Antti Laitinen: Three Knots

10.01.2014 - 23.02.2014

Antti Laitinen (b. 1975) is one of the most interesting contemporary artists in Finland. He has lived naked in a forest for days without food and water; he has attempted to split the sea, has reconstructed a three, built up his own island and sailed over the Baltic Sea by a bark boat.

Laitinen uses the landscape, often neighborhoods of his hometown Haukipudas in northern Finland, as his studio and as a provider of materials and inspiration. Water, ice and trees are constantly reappearing elements in his works. The body of work It’s My Island (2007), which was filmed in Haukipudas, Laitinen tells a story how he built his own island in the Baltic Sea by dragging two hundred sand bags into the water, using nothing but a spade, sand and sacks. The videos go on to show him dragging each bag, one by one, into the sea, braving the harsh waves and conditions, until the island starts to appear over the water.

The island theme grew up to a trilogy between the summers of 2007 and 2009 when he developed two new chapters: the Voyage and the Growler. In Voyage (2008) he rowed a beautiful palm tree island around the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean and the Thames. In Growler (2009) he rowed a homemade iceberg he had created from salvaged ice the winter before across the sea until it melted.He also used ice as a sculptural material in Lake Deconstruction (2011), in which white blocks of ice create a sculpture, and his Attempt to split the sea (2006) was a Moses-like heroic act of performance.

His latest work Forest Square (2013) involves cutting down an area (10 m x 10 m) of forest, and sorting out the trees, undergrowth and surface soil. During several months he separated all the materials by type and then organized it for photographing. The first photograph is the forest before any trees were felled, the second one after the trees and the topsoil had been removed with only a black square remaining in the forest and the third one in which the material has been arranged in various rectangles within an equal area of 10 m x 10 m. The Forest Square was presented in Venice Biennial 2013 in Finnish Pavilion along side to the Tree Reconstruction that involves cutting down five large trees, chopping them into parts and reassembling them in Venice, like a huge puzzle.

Antti Laitinen has a background in photography and multimedia art. His works are primarily staged performances that he then documents. Many of his projects involve experimental or durational activities. They are made with a precise plan that requires different sophisticated technical skills. Many of the projects also require physical and mental strength, e.g. staying naked in a forest for days or dragging heavy sand sacks into to water only to see them carried away by the waves. Maybe this rough physical element in his art is one of the reasons why his works sometimes have be seen as notions of stereotypical masculinity.

As an artist Antti Laitinen does not want to explain his works with philosophical or theoretical terms. He wants them to speak directly to the viewer. Indeed his works can be seen as results of absurd ideas to deconstruct an object and then after long and hard hours of work to reconstruct it without any obvious purpose or profit. On the other hand his works can be also be interpreted as claims for independence and freedom or as criticizing the climate change. There is always a sense of honesty and true devotion in the actions of his projects that makes his art so powerful and universal.

Antti Laitinen was born in northern Finland in 1975. He completed his MA at The Finnish Art Academy of Fine Arts in 2004 after many years of photographic studies in Turku, Finland. 

His practices include performance, photography, video and installation. He has exhibited in several countries worldwide.   Laitinen represented Finland at the Venice Biennale in 2013 with the works FOREST SQUARE and TREE RECONSTRUCTION.  

The Exhibition Three Knots consists of photographs and video works IT'S MY ISLAND (2007), VOYAGE (2008), BARK BOAT (2010), TREE RECONSTRUCTION  (2013) and FOREST SQUARE(2013). The exhibition is produced in co-operation between Galleri Image and Northern Photographic Centre.

We would like to thank The Danish Arts Council, Finlands Kulturinstitut in Denmark and Frame Visual Art Finland for supporting the exhibition.