. The primary question—whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art—was not raised…”

--Walter Benjamin, from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

AP2008-08-19 22:43:00
I would say that's very true.
Also computer art, and many other inventions, will change the face and concept of art. But its nature is maybe something deeper and pretty unchangeable, at least the way I see it. It is a magnificent tool.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 23:06:15
In a 1994 opinion piece published in the “Rocky Mountain News,” I pleaded wit the US Congress, in considering legislation to advance the building of the Internet, to “leave us alone.” Let anarchy thrive. Let our voices be freed from control, so that in interaction with each other, new modes of thinking, art-making, and deep personal touching can occur. I cited another element of the message I received from the Queen of Touch on chatline in the middle of the night: “You may be the King of Words, but I am the Queen of Touch. Here is my hand…tighten your fingers.” No one could have imagined this fanciful personal exchange occurring over the authoritarian computer as recently as 1984, when I recall countless voices warning against the consolidation of police-state power in technocratic hands. Nor could they have predicted any lines as moving as those described by Jon Katz, media critic of “Rolling Stone,” in the “New York Times.” Katz and many others have found a deepening of personal exchange on the Internet. Separated from each other by space and time, people find themselves able to say what often cannot be said face to face. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-19 23:06:42
Death is surely among these hitherto unspeakable subjects, as Katz discovered one night in early 1994 when he and others on a chat line received the following message:

“ My daughter has cancer. At some of you know, she is 8. In al the world I never conceived of al the sorrow I would feel at learning this, al the horror at watching her suffer so stoically, through test after test. Ther is not a lot of hope just a lot of medicine. We are preparing ourselves for the worst…I have decided to journal every day, those of you who can bear to read it. Feel free to answer, to offer sympathy, encouragement or whatever else you are feeling. Please feel free to check me if I am too sorry for myself or for her.”

For these and various other reasons, the supposedly indomitable powers of mindless collectivization and reproduction, threatened throughout this century, do not seem at its end to be in the ascendant. Rather we respond to the reverse, which poses it own dilemmas. We reach through the electronic field of ease that cushions us, like amniotic fluid, through the field that allows us to order, reform, and transmit almost any sound, idea, or word, toward what lies beyond, toward the transient and ineffable—a breath, for example, a pause in conversation, even the twisted grain of Xeroxed photograph or videotape. Here is where the aura resides—not in the thing itself but in the originality of the moment when we see, hear, repeat, revise.

--Douglas Davis, from “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction”

Sand2008-08-20 03:58:37
I find Paparella's perpetual technique of having no voice of his own but merely pasting together interminable and mostly irrelevant quotations a peculiar sign of having no self confidence in his own viewpoints, aside from being terribly boring. It is, I suppose, a way of appearing academically learned by being intrinsically silent.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-20 04:52:24
I find Sand's technique of throwing the books and the past wisdom of the ages to the bonfire thus ending up re-inventing the wheel just to appear to have original viewpoints quite ludicrous. One does not have to be an academic to notice such short-sightedness.

Sand2008-08-20 04:55:20
Whatever Benjamin's idealistic concept of mechanical copying might have been, especially in the technologically primitive era when he lived, as a practicing graphic artist I am well aware if the gross inferiority of any copy to an original work of art. Of course an ignorant snake oil salesman like Paparella who has absolutely no depth in his perceptive capabilities swallows Benjamin whole so he can vomit him out again in a semi-digested and vile quotation to support his personal twisted viewpoints.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-20 04:57:21
P.S. To only quote those that agree with one's biased viewpoints is indeed symptomatic of a closed mind, clever by half.

Sand2008-08-20 05:22:31
Precisely, Paparella. I have yet to see you quote someone who disagrees with you. I don't need to quote as I have confidence in my own experience and viewpoints.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-20 09:38:17
Having consigned the books to the bonfire one of course couldn't quote anybody even if one wished to. Who needs others' experience when one can re-invent the wheel all by oneself and get the credit for it? What the ignoramus in his hubris and narcisism fails to acknowledge is that without those past giants of culture and civilization he would in fact still be running in the woods and living in a cave and that without that acknowledgment there are no Renaissances, only brutish life in perpetuity.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-20 10:39:15
A Renaissance can only begin with an appreciation that standing on the shoulder of giants dwarfs will see much further than on their own.

Sand2008-08-20 11:57:27
Unfortunately, especially amongst academics whose concepts are irretrievably moldering with outdated outrageously idiotic points of view, standing on giant's shoulders, headbones or the top of Mt. Everest does not help their totally damaged ability to see and understand what they see. For all the good high altitude does them they might as well be wandering aimlessly in the pitch black dark of the deepest mine.

Lexxx Icon2008-12-20 16:47:12
Still owe you some money. I'll pay you some day. Ghost in the machine.

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