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Landscape for all Senses

Minna Raitmaa, Kiasma-lehti, 2007, No 34, s. 18-19

Santeri Tuori’s Waterfall is, at heart, a very simple piece of video art. He has photographed, videotaped and sound recorded a roaring waterfall from a fixed point. This work of art is, however, the result of a long study of different forms of expression and a keen awareness of the traditions of art.

Waterfall seems a natural continuation of Tuori’s earlier work, a further application of his expression and technique. The video of the waterfall is superimposed on a still photograph of the same waterfall. The underlying image is not always clearly discernible, it is there only as a faint idea. The sound of the artwork consists of the sound of the waterfall, taped at the time of shooting the images and played back at slow speed. Furthermore, the low frequencies have been exaggerated, which makes the rumble of the waterfall sound even deeper.

Although Waterfall is based on a moving image, Tuori shuns the characteristically cinematic idea of narration. Instead, he only records his subject. He does not employ tracking, editing or other narrative methods. Instead, his camera is stationary and the landscape is stripped to the bare essentials. However, the presence of the camera can be sensed, and even the simplest of landscapes changes with time.

According to Tuori, Waterfall has a special affinity with the tradition of landscape art. “Waterfall is both an image and a physical experience. The starting point is the tradition of the fine art, mainly based on seeing. In my waterfall, I’ve introduced something extra. The work attempts to simulate the real experience of a natural phenomenon,” Tuori says.

While Santeri Tuori portrays his object similarly to previous landscape artists, his landscape nevertheless extends to embrace several human senses simultaneously. In addition to the sense of sight, hearing and touch are also stimulated as the low rumble of the waterfall can be felt as vibrations on the walls and seats of the video room. Participation in the landscape is so strong that you can almost feel tiny droplets of water in the air and smell the fresh water. It is hard to get any closer to nature in the centre of Helsinki.

From image to moving image

Tuori has moved gradually from photographs towards moving image and his characteristic expression, so evident in Waterfall. With hindsight, it is easy to discern a kind of an evolutionary process from his earlier works towards Waterfall.

His first work that dissociated itself from ‘pure’ photography, and simultaneously reminded us all of an alternative way of seeing, was Blind City (1998). It showed us the path a blind man takes through the city. Photography was supplemented by a new element, sound, so crucial to the visually impaired.

The concept of photography was also expanded in the portrait Julia / 3 mins 36 secs, which consist of 78 photographs. The prints are shown on a grid, which allows us, the audience, to observe the changes taking place in this person, Julia, for 3 minutes and 36 seconds. 

Somewhere between photography and moving image, Posing Time was a series of animated portraits. Tuori took the portraits by cable release from the room next door. He pressed the shutter release every two seconds for an hour without knowing what the person next door was doing. The images were then transferred to video and played back at three images per second. The result is a jerky portrait, which reveals in a very concrete way how a person is a captive of time. The changes in the subjects of the portraits are small but perceptible.

Similar tiny changes are registered in the series Smile, which also reminds us of the presence of the camera. Tuori videotaped different people smiling at the camera for periods of thirty minutes to an hour. The smile of both the viewer and the object occasionally freeze. The camera is well nigh screaming its presence as the smile gets protracted and becomes ever more forced.

We, the viewers, are also reminded of the camera and of passing time by Tuori’s work Bogeyman. A lively child seems to move faster than the viewer can think, leaving a ghostly image in its wake. In this work, Tuori uses a simple but original technique. He projects coloured moving image on black-and-white still photographs. This results in an original expression, also repeated in many of his other works.

-Minna Raitmaa

Santeri Tuori: Waterfall, 2006. Video. Duration 14 minutes, 23 seconds.

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