Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku, Finland, 05.02–24.4.2016
Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden, 12.06.–04.09.2016


Alchemy approaches the theme of a pre-scientific method of creating rare and precious materials out of easily accessible and even worthless elements. This is the process of transmutation, in which one element is made into another. In the works created for the exhibition the alchemical process becomes evident when looking at the transformation and modification of symbolic elements in the visual narrative.

In the three-channel videoinstallation Phantasma, the camera transports the viewer through the dreamily delirious and dilapidated rooms of an aquarium that opened in Copenhagen in 1939. This strangely captivating world was sustained by a halting machinery, struggling to keep the decay at bay as seawater from the tanks gradually absorbed into the foundation, destroying the building beyond repair. The first Nordic aquarium connects to a historical and psychological context, where the wish to remember and the urge to forget intertwine. Time drives organic and mechanical elements towards joint destruction, in which they merge together to form something entirely new.

Inventory is a work created in the form of a newspaper. Combining text and photographs with forensic archive images, it features the reclusive brothers Homer and Langley Collyer, who lived in New York in the 1940’s, and depicts their fate under the pressure of hoarded possessions. Waste discarded by the society and collected by the brothers as a barricade, could be used as a metaphor of our society and its fears towards the unknown. One of the most common articles hoarded by the brothers were newspapers, adding up to 6 tons alone. The newspaper represents a short-lived flow of information, designated to self-destruct and return to pulp. In the exhibition the newspaper was a free hand-out, which might become a limited edition collectors’ item, again reversing the intended value of the chosen material. The work poses questions pertaining to concepts of collecting, systems of categorising and waste.

Observatory combines a monumental projection of a great horned owl with a selection of taxidermied owls on high pedestals. The owl represents wisdom, but as a nocturnal animal also stands for hidden knowledge. Its intense gaze sees inside and through us without judgement or calculation, as it invites us to explore the immense depths of its focused eyes. The installation juxtaposes the majestic being with our desire to collect, classify, objectify and evaluate life around us.

documentation: Vesa Aaltonen and Thom Vink