Cultural portraits of masculinity: Kari Soinio’s Private hero photo-exhibit in New York City

In his photographic portraiture of the male body, Kari Soinio studies masculine corporeality, body language, sexuality and identity and looks at the ways perception and recognition operate through visual representations. His auto-portraiture-based work takes a critical look into masculinity and femininity in maleness, showing ambiguous bodies with traits of both and in doing so addresses and challenges masculine complacency and self-importance.

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Kari Soinio, Athletic Hero #1, digital C-print, 2012

When looking at Kari Soinio’s male portraits, it feels relevant to ask, how do we actually portray the male bodies in general? Soinio’s portraits offer answers that are more subtle than loud. His work is more questioning than giving answers, more provoking than seducing, and more aiming to challenge than trying to frame simple answers. The presence in his photography is strong. The body in the images becomes the one, which is both looking at you as a viewer, and simultaneously makes its own subject the mysterious one. The portraits are saying, you can look at me now, but here is the movement, which does not create passivity of an object. The entire question could be played around the underlying theme of a ’hero’. I am a male as a subject for photography, and, therefore, when you label me, I’m aware of the multiplicity of the ways you are looking at me.

Generally, one can suppose, a man who is portrayed, stands for a cultural hero, often a superhero. We can imagine man and his sports, man in the wilderness, man in action, man doing his duty, man and the muscular body, man and a celebrity status, man and nature, man and the urban life, man and his gadgets, man in his clothing, man in his business suits. The list is endless when we think about it. In the Western art world, we tend to think a man of modernism is someone who is portrayed as part of the bourgeoisie. While he was posing, he came out as a dandy, as a flâneur, being mostly comfortable in his position of posing, being able to pose and gain gaze through a masculinity with substance (think of Oscar Wilde, for instance). Now, self-portraiture is an interesting sport itself, how to present your own body, how to create the gaze, how to, simply, pose?

How about a naked man? Is there a controversy regarding the subject? Seeing naked men in portraits is still quite a taboo outside the art-context. Perhaps, even photography and male nudity still have a quite fresh relationship. Even when the history of performance art and some theatrical traditions of avant-garde have exposed naked bodies as sites of performance throughout the past century, the subject matter still has the power to startle us. The human body and its performativity is a powerful tool enabling us to discuss society, gender, sexuality, identity, culture, power, class, race, beauty and aesthetics.

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Kari Soinio, Athletic Hero #13, C-print, 2012

Body representations and questions relating to them, and to our ways of posing are without argument more often associated with women’s bodies. However, whether it is our bodies in advertising, in media, in television, in art, in fashion, in sports, in health and  nutrition, we have opinions about our physicality. Our skin is reality. It is the window to our selves rather than what we aim to say, or how we wish to act. Our visually overexposed cultures tend to invite us to look at, to evaluate, to be seduced, to judge, to react to the lens. Yet, that is a very human characteristic. We are bodies, and we need to focus the conversation on what is our relationship to ourselves.

Kari Soinio says that his source of inspiration is the complexity of the male ’self-consciousness and body image’. This opens into many interpretations of the masculine essence in our culture, showing maleness through icons of male heroes. Soinio’s portraits discuss with these cultural images, yet they offer ways to look at the masculinity as a more vulnerable entity, which nudity already poses. Is his posing creating classic male bodies? In the ways the torso, arms, head, shoulders etc. are presenting shape and balance, yes. When it comes to mixing the color palette into the image, some of the more toned ones are definitely blurring the lines of the self. The rigid becomes more soft and round.

Is nudity a surface where naked male body transforms into something else than naked female body, because of the culture they impose? The latter is often a territory for many cultural signs, which note male gaze, voyeurism, sexism and pornography. Therefore, portraying women’s bodies differently is a constant challenge in the art of photography. The iconography of a male posing in pictures might offer a surface to investigate our bodies as sites for many identities, which are necessarily not just male. This play is of course available for ‘any-body’ regardless of gender. In Soinio’s photographs,  the viewer can see a body that is in and out of balance. The portraits do not fit inside their frames, they want to step out. From this viewpoint, the naked heroism is within our acceptance of our body as a spirituality. We might see the human body as part of nature, part of yoga-culture, part of wellness and balance. The nature-body communicates across the simple boundaries of gender.  Our bodies are aiming to balance and be off-balance. The experience as the viewer is to kinesthetically feel together with the portraits, and move outside the frames.

