L A B - O (U) R A T O R Y
This text is composed of a series of attentive gestures. It is born from turning towards a video exposition of my installation Mitä uutta kivistä?/Anything new about stones? (2017). Through its form, the text weighs the gestures of the video, its rhythms and sequences. It focuses on selected angles, it zooms in on abyssal details, it draws parallels between separate elements, highlighting passing issues, and it ends.
Not unlike the video, the text is a block of time and space limited in length, scope, and resolution. It is a space of investigation wherein ‘certain limits of what can be done, perceived, felt, discovered, thought or justified can be tested.’ In this sense, it is a laboratory. Further, the text is a space of labour. It invites its readers to increase their sensitivity and work out an attentive relation with the hyperobject installation-video-text. Finally, the text is also a kind of prayer, an oratory, a meditation in attentive looking.
Emphatically, the eye tracks along with the camera’s autofocus in its search for depth. It digs its way into the image.When the camera doesn’t move, the eye wanders across the image, jumping from one detail to another. The eye is looking for something, for a tiny spark of contingency, for a faint shift in the way things are, and this search keeps it moving. But nothing is hidden, everything is laid bare on the weightless surface.
The gaze, nevertheless, possesses a kind of gravitas, something ultimate and unchanging, something that will never perish or else has already done so. When the camera moves within a frozen moment, smoothly gliding across the photographic space, it seems to incorporate an idea of perfection that brackets the embodied aspect of vision.
The gaze manifests an obvious achievement, yet one arrived at without invention, skill, industry, or anything else that would make it a technology comparable with the camera. There is a gap between the eye and the camera, but the far-off roots and hidden models of both lie in the obscure yet irresistible suggestions cast in [...] light!
The word ‘camera’is often used in an imprecise way. There are many kinds of cameras: even a dark room with a hole in the wall can function as a camera. Nowadays, most consumer cameras suggest the making of both stills and clips. Semi-professional cameras are quite affordable, but in a video piece, the camera movement easily reveals the quality of investment. These are visible affordances. Therefore, one should provide some specification when using the word ‘camera’. The gravest misuse of the word is when it is equated with a tomb, even if photographing is, in a sense, a sarcophagous activity.
The cow-spot formed by the crater on the moon doesn't exist after all, since ordinary stones don’t fly that far. Regardless of how paradoxical images might be evoked along the way, we will follow the line.
No doubt, the cable is attached to the dark moon. The window is closed, for memories to enter through the shortcut of mirroring shadows. This room is not just a physical volume.
The holes in the wall are a bad sign. My sight becomes blurred. The men surround the woman as she stands in a hole dug into the stony ground... Unfortunately, you can easily imagine the rest. Stones can become deadly fists. Such disastrous events take place repeatedly, but they are not written in the stars. Constellations are made up by us humans.
The individual letters group into words and words into lines. Lines follow lines; the eyes know how to tie them together. Something similar takes place when we watch a film. These forms of reading make up a spatio-temporal habitus, a ‘technique of the body’:
‘A kind of revelation came to me in hospital. I was ill in New York. I wondered where previously I had seen girls walking as my nurses walked. I had the time to think about it. At last I realised that it was at the cinema. Returning to France, I noticed how common this gait was, especially in Paris; the girls were French and they too were walking in this way. In fact, American walking fashions had begun to arrive over here, thanks to the cinema.’ What was taking place was a prestigious imitation.
Bodily habits haunt us as if they were fossils embedded within ourselves. The networks of our daily routes in the cities we live in are imprinted on our being, yet the world is governed by chance.
Each corner constitutes a point of decision, and step by step we walk deeper into the labyrinth of our lives.
Randomness stalks us every day of our lives, and those lives can be taken from us at any moment — for no reason at all.
A video forces us to follow its linear flow. It reorganises the spatial setting of the installation into a succession of images. We are reading it like a text, step by step. There is no time to get lost, the time runs by the code. We are, inevitably, walking straight into the trajectory of the falling object, into the event, as if by chance. But the fact that this text stutters and stammers reveals that everything is set up on purpose.
The scale matters, of course. In order to find out the direction in which the land masses were transported during the melting period after the ice age, we need to make measurements.
With a panning camera movement, we can delineate the visible features of a location without unnecessarily highlighting any specific details. This kind of neutral gesture of documentation enables us to establish a background for whatever we want to focus on later. This should be repeated as many times as necessary.
Whatever is captured in a photograph, gains new life that is imprisoned in another reality. The grey matters of this frozen reality leak, however, into the living presence. New layered formats settle down in our imagination.
Sometimes the gaze is directed inwards. The emptiness in front of our eyes is populated with fleeting images from time immemorial. What once wasn’t captured is now taking shape. What once didn’t count is now more than one.
In this respect the categories used in this text need to be revised at some point. Letter by letter... word by word... adding letters, a lot of letters after each other.... we get a text... a chain of words... by inserting the letter ‘l’ into the word ‘word’, we get ‘world’... But who are we?
Stones grow and so do texts, slowly. Any writer can tell you this as a kind of empirical confirmation of their ritual practice. They are not referring to just any texts, but those that have a fragile body.
These delicate texts deserve to be treated gently by everybody involved.
I have begun showing how technical coupling of words and images on a timeline might produce a feeling that the regularities of nature and of mind are nothing but effects of an ongoing arrangement.
Kivijärvi, literally ‘stone lake’, the not-so-hidden reference in this installation is not a crater, unlike some other lakes in Finland. It was formed during the ice age when the geophysical forces of melting ice showed their claws and left deep scars in the surface of the earth. Huge amounts of stones were transported from northeast to southwest. Some of them landed here.
‘He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set.’
As you might recognise, this sentence is extracted from the Bible. But today these words gained a new meaning for me. Our son had gone to his girlfriend’s and stayed there for the night.
She had not been very stable lately, and the relationship was breaking down in a series of dramatic bursts of confused emotion. Tonight, she had run across the street in a psychotic state of mind and was almost hit by a car. He had tried to calm her down, in vain.
She had been like a magnet switching poles. She had disappeared and come back again only to break away once more. Now he is lying like a porous stone on his bed, the blocked mobile in his hand.
We are at the centre of a field of forces too unpredictable to be measured; and we awkwardly call the result chance, hazard, or fate.
‘Fate,’ what a peremptory word, very suitable for endings. Insisting on immediate attention, it cuts the flow of thought, just like that.
1. Y. Citton, The Ecology of Attention, trans. by Barnaby Norman (Cambridge and Malden: Polity, 2017), p. 151
2. M. Mauss, ‘Techniques of the Body’, Economy and Society, 2, (1973), p. 70–88
The text was also published in:
Ziegler, Denise (ed.), Kun koen kokeilen – kokeilen kun koen. Kokemus ja kokeellisuus taiteellisessa työskentelyssä ja tutkimuksessa / I Experience as I Experiment – I Experiment as I Experience. Experience and experimentality in artistic work and research (Helsinki, Academy of Fine Arts, 2019).
The version laid out here above has been copy-edited. The original version can be read on the video.