Creative Conversations: Liisa Lounila
Visual artist Liisa Lounila’s favorite city in the world is New York, where she has worked over several time periods. Lounila is inspired by New York’s trash, diners, and the subway.
How much time have you spent in New York?
Altogether maybe three years, from a couple of months to a year at a time. This time I’m staying until summer, because my husband works at the New York University as a visiting mathematics professor.
What is the importance of New York to your work?
I really like the anonymity here, that I can just disappear in the crowd or do anything, and nobody really cares. That makes New York the perfect place to work and develop new ideas. New York is also very European in the way that everything is understandable. It does not feel foreign like for example Tokyo could feel. Most of my works have started from or been inspired by New York. Here I collect material, which I then edit and finalize in Finland.
What are some of the things you enjoy the most here?
Observing people. New York also has the most inspiring trash in the world! I love the high piles of trash bags waiting to be collected from the sidewalks of Manhattan, the carefully constructed pyramids on top of overflowing trashcans, and the loose trash you can see everywhere. I have found the most surprising trash on Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn, all kinds of stuff people wanted to get rid of.
I also collect diners! Diners are special because they are not trying to be special. They are functional and you know what you get. It’s a sort of a Soviet dream: the same for everyone.
Has New York changed your art or the way you work?
Definitely, although I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad change. Everybody here is super ambitious: this strange morality nags you for seeing other people work so hard. You can’t take it as easy here as in Helsinki.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m filming a video piece in three locations in New York. One of them is a house in Bronx where I used to live with my family from 2008 to 2009, which has now been uninhabited for the past two years. The video deals with false memories: the way people sometimes deliberately change their recollection of things to a more suitable form for themselves. The narrative will be aided by a certain lie detector, the Scientologists’ E-meter.
You said you never wanted to be part of the New York art scene. Why is that?
There are so many art galleries here, but very few of them show art that is truly interesting. Most foreign artists showing in New York only have that one opportunity which often does not lead to anything bigger, but just another line to add to their CV.
It’s much more interesting to actually work here, instead of trying to get a position in such an extremely money and power-oriented scene, flavored with despair. My NYC art scene are the shows I see and the expanding circle of artist friends.
Do you still visit art galleries and museums here? What are your favorites?
Yes, of course. The New Museum has a wide variety of different, sometimes exceptionally good shows by mostly living artists. Of the art galleries, I regularly go see the exhibitions at 303, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, James Cohan, Team Gallery, Luthring Augustine, Metro Pictures, Lisson Gallery, Jeffrey Deitch, and Gavin Brown.
Interview by Liisa Jokinen