…Kari Soinio is a New York based artist working mainly with photography. He received his BA from the Lahti Polytechnic in his native Finland and his MFA from University of Art and Design in Helsinki. He has also studied at the International Center of Photography in New York…

Kari Soinio has recently shown at Storefront Bushwick in NYC (2013), at Heino Gallery (2012) and Korjaamo Gallery (2011) in Helsinki, at Northern Photographic Center in Oulu (2011) and at several galleries and museums in Finland, including numerous shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki. His monograph “From Landscape to Place” was published in 2009 in conjunction with shows at Heino Gallery and a mid career survey at Kerava Art Museum. His show at the Institut Finlandais in Paris was part of Mois de la Photo in 2010 and received significant attention from the French art press. His work has been shown internationally in the US and in Europe: at Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, England, NGBK gallery, Berlin, Germany, Arthouse, Sofia, Bulgaria, Ludvig Museum, Budapest, Hungary, Signe Vad gallerie, Copenhagen, Denmark, Peer Gallery, New York, USA, Gallery Papatzikou – Photobiennale Thessaloniki, Veroia, Greece, Ingrid Hansen Gallery, Washington DC, Municipality of Neapolis Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece, and Kakelhallen, Mariehamn, Åland. Soinio’s work has appeared in NY Arts Magazine, Connaissance des Arts, l’Humanite, Réponses Photo, Art Actuel, La Tribune, Next Level and in numerous books, newspapers and TV programs in Finland.

 

 Gallery Information:

 Station Independent Projects organizes exhibitions and events with a focus on artist advocacy. It is located in Lower East Side.

164 Suffolk Street, NYC 10002

www.stationindependent.com

info@stationindependent.com

Fashion Curating: Unsustainability, gender and class readdressed

Fashion Interactions is a multidisciplinary exhibition that explores fashion culture by means of contemporary art, design and media. The exhibited works comment, on the unsustainability of the fashion industry, analyze the relationship of fashion and corporeality, and investigate how people use clothing as a tool for building identities. The exhibition is Curated by Annamari Vänskä & Hazel Clark and it presents works from: Federico Cabrera, Heidi Lunabba, Jasmin Mishima, Anna Mustonen, Nutty Tarts, Timo Rissanen, Salla Salin, Heidi Soidinsalo, Saara Töyrylä and Timo Wright. This exhibition opens on Friday November 15, 2013 in New York City. It is a collaboration with Parsons The New School for Design and the SheilaC. Johnson Design Center, Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, and the Centre for Fashion Studies (Stockholm University).

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(Fashion Interactions-exhibition, Timo Wright-‘un fit’ video still)

FASHION CURATING NOW is a daylong symposium at Parsons The New School for Design on Saturday November 16 9:30 am-5 pm. The symposium reflects the subjects around the Fashion Interactions exhibition focusing on the possibilities and challenges of contemporary fashion curating on a global scale. Critical points of view are stressed, as is contemplation of fashion’s kinship with art, design, industry, performance, and self-presentation. I asked a few questions from Leena-Maija Rossi, who is the Executive Director of Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, about the seminar and other related topics. 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you explain the background of the seminar?

L-M Rossi: The background of the Fashion Curating Now is in the exhibition project Fashion Interactions. It has its origins in the show Boutique, curated by Annamari Vänskä, which was part of Helsinki’s World Design Capital year in 2012. Finnish Cultural Institute wanted to bring a new edition of the show to New York and partnered with Parsons New School for Design in order to do that. The process of “re-curating” an already existing exhibition made us think of curating fashion at large: how to present fashion in an interesting way “outside the  market”? How to make engaging exhibitions on fashion, how to show its entwinement with fine art, how to find new fora for curating, e. g., in the new media? How to make visible the political aspects of fashion?

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finnish fashion and design have gained more international visibility, creating their own trends as well, how do you see current research field is following trends from the industry?

L-M Rossi: I see fashion research as a developing and dynamic field, especially when it connects with studies on class and consumerism, and, of course, studies of gender and sexuality. I do not know if the task for the research is to follow the trends, I rather see research as a field for critical interventions.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: In Finland, it seems that industries have also been able to point to cultural questions, what do you see as current research themes coming from the field/industries themselves?

