Something more interesting




Something interesting

Hi, all, thank you for your participation in the Signs of Power blog, sofar. I am not quite sure, if we should finish this in orderly fashion, as the school year at least in Finland is approaching its semester end, and some of us are getting out in the fresh air, green pastures and sunshine. Even a relatively short lived activity like ours, with a number of posts, comments together with trial conferences over the net between two student groups and teachers, has its impact, I am sure. For some, there might be a follow-up brewing in the brain. I have appreciated very much this opportunity to see the ideas and proposals of all of you. I have appreciated as well the possibility of commenting your work, however shortly. This is an abridged version of a cooperation between schools we never really bothered to learn more about. But who knows, maybe ideas will evolve, that bring us together in another setup for pedagogical discussion, interaction, art exchange, seminars.. I am all for the option of future talks, given the possibilities to that occasion by the two Universities in Helsinki and Oslo. Thank you and take care! Jan Kenneth Weckman



Another part done for the series. Same size as the labyrinths, made with enamel paint, permanent marker, oil + dammar.

Caption for the image (from the internet): “Cleveland Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Center is a prevention center, not a detention center”. A puzzling piece of information when connected to a picture of a detention cell.

According to some stydy, pink color is supposed to calm down aggression and violent behaviour. So just lock up the furious perpetrator and let the colour do it’s job… What a weird way of using hard (locking up) and “soft” (the psycho-physical effects of light/colour) force. In some other prisons in the U.S., for example Tent City, AZ, pink clothes have been used also for humiliating inmates.

About the psycho-physical effects, I wonder if the side-effects of pink include nausea and vomiting. I got kind of sick staring at too much pink while painting.

The link to my labyrinth motif is pretty much intuitive. Primarily I just fell for the absurd, hilarious, grotesque image of a pink cell, with a policeman in his dark blue uniform, as an accent both in visual and conceptual ways. I might be able to verbalise some points I had in mind, in spoken word, but translating my thoughts into short written form is quite tricky. But here’s something:

1. The physical distance between a cell and “freedom” is not very long. Finding the route requires a very special map (a good lawyer, connections, money, or the prison blueprints tattooed on you, works only on tv..) though.

2. To end up in a cell one has to make a wrong turn in the labyrinth of laws, rules and codes of conduct. The society-labyrinth is filled with traps, some quite harmless, some even lethal, at least for one’s social life.


3 out of 7 pieces on the wall.


So, about the 3 paintings:

They are painted on second hand mdf-board with Clash and Montana brand graffiti spray paints, chrome & colours, using masking tape for stenciling. Size of the paintings is comfortable, portable and sellable, roughly 80 cm by 60 cm, something that “fits your wallet”  or on the wall above the sofa in your living room. The design could be seen as a continuation of the Finnish 70’s and 80’s constructivism, a modernistic and apolitical painting genre I find extremely hard to connect with anything in the real life. Still, I find some motifs from/references to the more-or-less-real world in my paintings, such as a tree, or just associations with pixel images, computer games, tabletop game boards, lines and rows of windows in the facades of blocks of flats, maps, oriental decorative motifs, etc.

The paintings depict Eco’s three different kinds of labyrinths, (greek, mannerist, rhyzome). I didn’t relly have a clear idea of what the paintings will turn out to be when I started. I was thinking of imposing some real world imagery on these abstractions, either media images or documentary (“objective”, mind the quotes!) or some other kind of visualisations of my lived experiences. After a couple of rounds of tedious taping and extatic spraying I was content with the (somewhat coarse) graphical finish, as well as the feeling of the material: layered spraypaint carrying the meaning of both industrial and individual, mass produced and underground. So I didn’t want to confuse the visual strength with figurative motifs. And simply there just wasn’t space for anything like that.

As I told, the works themselves are almost suitable to be used as bourgeoisie interior decoration elements, so I felt like continuing the series with another three paintings of the same format, which in turn would be figurative, presenting spaces and situations that I find somewhat labyrinthine (for example a juvenile detention center’s jail cell, not complex in physical form, but on the level of values, social reality, power and so on).

