Marja Pirilä: In Strindberg's Rooms

12.04.2018 - 13.05.2018

Can something originate from darkness or nothing?  Where do matter and spirit come from –and can one change into the other? Marja Pirilä is known for her photographs where interior and exterior melt into each other and create a dream-like third reality. Camera obscura is a tool, which Pirilä uses to map inner and outer landscapes and to draw unconscious feelings into daylight. The exhibition In Strindberg’s Rooms is something of a tribute to the tradition of camera obscura photography. It combines experimental photography with phenomena in nature and observing people.

A residency apartment in Hotel Chevillon in Grez-sur-Loing, France, became a test laboratory of light and photography for six months in 2015, a camera obscura for Pirilä. She turned the apartment into a camera obscura by covering the windows with black plastic and letting the light in from small holes into which she installed simple lenses. This way the view from the windows showing the sight from the main street and market place of the village was drawn upside down into the rooms of the apartment.

August Strindberg (1849-1912) was working in the same rooms of Hôtel Chevillon in his time. Strindberg was one of the most significant and contradictory Swedish writers, and he was a pioneer for early photography as well. His open-minded thoughts and experiments with photography inspired also Pirilä into new experimentations.

The exhibition has photographs, video works and a large oak closet that has been turned into a camera obscura. Pirilä has built this Wunderkamera together with Petri Nuutinen, and it has been named after the camera Strindberg built and named for himself.

Marja Pirilä (b.1957 in Rovaniemi) has been specializing in camera obscura technique since 1990’s. She has graduated as a photographer in 1986 from Art Academy and a biologist from Helsinki University the same year.  Her works have been shown in exhibitions in Europe, North and South America as well as Asia. There are works from Pirilä also in several significant public and private art collections. Pirilä has been awarded with State Art Award in 2000 and there is a retrospective book called Carried by Light (2014) published from her works.


Camera obscura (lat. Dark room) is a phenomenon,

where light travels through a hole or a lense into a dim space

and creates an upside down picture of the landscape outside.

The phenomenon is based on the light traveling straight forward,

the same way the eye and all cameras work.

Camera obscura phenomenon has fascinated people with it’s magic for centuries.

It has been used in science and art, in astronomic research,

in observing optical phenomena, creating drawings and paintings

as well as a tool for philosophic discussion.


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