L-M Rossi: Sustainability is of course a timely research theme, and the way it intersects with the issue of class. I am also really interested in the potentiality of queer fashion research, and I would really like to see more analysis on gender nonconformity, not so much of equaling queer with identity categories.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Yourself, you have written about advertising, media, gender representations/performance-related, in the contemporary visual culture. What do you see this global exchange is giving to these themes?

L-M Rossi: I think fashion is a crucial part of visual culture at large, especially because of its border-crossing nature. Gender is being profoundly done by people’s choices of dressing up and wearing their clothes, and these choices are, again, influenced by advertising. So one could say that the fields of fashion and advertising are constantly participating in the global processes of doing and undoing gender.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How well or how do Finnish fashion industries communicate globally? How do you see the branding, would it be more individual voices than a canon etc.?

L-M Rossi: It seems that many Finnish designers communicate quite naturally in the international field of fashion. Like visual artists, I think they first and foremost present their individual voices; it is very difficult to build a uniform “brand.” But then again, many seem to be thinking of such issues as high quality materials and sustainability. 

 Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Art, fashion, design: How would you speed-describe these together?

 L-M Rossi: Fashion and design are artforms, fashion is an interesting field within design. All of them make difference in everyday life.  

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(Fashion Interactions-exhibition, Nutty Tarts & Heidi Lunabba) 

/// INFO: FASHION INTERACTIONS ///

Fashion Interactions-Exhibition

Opening: Friday November 15, 6pm – 9pm

November 11 – December 13, 2013

Open daily 12pm – 6pm

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

Parsons The New School for Design

66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street, New York

The exhibition is supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, Frame Visual Art Finland and Consulate General of Finland in New York.

   /// FASHION CURATING NOW ///
Symposium, Saturday November 16, 9:30am – 5:00pm

David Schwartz Fashion Education
Parsons The New School for Design
560 Seventh Avenue at 40th Street
New York

Finnish Cultural Institute in New York Facebook.

http://www.ficultureny.org/node/330

http://www.newschool.edu/sjdc

"Elephant Love" Pop-up Shop: Crowdsourcing for art and charity

By Patricia Chow
Last weekend I had my first photography show in Chelsea (New York City), as part of the High Line Open Studios.  Since my day job is in statistical research, this was my first experience putting together an art show – and it was fabulous!  The show was a great way for me to combine three completely separate facets of my life: the artistic side (I am a photographer and graphic artist); the volunteer side (I teach ESL 3 days a week); and my personal and professional networks, which were instrumental in ensuring the success of the show.
 
 
I first started to photograph when I was living in Spain in 1995, and much of my photography focuses on the different perceptions that a newcomer has of ordinary surroundings. Since beauty can only exist in the eye of the beholder, I have tried to convey the essence of what I find beautiful in a place, rather than what is commonly considered beautiful, which, in many cases, is simply familiar.  There are a few images below – you can view more of my work on my photo blog.  Selected images are available for purchase as prints on Society6 and facebook.
 
 
 
In addition to photography, I also create whimsical, stylized elephant designs.  “Elephant Love” is the brand name for these designs, which are also sold on Society6 and facebook.  They are inspired by artists and design companies such as Marimekko, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Walasse Ting, as well as by traditional folk arts such as Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls and the molas that are embroidered by the Kuna Indians in Panama.  A variety of home decor and novelty items are available with these designs, such as posters/prints, blank stationery cards, throw pillows, iPhone covers, tote bags and clothing (t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, etc.).  The bright colors are great for decorating your apartment or nursery/kid’s room.

Because my work is primarily digital, I appealed to my friends and family for donations to cover the cost of producing physical items for my show. This was my first attempt at crowdsourcing and I was very impressed by how supportive everyone was.   
In order to encourage people to support my show, I promised to donate the profits from the sale of artwork and merchandise to a good cause: the Institute for Immigrant Concerns, where I am a board member.  The Institute is a New York City non-profit that provides free English classes and basic social services to low income immigrants, refugees and asylees.  The amazing stories of our alumni have been featured in the New York Times and other newspapers.  I was a volunteer English teacher with them for two years before becoming a board member, and 
 
I continue to volunteer with them about 12 hours a week.  The combination of the artistic cause and the social cause was a great way to reach a wider audience.

