MUU Kirjoittaa

08/03/2020
MUU kirjoittaa – MUU writes

Finland is a nation of art lovers, with visual art events and venues attracting some 4,6 million visitors annually. Visual art is available for enjoyment the year round in all sorts of places, from established institutions to small galleries and pop-up exhibitions. New exciting venues are being set up all the time. Yet the number of discriminating texts about art is dwindling. This deplorable lack has also been noted at Artists’ Association MUU, the second largest organisation representing professional artists in Finland.

MUU Writes is a group composed of artists who share an interest in writing. It has been meeting for a couple of years already to discuss the role and potential of writing in contemporary art. Now the group has set themselves the task of publishing an essay on every exhibition scheduled in MUU’s program autumn 2018, to be released both online and in the gallery. The project seeks to offer a creative alternative to art criticism, with artists writing about the work of a colleague.

Artificial Intelligence and Us
Text: John Gayer

Over the past six to seven years, Jukka Hautamäki has used Latin or ancient Greek terms to title almost every one of his solo projects. It is an appropriate concurrence, as the titles denote things that are either intangible, hypothetical or literally beyond our reach. This quality is also reflected in the make-up of his work. Its content tends to be disembodied and is transmitted via sound, through various kinds of visual effects and digital media.

In RESTITUO, Hautamäki shows four video projection/slide show works that demonstrate his most recent artistic investigations. Each of these works is comprised of a fixed, but very large number of portrait images, arranged as equally sized tiles in variously sized grids. Since the duration for which each image in the grid is visible varies, the collective appearance of each grid gradually changes. This is manifested as a very subtle, ongoing and sporadic pulse that simultaneously, which references the grid’s use in art and the matrices at the base of digital pictures.

Stepping into the gallery, one is immediately confronted by the host faces—a strangely fascinating kind of mirror. One looks at them and they look back. In juxtaposing the constancy of the viewer’s gaze with the persistent evolution of facial appearances, the process generates a temporarily hypnotizing effect. The endless stream of portraits, differentiated by the multiple ways in which they have been distorted, fractured and reordered, is disconcerting, for it exposes the mind to the impossibility of tracking the many correlations and changes. Instead of facilitating comprehension, the grids evoke an impending sense of chaos.

These strangely seductive images consolidate the painterly and the digital in a manner the feels familiar and remote. The look of the compositions, moreover, affects a parallel dissimilarity. They appear to have surfaces that are heavily worked yet offer no physical evidence in that regard. Created through the use of artificial neural networks and machine learning, Hautamäki proposes that his experiments urge consideration of art’s prospective future. The question is a curious one. Could people choose to develop alternate means of production in order to divest themselves of having to make art?

In his statement Hautamäki draws attention to the unseen data contained in images, comments that are tagged with Hito Steyerl and Marshall McLuhan’s names. In her book ‘Duty Free Art’ Steyerl writes about pattern recognition—the process through which computers are trained to perform specific tasks—data trail dependence, and ways they are misinterpreted, what she calls ‘automated apophenia’. In the BBC interview ‘The Future of Man in the Electric Age’, Marshall McLuhan speaks about bodily extensions—tools for the hands, wheels for the feet and electromagnetism for the nerves—in reference to the increased flow of data and technology’s wide-ranging effects. Factors, such as technology’s ability to create new kinds of environments and restructure experience, suggest that Hautamäki’s work advances a very provocative question.

Jukka Hautamäki: Restituo, 29.2.-5.4.2020, 2.6.-18.6.2020
MUU Gallery, Lönnrotinkatu 33, Helsinki