Selected film and video works:


Theatre (2018)

Theatre is a documentary epic weaving essayistic segments together with interviews. It reflects broadly on the nature of theatre, staging encounters with the theatrical form in its various guises, from the quaint to the disturbing: from animals at the zoo to a neonazi demonstration. Theatre is here seen as an idea that penetrates the everyday, yet maintains its exception from it. There is still life and theatre even if no one knows quite where the boundary between them exists. The film includes interviews with artists Beny Wagner and Wojciech Kosma, choreographer Sonya Lindfors and theatre director Anna-Mari Karvonen. The interviews take place in motion, traversing various urban settings that penetrate their content in subtle ways and map out a relation between distraction and association. In the last segment of the film the focus shifts. Conversations about the world as theatre are exchanged for a ones about theatre as a condensation of the world. The preceding reflections become materialised in the concluding exchange, in which Karvonen and Emilia Kokko perform the roles of Director and Actor.

description by Maija Timonen

Filter (2017)

Jaakko Pallasvuo's film, Filter (2017), explores the aesthetics and the moral and political consequences of nostalgia. Filter is primarily shot on digital video overlain with a filter which reproduces the effect of 8mm film, a literal integration of ersatz historicity into the work's visual DNA. The film begins with a beach sequence, a hand-held camera peers out over a frozen shoreline into the hazy orange of a setting sun. The intrinsic nostalgia of the pastoral idiom is then disrupted by an abrupt shift of geography and perspective; after a fleeting image of the deck of a ferry, the action shifts to New York City. Scenes of horse drawn carriages and stained glass windows give way to an eerie obelisk tombstone that evokes the intrinsic nostalgia on which the American republic was based: a kitsch vision of the ancient world and its social and political institutions.

The narrator's voice intrudes periodically, reflecting on the ways in which nostalgic sentiments have created a kind of simulacrum in which the past usurps the present and devours hope. As the film moves through New York geographies, the images are periodically disrupted by digital intrusions: animations of supine figures, shattering renders of ceramic animals and other forms. The narrator speaks of the search for a "nugget of meaning" amid all the images and cultural references that interpenetrate, including, rather like a leitmotif in a film score or an opera, the lambent ballad "Take a Picture" by the late 1990s alternative rock band, Filter.

A kind of meaning emerges as an image of the house in which David Foster Wallace wrote Infinite Jest appears on the screen and Wallace's voice is heard in an extended interview with the NPR journalist, Terry Gross. Wallace speaks of the sorrow at the core of the late 1990s optimism, a melange of education, imperial confidence and economic privilege. The infantilisation such discourses produce, in Wallace's estimation is literalised by the speeding up of his and Gross' voices until they literally sound like children.

Using Wallace's thoughts as a starting point for the discussion of the relationship between irony, sincerity and truth, an actor named Imri appears on screen. Text informs the viewer that he is playing the role of a "critical colleague". Imri poses some of the central questions of the film in a direct address to the camera, including the question of how one relates to the mythologised figures of the past, Wallace included. How do nostalgia and oedipal struggles -both personal and artistic- undercut but also reinforce each other? As Imri's critical intervention culminates, he is seen struggling with himself to articulate the most fundamental question of all for the viewer: why are you watching this? In spending time viewing one thing, what other things are being excluded, or filtered out, of your range of experience? Such questions seek less to be answered than to give birth to new questions.

description by William Kherbek

Soft Body Goal (2017)

We see an animation of a humanoid figure with sound effects, first visceral then cartoonish. A story begins of a humanity that has transcended its bodies and their attendant dysfunction to become something even more dysfunctional. The Artist reflects on their motivations for making 3D animations, every video artist's current default form. They are just trying to learn stuff, while fearful of missing out on whatever contemporary discourse seems dominant. The animations are mangled and flop around, in this part fulfilling their generic aesthetic function, part signifying an anti-climax of some sort.

description by Maija Timonen

MASK (2017)

