The history of scholars using artistic methods to not just work on developing their ideas but to explore philosophical thinking and to do scholarly work is long. This tradition meets artistic research in the halfway, and I have, since the fall 2013, been calling it scholart. I’d call the literary work of Sartre, Camus and Simone de Beauvoir rather scholartist than artistic. Leonardo was a scholartist who tried to develop an accurate way of representing the world by also painting and drawing (even calling drawing science). Diogenes’ performative philosophy was scholartist by nature, and the same could be said of Wittgenstein’s house. The concept could be extended to discuss sufism as a religiously laden form of scholartism and yoga as a form of scholartism of the body.
The scholartist manifesto was published February 12, 2014, and it is an invertion of the Sol Lewitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969). Together with my social science colleague Taina Rajanti, and our students Farbod Farkharzadeh, Eva Pavlic Seifert, Melinda Abercrombie and Andrea Coyotzi Borja we held the first conscious and reflective exhibition on/of Scholart November 14, 2014, in the ARTS House of Aalto University at Otaniemi Espoo (Finland). For me scholart has mostly been about 1) curatorial work / galleries, 2) literary work, 3) performance and 4) other, mostly text-based ways of working.
2002-2004 ROR Gallery
I was the founding member of ROR gallery, Helsinki / Kallio, which I was running together with Jiri Geller, Eva Neklyaeva, Ilse Rossander, Panu Puolakka, Karoliina Taipale, Klaus Nyqvist, and Sari Hiltunen. We put up the gallery as we did not find the art we wanted in the then dry and conservative Helsinki art scene. The gallery was active from 2003-2004 (and we never planned to make it permanent). I focused on exhibition texts, production, press releases and some marginal curatorial activity. I worked on making adverts and exhibition texts as experimental as possible, by often having an other genre in mind when I wrote them (e.g. the instructions for how to activate a fridge).
2011-2013 Kallio Kunsthalle
I was the founding member of gallery Kallio Kunsthalle in Helsinki (Toinen linja 31) together with Petri Saarikko and Sasha Huber. It was a cooperation project with Elokolo, an organization for substance use prevention and the homeless. I wrote our texts and I was the chief curator for 2 exhibitions (I was involved, though, in nearly all exhibitions). Kallio Kunsthalle visited Stockholm Independent Art Fair Supermarket 2012 and earned a critique in Kunstkritikk. The gallery did some outsiderish social work and served us as a fun way of finding new friends. The highlight of the scholartist work presented was Yann Toma’s and Richard Shusterman’s somaesthetics photos. But the curatorial work reflected on the topic as well, although I never accentuated the connection.
2014-2016 Gallery KLEIN
KLEIN was a real scholartist experiment, which started at mine and Pia Euro’s gallery course in the Visual Culture MA program at Aalto University. This suitcase gallery which traveled with me wherever I gave speeches and lectures, was as real as possible with openings, artist statements and webpages. Most exhibitions are seen by approximately 100 viewers but the interesting thing with KLEIN was that people spent more time watching the art works. I remember from my old days as a ‘real gallerist’ that most visitors to ‘real’ galleries just walk in, turn their head and write their name in the guestbook, and then they go out, heading for the next one. Among many others, KLEIN exhibited Jean-Francois Paquay (Belgium), Elham Rahmati (Iran/Italy), Anna Korotkova (Russia/Finland), Sinem Kayacan (Turkey/Finland) and Melinda Abercrombie (US). With Taina Rajanti we finished the gallery with a performance act: we left it in Berlin, in the park close to the angel, together with a message (please adopt this gallery if you feel like it). I was lucky to be able to announce the existence of the gallery in Art Pulse, and the exhitions traveled to e.g. Riga, Saldus, Bratislava and Warsaw. KLEIN was also one of the official exhibition spaces showing the winners of the Nordic dance film competition 60secondsdance in 2015.
I have published two books ‘labeled’ as essayistic, but I consider only the second one to really be literary enough to make it into this concept (the other one, on the aesthetics of ice hockey, is simply a crossover). Still, as I am a scholartist, I’d like to think about this as philosophy extending itself by mixing with literature. Elokuva, rakkaani! was published by Savukeidas (Turku, 2013). I mix reality with fiction (partly just because my own life is too dull for literature), sometimes visibly, sometimes so that it appears realistic – but at the same time I tried to pave a way for fresh thinking about film.
