Hannele Rantala’s art is no stranger to strangeness. Many of her works deal with themes such as migration, homelessness, change and otherness, which all intertwine with questions of longing and belonging.
Rantala’s most recent work Blue Scarf (2011-2013) discusses the issues of identity and encountering otherness. In the photographic series a woman in dark clothing appears wearing a blue scarf covering either her head or shoulders. The different cultural and social contexts of the photographs define how we see her: as a homeless person, a beggar, a mourner or a street vendor.
Rantala wants to make her audience question their own prejudices and challenges the concept of identity. She sees identities as largely determined by other people: the external eye often aims to define us basing its categorization on stereotypes or social stratification. The perceptions of others are often in contradiction with one’s self-conceptions.
Interaction with her audience has an important role in Rantala’s interdisciplinary practice. In her 2008 project Less Than Nothing she executed a site-specific social sculpture by sweeping randomly chosen Stockholm streets every day for a month. The final artwork consisted of the carefully collected dust, gravel and rubbish, and photographic documents of the performance that were all displayed at the end of the project. Cleaning is one of the most common employment options for immigrants from all educational backgrounds. “When sweeping the street I realized I was ashamed of my work. I was completely invisible to most of the passers-by. I was no one,” the artist says.
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