In the introduction, the exposition Reconfigured Image claims the gesture of translation as its starting point. Through a series of translations, the author, Tuomo Rainio, aims to reconstruct a process of his own artistic work. It is an interesting and relevant aim, in relation to both the artworks and the exposition, and one that seems to fit very well with the overall theme of this issue of RUUKKU.
The reader is pulled into a field where gestures, ideas, images and references to other artworks are presented and set in motion as if building up a force field. They seem to be introduced into a gravitational field, or a loop, and here they are rubbing against each other, pulling each other along and sharpening each other.
What we are offered is a navigational array, a peek into the complex web of open ended gestures that often constitute an artistic process, in the form of a journey across a map. As such, the exposition establishes a discourse that reveals translation as a fundamental part of image making, while exploring the specificities of the latter rather than offering any meta perspective on the notion, or gesture, of translation in itself. This is an attitude that enables the exposition to explore several of the questions raised by RUUKKU's call for papers for this edition; especially regarding the relations between gestures, words and images.
In his artistic work, Rainio seems to move freely between various forms of technical images and his interests range from automatic writing to image processing through photography. In the exposition, he seems to align these forms as variations of the same kind of event in the realm of images, and he reflects on how they operate and on how they are operated or navigated. Leaving the world of interpretation behind, he explores images as forms; forms that have occurred, appeared or been constructed as both part of the world and as representations of the world.
Rainio refers, among others, to Michel Serres, a writer that seems to have influenced not only his style of writing, but who also establishes an idea of noise as the opposite of form, as the general 'bruit' of the world, from which form emerges. Images thus appear through the exposition as generated form that has occurred, partly as a result of specific gestures (actions that transform and continue the world), and partly as something that is brought forth, that has been crystalized from this fundamental noise of the world into a distinguishable form, through the gravitation of the world itself, for example in the rocking of a boat anchored in a Greek harbour. Far from resulting from a dialectic movement, such emergence of form thus seems to result from more chaotic dynamics in and through this text.
What I also find interesting in the exposition is how a particular esthetical language and approach that became widespread about a ten years ago in the field of image processing/electronic art/media art, is explored and reflected upon from within this particular realm of photography. About a decade ago, the work of artist-programmers such as David Rokeby broke moving images into pixels and pixels into planes in such a way that synthesis of sequences of images in terms of difference challenged the conventional understandings of both time and space in relation to moving images. The resulting images soon acquired their own language and often found an expression that became slightly worn out within the communities of the particular forms of image processing, but that rarely left these communities to venture or permeate into the wider fields of art. It is rare and interesting to see such particular notions of difference and noise reflected upon and brought into a consideration, especially through questions from the realm of photography, in this case indexicality and materiality. The combination of presented ideas and questions is innovative and highly relevant.
By refusing to venture into any traditional academic forms or conventions, Rainio claims a clear and admirable position in the wide debate of what constitutes artistic research. In this exposition, the main difference between the artistic practice and the artistic research lies in the fact that the artist has selected and articulated parts of this process and documented his reflection in a media that enables dissemination by being mostly based on writing, assisted by images, video and layout. This implies that the processes of artistic practice have been translated into a different form and medium. Such gestures of translation – this seems to be underlying hypothesis – are not different from artistic practice or indeed from any other gesture of devising a particular form through a (chaotic) process of reflecting, associating and combining thoughts and images. The layout of the exposition operates so that the exposition constitutes both a map and a labyrinth, and may be navigated according to a provided path of lines and arrows. It might also be navigated differently, and the text is composed so that it can be read in a non-linear manner as well. The gesture of navigation consequently adds another fundamental aspect to the exposition.
In the form of a multimedia exposition, mostly based on words and images, the artistic work of Rainio acquires new context. The exposition articulates and disseminates insight, enables discourse, and contributes to various relevant fields. As such, this can also be seen as a contribution to artistic research through demonstrating and advocating a particular form of critical reflection that seems to be constituent of art. The discussion is anchored in specific artistic processes rather than being constructed on a meta level by bringing in ideas and methods from other fields.
The text has in itself a complex form with many loose ends and an open, disconnected structure. While chaotic and complex, this structure supports the gravitational mode of the reflection presented, and allows for various forms of synthesis to occur within the exposition. Interesting ideas are brought in but there are loose ends in the text and many of the addressed themes are not further explored.
When such a cyclical and somehow disconnected field of ideas is also spread out in a vast black two-dimensional space where the reader is required to navigate according to lines and arrows in a form of map, it becomes difficult to read. I find that the value added by the layout weakens the experience of the content just as much as it adds to it. The layout repeats the openness and disconnectedness that is already in the text rather than counterbalancing it.
To conclude I would like to repeat that I find this exposition interesting and relevant. It is ambitious in terms of the relationship between form and content, but perhaps not fully living up to its own standard.