An outsourced self-mythologisation, the video thematises the awkward requirements of artistic branding. Imagined by the writer Huw Lemmey, the fictional biopic opens with a voice from the future, spoken by a Kylo Ren imitator, describing a found relic from before the neomedieval age: a ceramic mask by the artist Jaakko Pallasvuo. The story of Pallasvuo's artistic development is recounted, including his creation of a new emotional reality beyond the orthodoxies of his artistic context and his reclaiming of the handmade, the unique. The narrating voice changes, adopting different accents. At one point English is read out by a Finnish text-to-speech program, making the words nearly impossible to understand. The images we see are both computer-generated and manual, as if an aesthetic legacy of the imaginary Pallasvuo’s practise. Little certain knowledge of his eventual destiny remains, so this visual language might be the only trace left of him.

description by Maija Timonen

Sacre (2015) by Anni Puolakka & Jaakko Pallasvuo

A cyber goth in her thirties makes dance videos at home, seeking freedom and the truth in a society obsessed with productivity and success. Her mode of living is persistently challenged by an older brother, whose caring and love come with a strive to transform her sister. The sibling drama takes a new turn upon the goth's encounter with a dance prodigy whose brilliance seems to leave everyone else in darkness. The film draws from the thoughts of the philosopher and activist Simone Weil (1909-1943), medievalism and cyberculture amongst other influences, viewing work, art and dance as war.

Sacre 2: HEX (2017) by Anni Puolakka & Jaakko Pallasvuo

The solemn cybergoth dance enthusiast introduced in the first part of the trilogy (Sacre, 2015) has graduated into a smug Wiccan vlogger. Her formerly know-it-all brother has fallen on hard times and now needs her help. Family relations entangle with work anxiety. Virtual and material survival tactics get tested. Spiritual, financial and social layers mesh in money-burning rituals. A damaged sibling dynamic is further destabilized by a seductive alien.

None of the World's Futures (2016)

Looking back at footage of Venice Biennale 2011, The Artist remembers the optimistic feelings felt at the time, the projected careers, the romantic setting and how art meant something. The Finnish pavilion was closed when the footage was shot because of a fallen tree. Was it a sign? The sinking city echoes The Artist's current sense of resignation. The piece shifts from video footage into cartoons with speech bubbles, perhaps in an effort to reclaim the voiceover from a romanticising of ennui that seemed to be setting in. Is this a new beginning? Liberated from its ambitions for an illustrious career, art has now become a more metaphysical means of survival.

description by Maija Timonen

BLUE (2016)

Over a blue screen, a voiceover narrates The Artist’s experience of a sanatorium, where they were supposed to make a piece of art, but did not. The Artist cannot offer healing, they can only identify with the patients. They themselves want to be cured of their need for attention. A description of Derek Jarman's film Blue follows. Then a description of the sanatorium. The details are important to The Artist, including the dead flies. Can the sanatorium cure The Artist of the ills of capitalism? A mention of the song ‘Blue (da ba dee)’ by pop group Eiffel 65 follows, along with a few bars of it. It is speculated that the "blue" referred to in its title refers to a mood. Can identifying as The Patient provide an escape from normality and reason, from productivity, from creativity? The Artist feels still trapped by their ambitions, by their apparent impossibility. The piece was produced and installed site-specifically at the Paimio Sanatorium, a former tuberculosis hospital designed by Alvar Aalto.

description by Maija Timonen

Bridge Over Troubled Water (2016) by MSL & Jaakko Pallasvuo

It’s 1967, 2015, 2515, 10000 AD. Simon and Garfunkel are travelling through time. Seeking an answer to their growing sadness and anxiety, brought on in part by the slowly overwhelming presence of climate change, they head to the coast, are incarcerated, visit the botanical garden in Turku, and watch Jake Gyllenhaal in Deep Impact in a darkened room. Above the tree line and into the Arctic Circle our protagonists find themselves in Kilpisjärvi, at the most northwestern point of Finland where they are - perhaps more than usual - alone together.

