a spectator views part of the installation by Janne Nabb and Maria Teeri
Äkkigalleria interview with Maria Teeri and Janne Nabb on Sunday April 7th, 2013.
Welcome to the 6th Äkkigalleria residency in Jyväskylä!
You work in a lot with space and different kinds of space, what kind of space is Jyväskylä?
JN: Straight streets and curved lakeside roads, quite dusty this time of year, and there is a whole lot less snow here than what we expected (there is more in Helsinki).
MT: Many people have stopped to look in the gallery window, to see what is happing in the space, so Jyväskyläläinens seem to be interested in changes along the street.
Äkki: You will be spending the next five days creating a new body of work in a space you just discovered yesterday. Is this an intimidating way to work?
JN: It is!
MT: Yesterday was the day of enthusiasm, and today it’s a bit more distressing.
JN: Last summer we did a similar project at the Mänttä Contemporary Art Exhibition, so this way of working is somewhat familiar.
MT: At Mänttä the material was already there and abundant, but here we have to look for all our material. So that also brings in a lot new, interesting elements.
Äkki: What do you think of the space? How do you anticipate it will influence the work you make here?
MT: The space is quite dominant.
JN: When we heard that the space was really small, we thought it would be easy to fill, but when we started to create in the space we realized that the size of the space doesn’t really matter, and so small and big spaces each demand a specific kind of approach, and there is pretty much always a lot of work to be done.
MT: The space is quite slick, and there aren’t any easy, prehensile surfaces. It doesn’t have any distinct attributes such as you can find in industrial halls and old concrete storage spaces.
JN: The windows had gold lettering tape, the walls were champagne, the floor is this kind of grey, so it offers an interesting world of its own.
MT: The placement is also interesting. We are situated between a pizzeria and a deputy services office, it’s one block away from the downtown pedestrian zone and yet it is still kind of detached from the centre.
JN: Like the outskirts of the city; the red light district (laugh)… no, not really.
Äkki: How do you usually begin a project? Is what you are doing here different from how you usually work?
MT: It usually begins with something we find..
JN: ..it might be some physical material or a thought.
MT: In this case the space was more our starting point.
MT: normally the duration of our process is a bit more stretched out, sometimes it kind of goes on and on and on changing into something else, progressing as it goes along.
JN: Here we are maybe diluted because we are in what already is, and we are forced to work faster. But it’s like working with a new palette of colours.
Äkki: You have established yourselves together as a unit. First of all, everyone always wants to know who does what. How do you work out the rules and regulations of the game?
JN: It is quite case specific. Sometimes it starts with a suggestion, so one of us shares an idea and then it starts from there. We can say things out load and someone always answers.
MT: Of course the answer isn’t always nice to hear: it isn’t the answer we want or expected to hear. Maybe about ten percent of the ideas are developed into projects.
JN: We don’t really have any set rules to the game yet, but that is good because this way the process is constantly in motion and changing continuously.
MT: If one of us gives up on a project, the other one can bring in new perspectives, which help the project move forward.
Äkki: Our residency couple from last year, Camille and Paul, talked a lot about how their communal drawings, and their whole process for that matter was a discussion, an on going process of communication with the other and the larger community. Do you communicate together through your work? Is discussion the focus of your work?
MT: Yes it probably is.
JN: For me, material, along with ideas, participate in discussion.
JN: We also try to use material and thoughts to communicate with a third party; who is the spectator.
MT: But part of the discussion isn’t open to the public. The discussion is really important and their needs to be some kind of interaction it is a central and essential part of our work together.
Äkki: Could you produce work alone? Could you have a show just as Janne Nabb or just as Maria Teeri? (Will you?)
JN: We met in 2004, and we began working together in 2008, so we did work for four years independently.
MT: But even right from the start, we always critiqued and commented on what the other was doing.
JN: We were making the same kind of work, we used the same colour, the same themes, and interests. And we started to think if it might be better to just work together.
MT: But now it isn’t really important who made what, and it’s not our way of working anymore, although we still do make our own things too.
Äkki: What and who are your influences? (People, artists, books, music..) And how are they (or are they) portrayed through your work?
MT: We quote other artists a lot; continuously, newly found and inspirational sources are unlimited.
JN: But if we have to say a name, the magic vanishes.
MT: Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger from ARS 2006 were a great inspiration for us in the beginning because they work together.
JN: Vesa-Pekka Rannikko is another interesting creator, whose work has influenced us along the way.
JN: There are element of influence from a surprising amount of artists, whose work we still hold on to for years and years.
MT: Last summer at Mänttä we discovered a great many artists and artwork. And the exhibition’s idea was wonderful in that respect because it really was inspirational in creating something new. And then there was dOKUMENTA 13 of course…
Äkki: The last phrase in your artist statement is: Working with found material often leads to unconventionalities and barbaric misreading. Can you expand on that statement? Could you give an example of a “barbaric misreading”?
JN: This was something one of our art teachers’ interpretations of our workspace and our way of working.
MT: If you use re-cycled materials, then multiple interpretations and “misunderstanding” are part of the process.
JN: Well fundamentally, we are painters, and painters don’t always have to justify each and every brushstroke they make. But because we work with re-cycled material, and all material has its own history, the viewer might make their own interpretations based on that history. But we are really using the material like paint.
MT: Maybe this is where the idea of barbaric misreading came from.
Äkki: I noticed that branches and sticks are a returning element in your work. Is this by accident or do they represent something more? What role do they play in your work?
JN: You are right, they do. I think they often function in the role of something that holds things up, used as a support for hanging things…
MT: As a rack/stand.
JN: The form of a branch is nice to hold on to when, for example, we are walking through Jyväskylä from our apartment to the gallery. It is a material counterpart…
MT: ... to all the plastic we use.
JN: To balance the fengshui. But branches are easy to pick up and take along with you.
MT: I also pick them up along the way.
JN: Maybe it is a natural way of connecting with our primitive ancestry.
Äkki: A Finnish language professor just wrote an article in the Helsinki Sanomat newspaper about how we learn language the wrong way; we stress language classes at the wrong age (too late) we are only taught “important” languages such as English, and that instead, there should be more stress on multiple and divers languages at a younger age and in a more social and interactive context. What is your relationship to language?
JN: My father is a Swedish-Finn, but we never spoke Swedish at home. However, I got a lot of information through concrete, hands-on learning: fixing, customising bicycles and other things. And I learned English through doing.
MT: I have always been more of a literary person. Mathematics and things in systematic order are natural for me. This might have come from my family’s background in classical music. I am not really an “innovator” I like to create things systematically. So, these are different kinds of languages, which offer different ways of observing the world.
Äkki: What is your earliest memory of colour?
JN: Oh no. It probably would be the turquoise coloured fountain in yard of my childhood home. I dove in and the colour changed as the water turn red. I don’t remember that change of colour, but I remember the turquoise.
MT: I have a lot of colour memories. Maybe one colour memory would be of when I was made to lie in bed for a nap, but I didn’t want to. I remember pressing down on my eyelids and rubbing them; all the colours that appeared in a different and interesting colour-world.
Äkki: And what about your earliest memory of art?
MT: For me it is probably related to music, because my parents were both musicians. But I probably first discovered visual art through illustrations in books.
JN: My father built a lot of things; he made me a Jeep that was powered with a lawn-mower motor, and then there was a raft that we sailed over the river. These represented a feeling of freedom and an experience of something that I now want to do with my art. Something all encompassing.
Äkki: And now some one word/short answers:
MT: …the corner
MT: Black bird
Thank you Janne & Maria!