2012 APRIL

Mika Taanila

Mika Taanila: The Most Electrified Town In Finland on show at dOCUMENTA (13). (c) Anders Sune Berg

Mika Taanila: The Future Is Not What It Used to Be, 2002, still from a video

The visual artist and film director Taanila’s cinematic style falls somewhere between traditional documentary and avant-garde film. Throughout his whole career his recurring themes have been the relations between technology, people and society. He often uses pre-existing material as the foundation of his work.

Taanila can be described as a sort of a recyclist in his practice. All his work is based on pre-existing phenomena, people, atmosphere or musical pieces. Taanila has said that the most exiting moments of the work for him are those when he has the material stirring in front of him on the editing desk.

His 2011 video installation Man and Science was inspired by a discarded film clip Taanila found in a dumpster. The film was originally recorded in a Stockholm TV studio in 1978. In the clip Nobel Prize winners Pjotr Kapitsa, Arno Penzias, Hamilton O. Smith and Peter D. Mitchell talk about fossil fuels, nuclear reactors, genetics and the nature of time and symmetry. Taanila re-cut the film using only the Finnish subtitles that were played during the original broadcast, creating a rapid loop of text-driven images that form a new framework of meanings.

Taanila sees his films as compositions, put together piece by piece. He uses expressive cinematographic techniques such as high-speed filming, tracking shots, extreme close-ups and unconventional angles. Music also often plays an important role in his work.

One of his most notable films is the experimental Optical Sound (2005) based on the live performance of Symphony #2 for Dot Matrix Printers at Avanto Festival in Helsinki in 2001. In the film outdated office equipment come alive as musical instruments of the future, performing the piece solely consisting of the sound of the printers. The visual part of the film combines footage shot with surveillance cameras placed inside the machines with nocturnal time-lapse material.