The Powers That Be

Mika Taanila, The Future Is Not What It Used To Be, 2002, still from a video. Image courtesy Kinotar and the artist.

Danila Tkachenko, from the series Escape, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Marcel Mariën, Mains, 1974, Published by Editions Georges Visat, Paris.

Erkki Pirtola, Shaman Johannes Setälä, 2010, still from a video. Image courtesy the artist. 



NY, NY 10002

ON VIEW: 7/17 - 8/9, 2015

HOURS: Thurs - Sun, noon - 6pm


The exhibition The Powers That Be, on view at the Station Independent Projects in New York from July 17 to August 9, 2015, takes as its point of departure the knowledge of the body and the circulation of energy, more specifically the manifestations of physical energy. The thematics will be discussed through an ensemble of contemporary and avant-garde works of the past by Marcel Mariën, Erkki Pirtola, Mika Taanila and Danila Tkachenko. The exhibition is curated by Ilari Laamanen.  

Energy in this context is treated more as a prerequisite for life and for any human activity than as a commodity or resource. It seems that, at times, we act based on raw impulses that cannot be traced back to any given order or reason. The Powers That Be does not so much use the act of destabilization as a method or analytical tool as it takes for granted that all we can rely on is change. Knowledge is always in the state of becoming: it is never ready and should never be fixed. Therefore, to question is more meaningful than learning by heart and fitting in. 

The Powers That Be, exhibition view. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

Futurologist Jim Dator talks about the importance of trying to see things that are barely visible. More often than not these things are in the recesses of the mind of a scientist or engineer or the concerns of an artist, poet or unpublished novelist. Dator underlines the importance of the barely visible since quite often the most important breakthroughs and progressive ideas emerge on the fringes of society and culture, or within cultures quite different to ours. 

Even though the artworks featured in the exhibition can be seen as channeling transcendental experience, the last resort is always the body and its urge to connect with, and learn from, its habitat. However, the habitat does no longer only refer to the physical surroundings and nature we encounter but also to our connection to the virtual realm. While it remains unclear what the hybridization of humans and machines can actually mean, it is tempting to map those very possibilities of extending both the human consciousness and the limits of corporeality. 

The Powers That Be, exhibition view.Mika Taanila, The Future Is Not What It Used To Be, 2002 . Photo: Cameron Blaylock

The Powers That Be, exhibition view. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

Mika Taanila, The Future Is Not What It Used To Be, 2002, still from a video. Image courtesy Kinotar and the artist.

Marcel Mariën (1920-1993) is acknowledged for his landmark work on Belgian postwar surrealism and his collaboration with future situationists including Guy Debord. Mariën continued the surrealist tradition of making unexpected combinations to reveal hidden or poetic meanings.

For decades, Erkki Pirtola (b. 1950), a video art pioneer and curator of experimental art, has documented captivating individuals on the edge, and outside, of the art worlds and society at large. 

Mika Taanila’s (b. 1965) The Future Is Not What It Used To Be is a film about 1960s avant-garde music and film, the early history of microcomputers and the open questions of 21st century science. It is also a portrait of the nuclear physicist/artist Erkki Kurenniemi (b. 1941), one of the unsung pioneers of early electronic art.

For his Escape project, artist Danila Tkachenko (b.1989) traveled in search for people who have escaped from social life to live alone in the wild. Tkachenko is concerned about the issue of internal freedom in the modern society: how feasible it is when one is surrounded by a social framework all the time? 

The Powers That Be, exhibition view. Unknown, alteration of Albrecht Durer's Praying Hands, date unknown. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

The Powers That Be, exhibition view. Erkki Pirtola, Shaman Johannes Setälä, 2010. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

The Powers That Be reader. Edited by Ilari Laamanen, designed by Johanna Lundberg

Danila Tkachenko, from the series Escape, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

The thematics of the exhibition is discussed further in a reader edited by Ilari Laamanen and designed by Johanna Lundberg. The reader includes texts from cultural ecologist and geophilosopher David Abram, artist and researcher Vappu Jalonen and media theorist Jussi Parikka.

The Powers That Be is a part of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York’s 25th Anniversary program focusing on the Urban Nature. Kindly supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and Frame Visual Art Finland.