Landscape is not just a background but a protagonist in Marko Lampisuo‘s (born in 1970) video works. He does not portray nature per se but as repeated and revisited via an old television set over and over again. Lampisuo’s most recent installation National Landscape (2019), soon exhibited in the Mediaboxi space of the Forum Box Gallery, adds on to the iconic landscape a topical political commentary.
Marko Lampisuo (born in 1970) is a Finnish visual artist, who works mainly with print and video. “I was never one of those people who knew already as a child that they were going to be artists, nor was it something I absolutely had to do,” he says. He began entertaining the idea during his graphic design studies, and eventually decided to pursue a career in art. Lampisuo studied Visual Arts at Tampere School of Art and Communication, and later got a B.A. from the School of Art and Media at Tampere University of Applied Sciences.
Having made primarily graphic art, Lampisuo started to utilize video material in his works in the early 2000s, when digital video became more common. “I didn’t really have the patience to work with video when it meant playing around with VHS and stuff, but then digital cameras made filming and editing much easier.” His works now include both video and print, and he often approaches one subject from both angles. “Sometimes I might make a video first, and then create prints from the video material. Or the other way around.”
Changing and fading landscapes
Nature and landscapes are a common thread through Lampisuo’s body of work. “When I was in art school, I thought that landscape painting was pointless and boring,” he laughs. “What can be expressed with it, other than what some place looks like?” Despite his original attitude, landscapes are now a dominating element in Lampisuo’s art. “Landscape is kind of a character of mine, the protagonist of my work.”
His art looks nothing like traditional landscape painting, however. Lampisuo has an incredibly fascinating method of editing video material: he first films the material, then plays it on an old television and films the TV screen. The material he filmed from the screen is then again played on TV and filmed. The same process is repeated over and over again, until the image has become so distorted that it essentially disappears. Lampisuo then edits these various stages of distortion together, creating a video where the image slowly changes.
The first video Lampisuo made using this technique was Summer Night at Lake Tarhia in 2010. “I thought that it was just going to be an experiment, but now I’ve made at least ten works like this.” One of them is the aptly named The End of Landscape (2012), a five-channel installation, which was exhibited at Pori Art Museum. “Summer Night at Lake Tarhia was kind of a test drive for The End of Landscape, that’s where I got the idea that there’s a landscape and then something happens to it,” Lampisuo explains.
The End of Landscape was also inspired by Lampisuo’s graphic work. He had done a series of prints where he polished the plate after each print, eventually destroying the image by polishing it off completely. “I wanted to figure out a way to do the same thing to video image.” The themes of loss and oblivion were also emphasized by the installation set-up. “It was built to resemble an out-dated, old living room, all the furniture was painted black, and the videos were shown on old TVs.” Although The End of Landscape was originally an installation, Lampisuo also made a single-channel screening version of it. “Installations are interesting, ambitious projects, but they also require a lot of time, effort and money. And it might be that you never get the chance to carry them out in the scale that you wanted,” Lampisuo notes. “That’s why it’s practical if you have a screening version of the same work, it’s easier to distribute and you can put it online.”
Sometimes the process works the other way around. Lampisuo made a single-channel piece called Summer in Finland… and Other Seasons (2016), which was later turned into an installation and exhibited at P-galleria in Pori. In addition to the actual video, the installation featured documentation of all the processes he went through during the making of the video: email correspondence with the sound designer, different plans and charts, and grant applications.
Summer in Finland is another interesting example of Lampisuo’s manual approach to video editing. The piece is like a calendar: Lampisuo filmed a 1,5-second-long shot of trees every day of the year. Every shot has two darker areas and a lighter area in the middle. The lighter area represents the amount of daylight each day had, and the darker areas are created by panels which Lampisuo moved 365 times by hand.
“I guess I could do something similar with Photoshop, but somehow that just seems too easy,” Lampisuo laughs. “I like that I can play with things like exposure time to create different effects. I have even adjusted the colours manually by using red walls when I filmed a video called Love, from Abstract to Concrete. I do some adjustments on computer when I edit the material, of course, but I try to do as much as I can already when I film.”
Lampisuo is currently applying his re-filming method to the material he filmed at Koli national park. The footage has been previously exhibited in Munich and Pori as a five channel installation as a part of a live music performance by flautist Johanna Kärkkäinen. Now Lampisuo has revisited the material for a different project. “The idea is that I will mix the footage from Koli with clips from right-wing extremists’ marches, which will ruin my idyllic landscape.” The new piece is going by the working title National Landscape and will be exhibited in the Mediaboxi space of the Forum Box Gallery, Helsinki.
Along with his own art, Lampisuo has worked as a printmaker in Himmelblau Printmaking Studio in Tampere for 25 years, and he also makes his own prints there. He has also been an active member in various organisations throughout his career: he was a founder member of Rajataide Art Association and a board member of Pori Society of Artists before moving back to Tampere. “I like the solitude of artistic work, but it’s also nice to have a group of people, a community, around you.”
Credit for Marko Lampisuo’s portrait: Tuuli Penttinen-Lampisuo
For more information and requests on Marko Lampisuo’s works, please contact AV-arkki’s programme coordinator Tytti Rantanen, firstname.lastname@example.org