Epidemic issues – Artists at Home
18 • 05 • 20Judit Flóra Schuller, Edit Barta
The first part of the gallery series, “Artists at Home” takes a look at how people’s relationship to private space, their homes and immediate surroundings changed during the epidemic, with viewpoints offered by four contemporary artists: Louise Desnos (FR), Maria Gallen-Kallela (FIN-US), Nicolas Haeni (FR), and Heidi Holma (FIN). We have recently spent more time in our personal spaces, which has changed our focus and what demands our attention: certain relationships, be they to objects or to people, have become stronger and more valuable, while others have weakened. These photos thematize attempts to deal with solitude, the creative transformation of private space, tackling boredom, and an expectant frustration that has taken the place of the usual order.
When life as we knew it ground to a halt, photographer Nicolas Haeni moved his Paris studio to Lausanne, where he weathered the lockdown with his family. On day one of their isolation he started a series, One sculpture a day keeps the virus away. Everyday objects have always been important for Haeni, who thinks that “every object is individual, as it tells us something about the person it is attached to.” The photos of the series were taken inside his flat, and each shows a sculpture-like installation he made on that particular day from things he found at home. The series came to an end on 11 May, when the lockdown was lifted in Switzerland.
Paris-based photographer Louise Desnos likened the lockdown to a motionless journey. In the face of confinement and the uncertainty that surrounds the present and the near future, the artist managed to direct her attention to inner events and processes, and found a more natural and poetic way of life as an alternative to the usual bustle and chaos. The photos of her series are simultaneously informed by anxiety, boredom and a rediscovered calm.
Maria Gallen-Kallela took her photos in Seattle, where she does “neither study nor work,” which allows her the viewpoint of an outsider when she looks at the city or its details. The lockdown reinforced this position of an external observer, and the artist refocused her attention, from people and systems of relations, to objects and views which have untold, unresolved stories behind them. Fragments of the reality of unknown persons and events are captured in these photos, which show an empty garden, a discarded bouquet, or a flower that wilted before it had time to blossom.
Heidi Holma made her photo series in Tampere, Finland, and it is her attempt to take a new look at the space she lives in. With these pictures, the artist turns her attention, both playful and poetic, to hitherto ignored or hidden places and potentials of her flat. Holma herself appears in the photos, blending in with the interior or inhabiting it as a passive observer. Through the performative shaping of the space, the artist becomes one with her own built environment, while her links to the outside world become more and more tenuous. The series was made for the project, Poikkeistula2020 (State of Emergency 2020), which invited 160 Finish photographers to reflect on the changed state of affairs.