We are planning one more open studio day in a few weeks (possibly Thursday, November 7), so stop by if you happen to be in the area!  Details about the event to follow soon…  In the meantime, check out my website, blog and facebook page!  Thank you for your support!
 
Patricia Chow  

Photographer, Block-by-Block Photography
Graphic Artist, Elephant Love
(Read Patricia’s Firstindigo&Lifestyle interview from April 2013 here)
 

Many talents of Artist-Professor Pirjo Yli-Maunula

In June 2010, Finnish dancer and choreographer Pirjo Yli-Maunula was one of the four dancers to travel up the Muonio and Torne Rivers in Finnish Lapland. Their living and dancing installation River Woman was built on a ferry consisting of plastic bottles (about 25 000 plastic bottles were used to build a diameter of ten meters ferry, which operated a gliding dance-installation on a stage across the Muonio and Torne Rivers). Pirjo Yli-Maunula (being the main incubator of the project), dancer-choreographer Reijo Kela, and dancers Catherine and Anne Angeria were on a three-week river trip from Karesuvanto to Tornio performing to the audiences on the way. This dancing ferry is a kind of project that Pirjo Yli-Maunula would create, telling about how we are close to nature, and the nature is a stage for everything we do. Her performance projects – often taking place in the Northern Finland – have involved local audiences to participate and collaborate in mesmerizing ways.

Reijo Kela dances with Jokinainen
(Pirjo Yli-Maunula dances as Jokinainen/River Woman with dancer Reijo Kela on shore)

FI: What are you doing these days, you have quite a long career as an established choreographer and festival leader?

Pirjo: I am busy with many things: I am working as a choreographer and a dancer, artistic director, curator and a producer.

At the moment I am in the middle of creating a new duet with French choreographer-dancer William Petit. We are currently in Italy sharing a residency in Matera. We will have the premiere of ”Scars” in the beginning of November in Oulu in Northern Finland.

Then, this year our company Flow Productions started to arrange a series of visiting contemporary circus performances in Oulu. I have been busy curating, producing and arranging this series. I am hoping that we can continue with the series next year as well.

I just started to work again as the artistic director of Full Moon festival. I was in the job in 2004-2006. My current contract is for 2014-16.

FI: You went to Cardiff couple of weeks ago, was this your first time in the festival?

Pirjo: Yes, this was my first time in World Stage Design – festival. The week was intense, very interesting and great experience as a whole.

FI: It seems that your international networking abilities are tremendous, you have been able to attract visitors to come to Finland, where did you learn these skills?

Pirjo: I have learnt through the work itself. My different jobs have helpt me to build up the network. It is great to jump from the position of an artist to the position of a artistic director or funder or producer. Those different points of view help me to understand the bigger picture of the art world.

FI: How multidisciplinary are you as an artist, what are your modes and styles of working?

Pirjo: I am very much interested in working collaboratively with artists from different art forms. I have worked with artists in the fields of video, music, photography, new circus, theater, literature, games, new media, as well as costume, light and sound design.

Every production and process is different: I have created not just contemporary dance pieces on stage but also dance-installations, site-specific works, dancevideo or works that could be considered as live art.

I strive to create complete, meticulous works of art which nevertheless build upon improvisation and spur-of-the-moment insight.

FI: What did you gain by attending WSD2013 in Cardiff?

Pirjo: I was inspired by many things in the exhibition, meeting of other artists, and the overall exciting atmosphere of the festival.

FI: Who are the people that influence you the most?

Pirjo: I feel that the other artists that have worked with me have influenced me the most. As I am often also producing or co-producing my own work I am lucky to be able to build dream teams, where I can learn and get inspired by others.

FI: Where do you see yourself in the future, what dreams do you hold within you?

Pirjo: I would love to spend time in longer residencies and tour abroad more. I have quite an extensive repertoire that I believe would be interesting. For instance our multidisciplinary creation Susurro, that I also performed in Cardiff, would be a perfect piece to show for instance in Japan or South-Korea. I would like to tour in South American countries as well.

FI: Name your most important collaborations, and why?

Pirjo: I could talk about a number of different people and various different works. But if I would be allowed to mention just a couple I would definitely talk about French choreographer William Petit and Finnish light designer Jukka Huitila as I have worked with them so much.

I have known William since 2004. I have danced in his work and we have co-created pieces together. The intimacy, authenticity and bravery that we have found while dancing together has been very important to me. That has had an impact to my other work as well.

