Tapetilla (“In the Public Eye”) *
Installation and video at galleria Huuto Uudenmaankatu, september 2007
* NB. The name of the exhibition, “Tapetilla”, is an idiomatic expression which cannot be translated literally into English. “Tapetti” means “wallpaper” in Finnish, and the expression “tapetilla” means and is used to describe anything that is in the public eye – hence the English name of the exhibition. Although wallpaper is an essential material in the works of this exhibition, it’s unfortunately rather impossible to include the word “wallpaper” in the English name. (Translator’s note)
Following the outbreak of the Iraq war in March 2003, the media were suddenly filled with real-time news and pictures featuring both people and a country ravaged by war. All over the world, the incidents were being followed via newscasts, and the horrors of war were delivered by the media.
At the time, I was collecting war pictures from newspapers. The power, contents, and esthetics of these shots made me ponder how many of them, despite showing horror and fear, are beautiful pictures. I was also wondering if human beings can get used to what they see, and how they are able to forget what they see so as to get a peaceful night’s sleep.
With the war in the public eye, year after year, I was inspired by the idea of an installation in which the war pictures I had collected would be printed on wallpaper. Researching the history of wallpaper and the Finnish expression “olla tapetilla” (“be in the public eye”) made me even more interested. The phrase is centuries-old: In the medieval ages, for instance, important documents were often presented on tables covered with tapestries. These tapestries, which were often hung on walls, too, were the first wallpapers.
The exhibition consists of a room, the walls of which have been papered by decorative, hand-printed, unique wallpapers; old furniture and paintings; and photographs as well as picture compilations having to do with the ones I collected from the newspapers.
The colorful and decorative ornamentation of the wallpaper refers to Islamic culture. However, the figures in the wallpaper consist of flipped and mirrored pictures featuring the Iraq war and the distress of the people. With the shabby old furniture I have wanted to bring in some coziness and the kind of layers which can rarely be found in stylish design milieus. The pieces of furniture are simple, separated from their sets, and have probably once belonged to well-off people. Today, in their new context, they symbolize the powerlessness of an individual facing the massive force of the market economy.
In some of my now exhibited paintings, I have wanted to underline how esthetic the newspaper pictures are. Creating others has been a longer process during which I have, for instance, repeatedly used the same picture again. In these cases, momentary alertness or a certain feeling has affected the result. A process like this has also awoken various thoughts, which have, in turn, given the work a new direction.
There are photographic works in the exhibition, too, created by manipulating the pictures from newspapers. These works are critical comments about the tradition of civilized exploitation as well as warfare in the name of gods.
Special thanks to photographer Hannes Heikura, who has kindly given me permission to show a relatively direct, painted copy of his award-winning photograph.
The Unbearable Lightness of Perception
Marjo Levlin 2007
3 min video loop of water color paintings as part of the installation “Tapetilla”
21 spontaneously made watercolour paintings
picturing the same man.
Every picture is different because the way of perceiving
alters in all painting situations.
If the man had been put into a police line up
like in a police series, would I recognize him,
or would I just get confused and remember nothing?
Or would I just say that it was some foreigner?