Rita Jokiranta is known for her installations that use water as a symbol – but essentially, her art focuses on the dynamic between the image and the viewer’s interpretation of it. Her new, puzzle-like installation In the Minds of Others deals with the incongruence of time and events, trying also to explore the complexity of identity, vulnerability, transcience, and disappearance.
Rita Jokiranta is a visual artist, who lives and works on the Åland Islands, between Finland and Sweden. “I wanted to see what it would be like to live there for one winter. That one winter turned into many more,” she laughs. “It’s a peaceful place, and I can focus on my art, but you have to have connections to other art scenes.” Jokiranta has a studio in Stockholm, and she often exhibits in Helsinki, so the location makes it easier to interact with the art field in both bigger cities. Living on an island also means that she is constantly surrounded by water, which is an important element for Jokiranta also in her work.
All the World a Longing (2014), for example, is a video installation capturing the movement of the ocean as it crashes to the shore. Similar images of the sea are present in many of her multi-channel installations, perhaps most notably in Here, and Beyond (2011), a three-channel installation created for ARS 11 satellite exhibition in the Åland Islands Art Museum. The installation is centred around issues of migration and the significant role the ocean plays in the lives of those who are forced to cross it.
Although water in its many forms is often featured in Jokiranta’s art, her works are not about water, she stresses. “I am sometimes annoyed that I’ve been put into this box, that everything I do has something to do with water.” Rather, water as a visual element often functions as a symbol for something else. In I Do Not Remember You Anymore (2013), rain slides down the window and distorts the image the camera films, highlighting the fragmentary nature of reality and the unreliability of memory.
“My works are often dealing with the dynamic between the image and the viewer’s interpretation of it. I want to examine how images work, how people react and respond to them, how different people interpret them. I never want to say that my interpretation is the correct one, I want people to think for themselves,” Jokiranta explains. “Some of my works are also quite theoretical. I do a lot of research when I start working on a new piece.”
Site-Specific Feelings and Their Documentation
Jokiranta has worked as an artist for most of her life, but she says that getting there has not been easy. “There were these expectations that you have to do something else, expectations about what girls can or should do, and at a certain age you feel like you have to save the entire world. Still, I can’t think of anything else I could do or would want to do.”
Jokiranta worked mainly with photography at the beginning of her career, but eventually moving image began to take centre stage in her art. Her photography series already indicated a change in the future, however. Filling the Silence (2003–2005), series of three images composed of adjacent frames from a film, is the culmination of this kind of work. “When you’re doing photographic work like this, the next step is naturally moving image,” Jokiranta laughs. “It was a very easy transition from photography to video art.”
“My background in photography may be visible mostly in the way I work: I do the camerawork, editing and grading myself. Sometimes I use help for editing the soundtrack,” she explains. Jokiranta’s photography and video works sometimes deal with the same subject, but they have never been exhibited together. “I have also used photographs in my videos, but I have always been more inspired by film and filmmakers.”
Most of Jokiranta’s works are now video installations. She has single-channel works that can be screened on their own, but most of the time they are still connected to a larger installation. Despite her preference for the medium, she is very aware of the limitations that come with the format. Some of them are simply practical issues related to different exhibition spaces, but there are also bigger concerns, especially about documentation.
Her large-scale installations provide a very physical experience for the viewer, but trying to convey that physicality when the piece no longer exists is very difficult. “When the piece has four or five different parts, you can’t fit the whole thing in one picture. And then you add to that the fact that the images in the installation move.” Jokiranta has struggled with trying to find good ways to document what she had done, what the work was about. “It’s sad that the piece disappears so completely when it is taken apart and the feeling is lost,” she continues. “It would be nice to recreate some of them in a new space, but the challenge is that they are often so site-specific.”
Before the Flood
Jokiranta’s newest work, In the Minds of Others, is a multi-channel video installation on view at Galleria Huuto in Helsinki October 26 – November 18, 2018. It is intended as a companion piece to Life as It Flees, which was exhibited in Galleria Huuto in 2017. In the Minds of Others was originally planned for the same space as Life as It Flees, but Galleria Huuto had unexpectedly to move to a new space and the installation had to be modified for that. ”It was a challenging change, both for technical and artistic solutions,” she says.
Jokiranta has been an artist-in-residence in various art institutions in Europe and in the United States, and she says that being away from home every now and then is very important to her work. New York in particular has been a significant place for Jokiranta, and this year she spent August and September in the city, shooting for a project she is currently working on. “The piece will deal with the themes of water, cities and climate change,” she explains. “Cities are the first places to be flooded, after all.”
For more information and requests on Rita Jokiranta’s works, please contact AV-arkki’s programme coordinator Tytti Rantanen, firstname.lastname@example.org