Annamari Vänskäs interview:
Annamari Vänskä: How would you describe each other’s art?
Pirjetta Brander: I find Tea’s works monumental, megalomaniac and fearless. She works objectively as if she were a researcher. Moralistic overtones are absent. Tea’s monumentality is manifested in her sweeping reach and the way she condenses her message. I am more introverted and interested in details. Tea, on the other hand, concerns herself with broader frames of reference.
Tea Mäkipää: Pirjetta’s works are like maps: the lines of her drawings guide the viewer through aspects everyday life. They might refer to the anticipation of Christmas or the need to feed the child at a particular time. Her drawing is joyful, beautiful at times, or purposefully ugly. Day-to-day survival is paramount in her work. Even though Pirjetta is a draughtsman, she may produce a video, installation or a painting.
AMV: Could you say a bit about where you start when making art?
PB: For me, art is a medium for thinking. Tea poignantly noted that my works are like maps. I see them as survival kits. For me, what makes people tick has and will always be a mystery, and people’s relationships are the most important source of inspiration. The biggest emotional events happen within the family. And I see the family as the smallest particle of society. All its hierarchical structures also exist in society. I am also interested in the way media directs our feelings and desires. In this sense my works map emotions and desires. I am interested in the process of coming to know feelings, how they begin and end, the logic they may have, and their often contradictory nature.
TM: I am interested in the scenography of society and what happens behind it: the dumpsters of humanity–things not meant to be seen. This can be problematic since my works may seem unnecessarily cruel or sad. To balance this I also employ humor and irony. I am also interested in our relationship to other species and the environment. Growing up in the countryside and having many animals, I was never aware of the hierarchical ordering of species.
AMV: You seem to have political aims and want things to change.
TM: Content for me involves more general feelings, like the fear of not having an apartment, enough food or love. Some of the concerns were expressed in my installation 1:1, which dealt with moving into a factory.1:1 and Parasiitti (Paracite) were created out of the horror at high living costs in Scandinavia. The end of rent controls in Finland meant that people without a decent income could hardly manage. If we wanted, people of every gender, sexual orientation and race could have the best home possible. Another work, Domesticated Dreams (done in collaboration with Pasi Mann), examines the lives of chickens in the meat and egg industries. It forces the viewer to consider the way various species are treated.
PB: Living in this time of consumerism, art offers the only place where one can breathe. I want to promote the future possibilities of art. In this sense I am a shameless idealist: I aim to keep art free and enlarge its presence in the society.
AMV: Do you see this being realized within current Western societies?
PB: Art’s freedom has decreased. People see art having a kind of use-value and as a profit producer.
AMV: How do you see the politics of your own work?
PB: I critically analyze close relationships between people to show that natural and self-evident family constellations are actually the products of certain ideological constructions and how these constructions are sold to us through advertisements and films.
AMV: How do you see your position as an artist in the global art scene?
TM: Over the last five years I have lived in Germany and Britain. This has broadened my outlook. Rents are astronomical in Finland, but there is more access to nature than in London or in Berlin. Finns are more concerned about the natural environment. Social relationships seem to have less importance. Finnish people are more open to participating in art projects and the Finnish art world is not rigidly hierarchical. A young artist with talent has as many possibilities as established artists. Exhibiting in Finland can be stressful because you know nearly all the people coming to see your show. And there seems to be only one hot trend each year. In London and Berlin parallel scenes occur at the same.
PB: Finland’s excellent grant system and free daycare still lets me work as an artist. Though the welfare state is being eroded by rightwing politics, the system continues to operate around the idea that both women and men have an equal right to work.
AMV: As an artist, do you think gender matters?
PB: Yes. A survey from 2003 showed that most of the employment opportunities, grants, and exhibitions in Finland still go to men, though most graduates from art schools are women.
TM: And the most succesfull Finnish artists today are women. Just think about Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Salla Tykkä or Aurora Reinhard
AMV: What projects are you doing at the moment?
PB: I am making a music video for Maja Ratkje, a Norwegian musician, and preparing an installation for a leftist art show in Helsinki Kunsthalle next year. I am also producing large scale watercolors for an exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in 2007. As head of the board of AV-arkki, the distribution society for Finnish media art, I am involved with the annual Finnish media art festival and exhibition.
TM: I am an artist-in-residence at Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien. Current exhibitions I have include World of Plenty, a large photographic installation, in the World Exhibition at EXPO 2005 in Japan, and 1:1 in Passion of Collecting, Leipzig, Germany.
AMV: How do you see art’s future? What are its chances in the global market?
TM: Art is the only medium through which one can show how life feels. This is art’s task and it will not vanish.
AMV: What aims do you have for the future?
TM: I think my work cannot go out of fashion because I do not follow any fashions. I aim to be open to new ideas and thoughts.
PB: I hope that I don’t get tired and depressed and that I will not lose my sanity.
NY Arts magazine, October 2005