Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Studies On The Ecology Of Drama, online at Marian Goodman Gallery NY.
by Kostas Prapoglou
The main focus of Helsinki-based artist/filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila involves aspects of identity and the ways these are formed and are interpreted through personal and interpersonal relationships. Her films and cinematic installations are survey studies on the human condition and its fluctuations depending on and dictated by external societal forces and introspective emotional realms.
Ahtila’s visual lexicon embraces the cartography of poetics as these are embedded into esoteric as well as exoteric experiences. Her work often challenges the subconscious, bringing it to the fore, simultaneously activating and stimulating a dialogue with present situations.
In light of the covid-19 pandemic coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, Marian Goodman Gallery explores new avenues to bring its artists closer to a wider audience during a period of lockdown and social distancing. Online viewers now have the unique opportunity to experience Studies On The Ecology Of Drama, Ahtila’s 26-minute moving image work made in 2017. Based on the homonymous 4-channel projected installation that she presented in 2014, the film embraces two previous works, The Annunciation (2010) and Horizontal (2011), both delving into notions of ecology and symbiosis as well as the essence of existentialism within the context of our external world.
In the form of a lecture-performance, an actress demonstrates and investigates through an eloquent vocabulary of diverse techniques, mechanisms and performative practices (such as mimicry), different approaches of representation of living forms. Assisted by other co-performers (a juniper tree, a bush, a swift bird, a horse, a butterfly and a small group of human acrobats), the actress redesigns a landscape of the polymorphic relationship between image and reality, which is being understood and constructed through the subjective qualities of space and time according to the presence of human or non-human objects.
The visual documentation of the natural environment as the artist’s chosen terrain to pronounce our compassion and love towards the planet and omnifarious living organisms, rapidly becomes a topical subject once again. At times when everything has been brought to a standstill, we suddenly begin to observe nature and the planet as a living organism that is being automatically reset to its original factory settings, momentarily liberated from pollution and catastrophic human intervention.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila is a former professor at the Department of Time and Space-based Art at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Finland. She has presented solo exhibitions at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, Australia (2017); Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2016); Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York and Oi Futuro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (both 2015); the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2014); Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland (2013); Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (both in 2012); Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (2011), Parasol Unit, London, UK (2010) and Tate Modern, London, UK (2002).
She has participated in numerous international art exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (2005 and 1999); Documenta11 (2002), Manifesta (1998), Bienal de São Paulo (2008) and Biennale of Sydney (2018 and 2002). Her work has been featured in numerous group shows around the world including the Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany (2019); the M Museum, Leuven, Belgium and the Serlachius Museum Gösta, Mänttä, Finland (both 2018), MoMA, NY (2006) and SFMoMA, San Francisco (2003). She has been honoured with several prizes over the past three decades that include, most recently, becoming an Academician of Arts in Finland (2009); The Prince Eugen Medal for Outstanding Artistic Achievement, Sweden (2009) and Artes Mundi, Wales International Visual Arts Prize, Cardiff, Wales (2006).
Ahtila’s work has also been shown at numerous film screenings and festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, Utah, USA; Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland; Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong, China, and film retrospectives at MoMA, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Tate Modern, London. Her works are included in the collections of the Tate and MoMA and other major public and private collections worldwide.