Smaller Than Life
Short Films and Videos from Finland

August 4, 9:00 pm, Middle Dam in Durham
(In the event of rain we will use the Symphony Barn)

Perttu Rastas

First a package of small facts. Finland is a big country situated in Northern Europe with a small population. There are just over 5 millions Finns. The story goes; that we migrated from Russia near the Volga River and made a short roundtrip through Hungary and then traveled on to settle in the north east. Epic stories are sadly seldom true. New genetic based research shows that we have come from all over Europe.
But if you look at the pervading weather conditions, only the criminals and madmen would have bought a ticket for such a trip. This northerness is still significant part of Finnish culture and its mental mind-set.

Regarding the atlas you’ll find that Toronto is on the same latitude as Rome. And the distance from Rome to Lapland is over 3,000 kilometers. So with out the warm Golf stream Finland would be in a long lasting ice-age. One estimated factor concerning global warming is that the melting North Pole will be cooling the Golf Stream. Which suggests that we might have pleasant Central European weather or not so pleasant Siberian winter?
Long ago we were a part of the Swedish ‘eastern badland.’ Later annexed by Russia and only in the last 100 years have we achieved independence. But we have managed through both world wars to have maintained our independence. From the perspective of Central Europe, we are too small, too north, too east and too near new and powerful Russia. But I think it’s OK.

It is only recently that film and video artists having been working in an experimental way.

But since the 90’s video and media art has been the fastest growing art sector and today is a big part of contemporary Finnish art.

The selection gives wide perspective of the history of experimental film and video in Finland. The selection also shows some of the mental and cultural landscapes of Finland. Strange and silent humour melts with experimental practices. Most of the artists are very well known in the field of contemporary art.

The title: Smaller Than Life, refers to the well known Finnish film researcher Peter von Bagh’s famous statement that ‘feature films are bigger than life.’ My selection is a series of my favorites of Finnish short films and videos with no particular theme in mind. But I have selected those works where the function of language will not be an issue.

Artists Dilemma
4 minutes 1997
Roi Vaara
In this film a lonely artist is on the top of frozen lake. He has two paths he can take: one for life, one for art. Which to choose, that’s the question. And he can not decide. Can we?
Roi Vaara has been active in Finland becoming the country’s most internationally recognized performance artist. His work emphasizes an aesthetic discourse between the artwork and its specific place or situation, rejecting the objectification of art destined for a vacuum. His work in performance art since 1982 has been conceptual, absurd and humorous. Since 1988, he has been part of Black Market International, an international, collaborative, occasional meeting of performance artists whose work proposes performance art as a simultaneous form of communication.

Electronic in the World of tomorrow
5 minutes 1964
Erkki Kurenniemi
Electronic in the World of tomorrow is experimental film where rotating images from American magazine Electronics forms the steady basis of this hypnotic piece. The film was originally silent but now includes in the screening Kurenniemi’s electronic music “On-Off” from 1963.
Erkki Kureniemi is one of the major pioneers of media art. His films in the 1960’s were very influential in creating an interest in the relationship between culture and technology. But especially his early 1970’s digital interactive instruments (series of DIMI instruments) and writings including comments on the nature of personal pocket computers and information networks were a futuristic vision which came true in the age of internet 2.0.

Sleeping Good Night
7:30 minutes 1978
Pasi Myllymäki
Inspired by the DIY mentality of punk, Myllymäki began planning his own Super 8 shorts in the end of the 1970’s. Not having his own camera, Myllymäki began collaborating with Risto Laakkonen, a camera-owning amateur cinematographer who worked at a printing house. Between 1976 and 1985 they worked evenings, weekends and holidays to produce more than 40 short films, each complete with magnetic sound, and, with few exceptions, all less than three minutes long. Good Night was the perfect synthesis of kinetics and surrealism, which for Myllymäki meant a breakthrough into the bruised zone somewhere between insomnia and nightmare. Films should no longer be experienced like a dream. Until now, the spectator has watched from a safe distance as the film happens to the actors, but now the film will happen to the spectator. The era of direct cinema has begun.

Stilleben - Milena’s Journey
5:22 minutes 1989
Marikki Hakola
A video montage based on Franz Kafka´s correspondence to his lover Milena. The work depicts the difficulty of an encounter between a man and a woman. The Austrian TV ÖRF ordered the video from Hakola for Kaija Saariaho´s radiophonic composition Stilleben which got Prix Ars Electronica 1989.

3:45 minutes 2000
Salla Tykkä
The girl arrives home from a jog. She rings the door bell but nobody answers. She walks around the house and looks inside. She sees a young man in the living room playing with a lasso. The window is separating these two worlds. Suddenly this dreamlike vision turns into a scaring reality. She is afraid of what she sees and takes a step back. Her gaze is forced back into the surface of the glass wall that shows her own reflection.
Salla Tykkä creates works in photography and video that focus on themes of self-awareness and empowerment. Her works are marked by highly cinematic images, evocative and open-ended narratives, and bold portrayals of internal struggles.

6 minutes 2006
Pink Twins
Splitter is a macro cosmos of interweaving streams of color, a digital mass of endlessly transforming surface. Created from satellite photos and transformed into a richly detailed, multilayered landscape, the static motion of Splitter creates a sacramental space that carries the layers of our perception and consciousness.

Pink Twins is a duo of musicians and video artists, brothers Juha and Vesa Vehviläinen from Helsinki, Finland. Pink Twins works are influenced from electronic digital mixing with VJ-culture.

Optical Sound
6 minutes 2005
Mika Taanila
Optical sound continues the series of films by Mika Taanila which deal with technology, humanity, and futuristic ideas. Office technology becomes obsolete very quickly. Old tools transform into musical instruments. The film is based on Symphony # 2 for 12 Dot Matrix Printers, composed by the Canadian based group [The User].

Dogs Have No Hell
10 minutes 2002
Aki Kaurismäki
Aki Kaurismäki is the most renowned contemporary film maker in Finland. This short film filled with humor, is a story of a man (Markku Peltola) who gets out after a night in jail. He quickly rebuilds his life in the ten minutes of the film: he gets back into business, meets his girlfriend (Kati Outinen) in a bar. Buys them rings and even makes it to a train that takes them on a journey towards the Siberian oil fields. As they sit on the train, the man looks out into the darkening landscape and wonders if the Fatherland is still there. The train disappears into the night.

7:30 minutes 1992
Juha van Ingen
In (Dis)Intergrator a sequence from Kurt Neumann´s film The Fly, made in 1958, is copied with a VHS recorder. Then the copy is copied again. This process is repeated until the video signal disintegrates into noise and finally disappears into darkness. Ingen’s work’s are classic in the field of video art in Finland. It underlines the best of video art, smaller than life drama, crystal clear single idea that is showed to audience in simple format, nothing to include, nothing left out.


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