Kiasma opens exhibition of works by Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja

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Kiasma opens exhibition of works by Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja
Iiu Susiraja, Garden Party Is Over, 2019. Colour print, 67 x 67 cm.

HELSINKI.- The exhibition Dry Joy by Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja presents a selection of her works from a period of more than ten years. Susiraja creates candid and honest photographs and videos with a sense of warmth and humour. Although she appears in the works herself, they are not simply self-portraits but rather performances for the camera. Susiraja’s photographs and videos are on display at Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki from March 15 onwards. The show includes both early works and more recent oeuvre.

For Susiraja the act of photography is always a very private moment. This is why she does it alone and preferably in a familiar environment. She avoids taking pictures in public places or outdoors due to the risk of potential surprises or disturbances. Susiraja has chosen self-portraiture as a work method mostly because she considers herself a shy person. She feels that it is easier to expose and even humiliate herself in pictures than to do the same to someone else.

“I perform in the pictures myself. It’s practical, I’m always available and I can subject myself to anything. I want my own voice to come across in my pictures; there’s self-irony and humour in them but also seriousness. My body brings a twist to the photos. Many people think that you must be beautiful in a picture. I like to think that the function of art is to tell the truth, that my pictures wouldn’t be truthful if someone else played me in them,” Susiraja says.

In her performative images, Susiraja places herself before the camera expressionless and serious. She directs her gaze straight at the camera and the viewer, as if seeking contact—not requesting, but demanding it. Susiraja does not pose in her pictures or assume any role, even though the outfits, objects and, these days, settings can and do vary. In her pictures, Susiraja makes herself and her private life momentarily public. The mood in Susiraja’s pictures is simultaneously laconic and deeply peculiar, but it is often tinged with humour.

Susiraja’s self-portraits almost always include various props linked to the home and to womanhood, such as diverse accessories, home items or foods: pantyhose, umbrellas, high-heeled shoes, scissors, rolling pins, lace, cushions, sausages, layer cakes, raw fish or whipped cream. It is common for her to utilise the props somehow wrong or otherwise “quirkily.”

“It all starts with the object. It’s funny that people think that my purpose is to criticise beauty ideals or social issues. I have no such intentions. These things come afterwards. My starting point is purely the object and how it relates to me. I start creating my work by listing objects on a piece of paper. Like right now, I’ve written down some items for my next picture, such as a chainsaw and flowers and a turkey. It starts purely with the object, and then I make a list. I also think about what would be an interesting object. It has to work so that as many people as possible will recognise it,” Susiraja explains.

Born in Turku, Finland in 1975, Iiu Susiraja works primarily in photography and video. She has degrees in fine arts and photography; she gained an MA in Fine arts from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, where she studied 2013–2018. Her work is included in the permanent collections of several Finnish and international institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Helsinki Art Museum – HAM and the Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki, Gothenburg Museum of Art in Gothenburg, Stavanger Art Museum in Stavanger, and Rubell Family Collection in Miami. This is her first extensive institutional solo exhibition in a Finnish art museum. In addition to photographs and videos, it also includes an installation.

The exhibition Dry Joy is curated by Chief Curator of Collections Kati Kivinen from Kiasma. A richly illustrated exhibition catalogue with the same name is published with an article written by Kati Kivinen and foreword by Museum Director Leevi Haapala from Kiasma, including an interview with the artist by Senior Planning Officer Paula Korte.

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