I have as well worked with ‘iceberg philosophy’ through the novel Takatalvi (which roughly translates to The Back of the Winter). I made a publishing deal, worked close to getting it out (though with a bit too many compromises, in the end) with one editor, but really did not find a dialogue with the next one who appeared in the end of the process and attacked the protagonists’ worldview. I had made quite a Faustic deal so that the publisher had all rights to do anything, but happily, in the end, I got out of the deal with the publisher (Gummerus). I learned a lot about the way bigger publishers can be like machines were people are replaced and were books are commodities, and I know for sure that I am interested in more outsiderish frameworks in that territory from now on. Although I actually have no reason to doubt the professional level of the people working there, the way of thinking was in the end very different from mine. I am not in a hurry, but I have to think carefully how to finish this project, which for me is philosophy in the broad sense of the word and politics, not a novel with a capital N. I would have felt very very depressed if I’d give out one more Harlequine to this world. It is not a new Ulysses, but… anyway – more ambitious, at least from a scholartist point of view.
PERFORMANCE / DANCE
With Tanja Illukka in Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo’s choreography Writing Dancing. We performed in Helsinki Nov 11/13/14/16/20/21, 2015, in LéSPACE, we visited Turku Dec 9 2015. Sept 20 we performed at Leipzig dance festival and Sept 22 in Dresden (Germany). In this experimental act, I am writing (fast) on stage and Tanja is dancing, we are communicating with each other. The history of the piece and my part of it is that I used to do writing performances where my text came on the wall, and Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo happened to see one. He thoughts that this scholartist act could become a part of a wider performance, and contacted me later to work with him and Tanja Illukka. As an experienced choreographer he was able to work out a fun whole from our interaction.
Spring 2015 I was a ‘mentor’, or a ‘reflective satellite’ (as the program said it) in Andrius Katinas’, Vera Nevanlinna’s and Salla Salin’s Paper Piece. Zodiak (Dance Theatre). The performance was great, but here I am not sure how much I found a place for dialogue. Anyway, it was fun to follow the process and to test what could happen. To promote dialogue I wrote letters to the working group.
“What is Black Aesthetics? What is the intellectuality of civil rights movements? Do spiritual leaders have an impact on arts and artists?” Performance (and screening) with Khaled Ramadan. April 11. Studio Linnunlaulu / Kallio Kunsthalle. We boxed with Khaled, watched Muhammad Ali film clips and talked about our experiences of being with the skins etc. we are born with.
“A Critique of Max Ryynänen’s Performance at Experimental Event 2014″. EXPERIMENTAL EVENT 3. October. Pori, Finland. I wrote about my writing act (text on the wall) at the same time as it happened. 10 minute performance.
“Written lecture” at EXPERIMENTAL EVENT 2. October 4-5 2012. Pori, Finland. In this 10 minute performance I wrote about and reflected (in Sei Shonagon spirit) on Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, which is full of fast impressions.
Dancer. Drive or Die, Kaapelitehdas Helsinki 1994 Autumn, Coreographer Ari Numminen, Director Kari Heiskanen. 14 performances. Production: Theatre Academy and Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE (TV1). Here I was still thinking what the heck am I doing here, and I did not find the path to think about scholart, but I have a feeling that something happened, which then developed into this.
OTHER (CURATION, MANUSCRIPTS)
Scholart. An exhibition of artistic working methods used in scholarly work. With Andrea Coyotzi Borja, Eva Pavlic Seifert, Farbord Fakharzadeh and Taina Rajanti. ARTS House, Aalto / ARTS, Otaniemi (Espoo, Finland).
“Borges on Bezoar.” Fake research. In Finbar Rosato & Petri Saarikko, Planet Bezoar or Planet Hairball according to the Lost Book of Time, p. 57. (As Usva Vinttilä.) Labyrinth Press.
Exhibition on kitsch, kitschy art, and art commenting kitsch at Pori University Consortium together with working group Anni Venäläinen, Kati Heljakka, Sampo Laaksonen, and Jukka Juhala. November.
Perjantai. Short movie. Manuscript with Panu Heikkilä. Director: Panu Heikkilä. Actors: Ville Haapasalo, Johannes Brotherus. Production: Hanna Haaslahti. Fantomatico, Helsinki. AVEK / The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE. http://www.fantomatico.org/perjantai/FRIDAY.pdf
March 28 – April 24. In gallery manifesto against the Iraqi war at the exhibition The Right to Strike First Club. Pio Diaz~Exhibition Space. Gothersgade 105, Copenhagen. http://www.kopenhagen.dk/fileadmin/oldsite/presse/presse2003/1_3/strike.htm
“Rentoutumiskasetin teksti / Text till avslappningskassett”. Published in Kontur 2003: 5. 3. Svensk översättning Trygve Söderling. With music (by Jani Sund) on Youtube.