Marjo Levlin

Marjo Levlin: The Humbug Tent and The Black Cabinet, 2013, installation view

In winter 2008 Visual Artist Marjo Levlin came across with a magical discovery. She happened to stop by at an old abandoned poorhouse, where she and her friends would sometimes sneak in and play as kids.  Now, years later, the childhood ghost house still hadn’t lost its enigmatic character: it had at least yet another story to tell, the one of the circus artist and magician called Louis Billing.

Levlin found the remaining possessions of the late performer in the house, and when she heard the current owner of the house was about to get rid of them, she saved the objects and thus, a piece of Finnish circus history. The objects including things such as old carousel tickets, posters and a rusty pinball machine, sparked her imagination.

Levlin has created several exhibitions around the discovery. The Humbug Tent and The Black Cabinet exhibition in 2013 consisted of a large installation, taking place in two separate rooms presenting video installations and curiosities from Billing’s collections. The exhibition told the story of this transient world, bringing the objects and old stories to life for a moment.

At first glance, the ensemble of found objects in The Humbug Tent and The Black Cabinet may seem like a museum exhibition of a historical collection, but the content is not organized scientifically or logically—on the contrary, the artifacts function as mere instruments that follow the illogical rules of chance and intuition, creating a new aesthetical entity.

“In the story Billing’s destiny, chance, the themes Billing’s possessions carry within, the history of the poorhouse and life and death intertwine with my personal history in a both poetic and documentary way,” Levlin describes her work.


Marjo Levlin: The Humbug Tent and The Black Cabinet, 2013, installation view