Jarkko Räsänen (b.1984) works with photography, moving image and sound art. Recently he has moved towards computer-based, algorithmic visual works using self-made softwares, including moving image and live vj performances. We discussed his most recent video works and his working methods.
Jarkko Räsänen examines many different themes in his works, from documenting the ecosystem around his studio to deconstructing and rearranging different videos from the internet. He describes his approach to subjects in his videos as minimalistic: “One idea per video. If something catches my interest, I try to examine it as thoroughly as possible. I prefer structural scarcity.”
The latin palindrome “In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” translates to “we go in a circle at night and are consumed by fire.” One might recognize the phrase from famous situationist Guy Debord’s last film. Räsänen uses the same title for his 2011 work, in which he directs attention towards digital images. “Jpeg is the most common form of compression, but it actually doesn’t compress images, it destroys as much information from them as possible, without it being visible to the human eye,” he explains.
An algorithm saves images of book burnings as jpegs over and over again, showing the viewer how the image eventually burns away. “We can analyse the final image to find out what is defined as important and worth seeing,” Räsänen points out. “The burning of books refers to destruction of information. If we look at a jpeg image, we’re actually seeing a simplified version of reality. I feel that we censor a lot of beauty from ourselves, because we have to be efficient.”
Marche Funébre (2013) is a documentation of the ecosystem around Räsänen’s studio during his residence in Germany. “The windows of my studio were towards the forest, and I kept my windows open a lot, I made video installations inside. Moths would fly inside towards the light,” the artist recalls. “I began to observe the ecosystem, how the spiders would eat the moths and make nests in the corners of the studio. I was interested in the cycle of nature.” One day, after he had thrown out a bunch of dead moths, he noticed one of them moving against the wind. “Ants were carrying it towards the woods,” he says. “I got my camera and quickly began filming their journey. It was quite spontaneous.”
“For the sounds, I recorded the environment, also the sound of the ants walking on dry leaves. There was a piano at the studio, so I played a few chords. I also composed a song for the background,” the artist explains. He tells us he has recently started to use more music in his video works . “I studied music before, and that’s why it was hard to use music in my works. I made a lot of silent films at first. But I’ve begun to use my own music more.”
The name of New and Newest Age II (2014) refers to an old school book Räsänen found, from 1928. “It was full of black-and-white pictures of different things. European rulers, for example, Gustavus Adolphus, except some kids had glued a chimp’s head on top of his. I thought it was such a funny and artistic idea,” Räsänen says. “I made an animation, where the algorithm rearranges the image based on its structure. The soundtrack is the image information interpreted as a GSM signal. The work is its own study on European history.”
For Flush (2019), Räsänen gathered material from the web and formed it into an abstract, poetic collection of visuals. He included his own ambient music for the soundtrack. “It‘s an abridgment of my deconstruction process over recent years.”
Flush is a shorter version of Räsänen’s earlier project, in which he would search the internet for movies, series and videos and transform them into abstract imagery with his own algorithms. The source material included also well-known classics such as Edvin Laine’s The Unknown Soldier (1955). This kind of practice is related to the long tradition of scratch videos, sampling and collages, an essential part of the tradition of experimental VJ culture, film-making and video art.
“It was an homage towards sampling culture,” the artist says. “I call it deconstruction.” In Finland, however, sampling and scratch is less practiced than for example in the United States. Also copyright laws are different. Indeed, Räsänen ran into copyright issues, not surprisingly. “These projects are hard to produce and distribute, because not everyone agrees that sampling turns well known imagery into a completely new work of art.”
One of Räsänen’s recent algorithmic studies, Scan (2019), will be on view in Mediabox space of Forum Box Gallery, Helsinki, in March 2021. The source material consists of black and white photographs (both by the artist and downloaded from internet) on different kinds of spaces – open areas, forest and yards, for example.