Seeking an alternative pastoral narrative, the duo take pause in 1969. Here is the Simon and Garfunkel we know and love, playing guitar and watching the drift in matching cream rollnecks. They are together, free from the kibble of the present day (Dr Oetker, Club Mate, sadness). Is this a scene that we will one day return to again? If they travel forward far enough, will they find our current state of rabid fossil fuel consumption was just a moment in time and in fact 10000 AD is much the same as 10000 BC?

This post-human future is not apocalyptic, but something comforting: a love story about people, a romantic shipping of folk-rock’s most powerful couple. Exhausted by constant travelling through time, the duo find moments of respite from their doomed quest to save the world from global warming but - as in their real-time mythology - cracks in the relationship begin to show.

Where Simon and Garfunkel recline together, two specks amid a vast tundra, checking their phones in a silent camaraderie, technology is omnipresent, yet peripheral, and while the duo's unfriendly drone Neil flies as instructed for the time being, we are warned that he is developing a will of his own. No longer content to fulfil the desires of humans, Neil is forming his own ideas about how to live in this world. Cruel maybe, but carefree, Neil cruises at altitudes beyond the physical and emotional baggage of humanity.

Are we all Neils, who look back nostalgically to our Garfunkel days, unable anymore to see what they meant?

description by Marianne Forrest

EU (2015)

A sarcastic, fairytale-like voice narrates a story, a contemporary take on Decamerone, in which plague spreads across the EU from the east, killing all those infected within a day. Small communities of survivors begin to form. We see one huddling together on a stage. Saved by the coolness of its members, the community does its utmost to preserve it. It is the condition of their continued survival. Despite these efforts their clique gets infected. Fractions emerge, the uncool get banished, the cool stay and dance til the end. The film is part stand-alone fiction, part documentary interpretation of the work of the theatre collective Vibes.

description by Maija Timonen
essay about EU written by Elvia Wilk for Svilova (pdf)

Picasso (2014)

Life in the shadow of Picasso is tedious. White balance, overlaid images, rendering. You have to put up with his moods, his narcissism, his disregard of your needs. How do you manage to maintain yourself in the face of all that, and is it still better than being alone? Behind the power relations there is viscerality. We see a man’s torso, “Picasso’s”, smeared in melted vanilla ice-cream, taking selfies. Does power trickle down, like viscous liquid on skin? Do you think you are better off alone? Picasso reverted to a beast as he grew less understood with age, and with this secured his status. We don't know what is going on in our world but Picasso continues to exist in his tunnel vision.

description by Maija Timonen

Utopia (2013)

The Artist feels ambivalent about how it has all turned out, how what we see relates to what they had intended. We see: a beautiful mountain landscape and a man moving through it. He is playing the role of The Artist's future son investigating their death. More images follow, and The Artist tries to explain them, but is unsure of their relation to the proposed plot. They feel disconnected not only from the original ideas for the piece, but also from the situation of filming it. More alpine landscape, cartoonishly beautiful, it was all somehow supposed to be about love. The son/protagonist opens a fortune cookie while The Artist explains that they had found it randomly in a bank. Now we see The Artist drawing. They find the aspiration apparent in the drawings embarrassing. To desire, to want, is to make oneself vulnerable.

description by Maija Timonen

Nu Painting (2013)

A narrator observes footage of a man in a room, who is making images on a drawing program on his laptop. The narrator comments on the images from a distant future where technology has reached its pinnacle, long since having seized to promise anything new to humanity. As if in parody of the way discourses around painting that focus on manual gesture might seem strangely old-fashioned from our current digital reality, the narrator finds the mechanical nature of the man’s actions and lines he draws on the laptop incomprehensible from his futuristic vantage point. The thought-driven, immaterial time of the narrator is juxtaposed with the rustle and cracking sounds of the body depicted.

