Iiu Susiraja: What Am I?
389 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002
November 13 – December 18, 2016
Curated by: Mike Egan
To enter Iiu Susiraja’s ruthlessly deadpan universe, it helps to examine her home turf; this is how I connected to her work. Midcentury liberalization in Finland led to a booming full employment economy through the mid-1980s. Economic stagnation, a social texture familiar in the nearby Soviet Bloc, hit Finland hard in the late 1980’s. The 1990s were tough: a debt crisis was followed by austerity measures which gutted social programs. High unemployment in the cities led to an increase in the number of people without anywhere to live. Out of this time in Finland came some of the greatest, funniest, most humane films, by a director named Aki Kaurismäki. My favorite is The Man Without A Past (2002). Kaurismäki’s films focus on the working class, and the problems regular people have in life. His gift is the presentation of absolute deadpan, an emotionless candor that radiates hope and life. His characters are beautiful to watch, because their deadpan delivery doesn’t define their personality, but rather opens a door into a vulnerable soul, someone who has been defeated by the endless turmoil of interpretation, and is confused about what to feel. His characters surrender to what happens next, while trying to do the best they can, with their only tools being a set of basic human values. This kind of person creates space: the space in which life can happen. When I experience Iiu Susiraja’s work, I sense a variation of this very special honesty. Here, in her work, through her strange gaze, Susiraja is the most subtle and skilled of technicians, as she tests the observational limits of the audience, playing with our awareness. Her photographs and videos are shot in single takes at her parents’ house in Turku. There isn’t a false note. Her confident, comfortable ease suggests our own obsolescence. She’s quietly watching. She’s resting. She’s doing nothing. Her photography doesn’t offer any explanations. In Lucia (2010), she sits with a giant teddy bear and an electric candle taped to her forehead. In Luuta (2010), she has a broom, but she’s not sweeping. What is she doing? Susiraja’s self-portraits produce a hilarious complexity that cannot be reduced to a style of appearance, or a superlative attitude. Her work has no subject. She’s not acting. She asks herself, “What am I?”
Iiu Susiraja (b. 1975) lives and works in Turku, Finland. This is her first solo exhibition at Ramiken.
The exhibition is supported by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York through the Mobius Fellowship Program.
Installation view photos by Dario Lasagni. Courtesy of Ramiken Crucible.
Ramiken Crucible produces exhibitions in two leased gallery spaces on Lower East Side, New York. The gallery provides services to artists, private collectors, and museums, as well as provides content for many publications, both online and in print. A complete archive of the gallery's program is available at www.ramikencrucible.com.
MOBIUS is a fellowship program for visual arts, museum and archive professionals based in New York, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Finland. The program enables transatlantic mobility and collaborative practices and supports long-lasting professional relationships.