Now it’s too early to talk about the effects of combining the graphical labyrinths with the other images (which are two photographs and an architectural concept rendering), so until the next time..



(I wonder if there’s anyone out there still..)

Here’s a couple of paintings to get me started with the hands-on work with the labyrinths.

To talk about power, I find there are two tools/mediums above the rest. A camera and a spraycan. This far (and probably ’til the end of the project) I’ve stuck to the latter.

These three paintings are kind of “padding” works, which will be juxtaposed with another three paintings (that are figurative & based on media images). I’m hoping to be able to post the other 3 in a week or so.

More about the idea later…

To accept that art works and not only the system of institutions that support and decide about art works are discourses as well, might be difficult. Art works seem to be rather powerless objects, that, however, can represent also artists, not only  the messages or aesthetic experiences we get from them. Some art works make us think about the artist, very much. Currently, the Amos Anderson Art museum shows Riiko Sakkinen and Jani Leinonen´s ironic celebration of the market forces. Here, many critics has focused on the personalities of Jani Leinonen and Riiko Sakkinen, and finish off by saying that the artists are more interesting than their works. If we think that art works, as artefacts and interpretations of a given situation the artist has wanted to construct, are in their own right, socially and metaphysically (as virtual communication), discourse, it must mean that the art works take part in a power situation the same way our own person, body and persona, does it. By conforming to a set of habits in the society, we make up and participate plus reproduce a certain discourse. The art works are objects of a discourse as we are subjects of that discourse.  To talk about power, is to try to describe a situation through the notion of power. If the struggle is between discourses, the objects of them take part as well. 

From a point of education of art, we could preferably suggest to students that it is better to create objects in a superior or dominant discourse, than to function within an lesser or almost non-existant discourse. This is comparable to saying that: “look, what are those in dominant positions talking about? Listen to what they are discussing, and try to formulate something in this direction. If you talk about things, in way of your artwork, that has been said already, nobody is interested. If you talk about something completely out of the range of the dominant discussion, nobody will notice you anyway. You must adjust to participate in the dominant discussion in a relatively new and therefore interesting way, but at the same time in a relatively familiar way, so as not to be completely strange, and then you attract other ´s to listen to you”. 

If we start looking at art the way above described, you will easily find your position. You only have to explain how your objects of discourse function. If you have to analyze the objects you see, the first obstacle is to learn to see what is happening. You should be interested to find out. This makes you avoid communicating in such a strange way that nobody understands anything, the same goes for the completely redundant messages. Everybody understand some messages, so they are useless. Still, as one critic mentions about Jani Leinonen and Riiko Sakkinen. “They envision what we already know”. The result is: ” a feeling of frustation”.  I propose that if we are to deal with the work of art as a part, an object, of discourse, we might take up the simile of art as communication or discussion. From there, the power game is fully visible. It has even a name: rhetoric. 

You might want to choose to completely ignore the art scene as a source of rhetoric. It is easy to do, if we accept that the media scene is as good a source as art. But, this option makes it difficult to make a serious intervention within the art field, since we do not know what other artists are doing. We, as it were, ignore what the other guests at the same party are doing. We might settle for a traditional way of discussing whatever we want to discuss. Or, we do not want to discuss anything. In this case, it is difficult to choose an art form. Even if we settle for painting, that does not clearly want to discuss any specific topic, we end up commenting the tradition of painting wether we want it or not. The medium has its own history. To avoid this, we must bring a new medium, or a number of new parts of the world in to the art work, or the art scene, whatever. This has been done a number of times. Much remains, but is often difficult, too pricy, too dangerous, too something. You may come up with new ideas for artworks, in terms of their media: parts of the world, materials, technology, stuff, things, environments.

To come back to art as discourse, we should delve into Foucault and ask him. I am waiting for some answers. Yours, jkw