description by Maija Timonen

Reverse Engineering (2013)

A self-parodying portrait of contemporary artistic genius, of the guises in which the notion of genius carries on even when no one wants to acknowledge their attachment to it. The video begins with a fantasy of your former art school contacting you on your deathbed, but their acknowledgement comes too late, history cannot be reversed. We see faces browsing the internet head on, shot through webcams. These portraits are layered over shots of The Artist holding them like framed paintings. One of the people portrayed reads the “stage directions” they received from The Artist, then the lines proper: internal reflections on abilities and self-image. Ideas follow from a process, but is this really "reverse engineering" as the video suggests, or the normal course of things. The course of evolution is reversed and the simplification of things this instigates, is considered not as descent back into chaos, but as organisation, the ultimate ordering of things. There is an implication of a cancelling out of laws of physics, of entropy. In this fantasy, perhaps what has been let loose can be contained again, what has been broken can be put back together.

description by Maija Timonen

Suomen Paviljonki ~ Finnish Pavilion (2013) by Kimmo Modig & Jaakko Pallasvuo

Three artists are invited to represent Finland at the 2015 Venice Biennale. In the roles of the artist characters are the performance duo Antti Jussila & Jari Kallio and actor Laura Birn. Narration is done by graphic designer and author Johannes Ekholm. Finnish Pavilion is not about national identity, the price of ambition or the expectations put on art and artists.

Icarus (2012)

A meditation on the fickle nature and relative parameters of success from the POV of the periphery. A part-time guide at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki, also an artist, describes hiding in the toilets during breaktime in order to avoid socialising with colleagues, as chit chat gets inevitably weighed down by professional concerns, by a sense of humiliation and insignificance. We are shown different parts and functions of the toilet as they speak: the tap, the seat, the flush etc. A deadpan shot of The Artist with excited music playing over it ends with a slap in the face. Art is a rollercoaster - ups and downs, cheap thrills.

description by Maija Timonen

How To (2011-2012)

How To is a five-part series of instructional videos on how to make it in the art world. They provide a helpful breakdown of the field and steps to take to conquer it, including clear examples. How to turn being from the periphery or not being great with words into an asset? What about being queer? The videos give tips on standing out in the data flows of the internet, how to make craft cool and even on how to adopt a critical stance without making any enemies.

description by Maija Timonen

watch the rest of the series here

Screen Test (2011)

A shot of the the head and shoulders of a man. A voiceover spoken in a feminine voice stipulates the terms of objectification – but whose? The voice attaches initially to the internal thoughts of the man seen, but this quickly changes to the impression that he is in fact listening, as if receiving instructions. A computer program is used to make an abstract image, which gives way to shots of paradise-like nature. The voiceover reflects on rules of self-representation, clarifying the earlier ambiguity: self-objectification is what is at stake. From social media to irl social events in the art world, the discomfort of the merger of the private and public is all pervasive. A girl steps into the shot, and we only see her back. The narrator recounts participating in an art project in which the back of their head was filmed, and a curious mental image of a forever regressing viewpoint emerges.

description by Maija Timonen

Low Epic (2011)

A person balances on two blocks of ice-cream, wearing coral-coloured socks. A voiceover recounts The Artist's thoughts and experience of shooting the footage, in a generic British male voice, reminiscent of John Berger's in the television version of Ways of Seeing. Its intonation conveys a detached unveiling of governing conditions, a personal account rendered in impersonal, faux-objective tones. More shaky, “real-life”, footage of another performance follows. In it, The Artist rubs ice-cream onto their face and hair, overlooked by a small, cheering audience. The artwork is narrated as a mediator for an otherwise difficult encounter with other people. A shot of the aftermath of the earlier balancing act follows. Skidmarks of ice-cream on the floor are in view, then stained socks, as the voiceover reflects on a failed romantic relationship and its unequal, imbalanced, affections.

description by Maija Timonen