The collaboration with Jukka Huitila has also been vitally important to me. His sensitivity, openness, generosity, intelligence and creativity are superb. His input seems to always deepen the work. The trust that we have in each other has helped me to grow as a person and as an artist.

From the collaborative pieces that I have done I am maybe most happy about these two: Karsikko and Susurro. They have both been an adventure to something completely new as a form of art.

Susurro
(Pirjo Yli-Maunula in Susurro)

 

Susurro

FI: Last but not least, how does Finnish landscape help in creating your works, what would you like to say about our climate, the landscape, Northerness, Lapland and the nature?

Pirjo: Many of my pieces reflect my relationship with the natural environment, as well as natural phenomena and seasons of the Northern landscape. For instance my work Karsikko (co-created with dancer-choreographer Titta Court) is based on a tree and animal characters, and it derives from nature´s materials and soundscapes.

LINKS:
Pirjo Yli-Maunula showreel: https://vimeo.com/73019936
Susurro trailer: https://vimeo.com/65130595
Karsikko trailer: https://vimeo.com/35430024

www.flowprod.fi
http://www.fullmoondance.fi/
https://www.facebook.com/pirjo.ylimaunula
https://twitter.com/PirjoYlimaunula

Video of the week: Sephardic Music & Traditions with Flory Jagoda & Susan Gaeta

Exited about this video. Sephardic music and traditions have been carried on from one generation to the next by women storytellers and performers. Flory Jagoda and Susan Gaeta performed together on March 2013 in Maryland, where this video was recorded. Flory Jagoda tells a story about her family in Europe, going back to family photos, and including her own career as a musician. She started learning from her own grandmother, who sang her folk songs in Ladino. Jagoda is a leader of the revival of Ladino language by song. Vocalist/guitarist Susan Gaeta is an important member of new generation performers exploring a rich variety of Sephardic music.

Leevi Haapala discusses with Axel Straschnoy (2011)

Curator and art researcher Leevi Haapala (Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki), and a friend visited New York in 2011. We sipped cocktails, walked and talked. The global art scene, environment, artist-stories, what was going on in the world; inspired our conversation. Leevi was after a bunch of creative ideas. My thought was to start a blog as a platform, where to reflect what it means to be global and to stay attentive to different cultures. During the time of starting FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE, many changes had taken place in New York City. The first post was published on September 11, 2011, which was the 10 year anniversary of the tragic attack. It was all over the media, people were talking about it, artists were discussing it. The ‘darkness’ was still touching and moving. Yet, there was an opposite force as a new kind of optimism that was even more dazzling. The city was creating new urban plans. The High Line was only one example of the greener thinking.

This is to 2-year-old blog, which will feature more voices in the future. It wishes to bridge gaps between distances, worlds, body parts, artists, adventures, thinkers, beautiful minds.. Happy Fall!

Below is a link to a video where Leevi discusses with Axel Straschnoy, a visual artist (born in Buenos Aires, lives in Helsinki), who held his exhibition BOXES at the MUU gallery in Helsinki in October 2011. The themes were so timely. Enjoy!

Interview between Leevi Haapala and Axel Straschnoy from Axel Straschnoy on Vimeo.

Finnish Samuji attending Capsule in New York

Finnish Fashion brand SAMUJI will be part of CAPSULE Women’s fashion showing on September 15-17 2013 in New York. The brand started in 2011 with a collection for women, and for fall 2013 with a collection for men. SAMUJI’S story embeds love for the everyday, highlighting its simple functionality, and setting values for designs that are sustainable.  In addition, SAMUJI items are crafted from quality materials coming from European and Japanese suppliers, and are made in Europe. The flagship store is in Helsinki. SAMUJI is also sold in selected stores in Europe, Asia and North America. www.SAMUJI.com 

More information about the Capsule show including brands and event location here

Hello!earth from Scandinavia


Copenhagen, Denmark from hello!earth on Vimeo.

This is a hello!earth video. The hello!earth performance group appears on video as part of the Metropolis Festival held in 2009 in Copenhagen. What is so intriguing is their interdisciplinary approach and work, which seems so effortless yet requires much planning. Their performances cover investigations of cities and the urban environment. They also go to exploring nature and ‘earth’. The participants involve themselves in meeting people, and experiencing something new, and exiting. Their ’embodied experience’ creates the adventure.