Heli Rekula’s exhibition unlocks the history of human mobility through her own family narrative. As the Crow Flies consists of photographs, photography-based graphics and archive material. The themes of the exhibition are closely tied to time and place: the artist’s family chapters at The Karelian Isthmus, as well as the artist’s recent experiences in Norway’s Bergen, which was the Western starting point of the historical King’s Road postal service route. The route once spanned from Bergen to Oslo and Stockholm, across the sea and past Mariehamn to Turku, through Helsinki and Vyborg until St. Petersburg in Russia.
Family heritage as material for the exhibition
The photographs and works are based on the photo archives of Rekula and her grandfather Toivo Himanen (1901-1980). As background material, Rekula has also used her grandfather’s memoirs on his childhood and youth and her great-aunt Martta Yläkotola’s (1913-1992) diary entries written between 1937-1945. With the support of this material, Rekula reflects on questions of identity, language, country, place and landscape experiences. According to the artist, her working methods are slow. She has worked on As the Crow Flies for eight years. The end result is a fragment of a story, a piece of Finland and the world’s history – depicted through one family and a single person.
A 1989 trip to The Karelian Isthmus served as impetus for the exhibition. Rekula visited then both Äyräpää and Muolaa, the origins of her mother’s family, as well as her father’s homestead in Vyborg. She began to reflect her on own life as a continuum of the family history and what it ”might be like to be rooted in a certain place, country and landscape.” After settling on the coast of Atlantic in Bergen in 2009, Rekula understood that she had spent most of her life by the King’s Road postal service route.
The exhibition poses questions of the documentary value of a photograph and how its content is construed between generations. In old photographs, the world surrounding us is black and white. Does this alter our understanding of history? Is the soul of a certain place conveyed to us in the same way through a black-and-white photo as it is through video today?
Heli Rekula, A House (Himala village, Muolaa parish, the Karelian Isthmus, 2016), photogravure, 2017. Photo: Ari Karttunen / EMMA
As the Crow Flies is the second part of a series of exhibitions on time and place by visual artist Heli Rekula. The subject is also covered in a publication Rekula is working on during the course of the exhibition. The first part of the series In Hemingway’s Garden (2013) originates from a certain time and place, a landscape reflected in Ernest Hemingway’s home garden pool in Key West, Florida. A book carrying the same name was also completed in 2014 as part of the project. The third exhibition on the subject will be completed by January 2019.
Heli Rekula (b. 1963) worked as a Professor a Photography in Bergen and is currently a Senior University Lecturer at Aalto University. She is also working on a PhD in fine arts for The University of the Arts’ Academy of Fine Arts.
EMMA’s exhibition space, Areena, a permanent showroom for experimental, spatially bound, cross-disciplinary and process-form art, as well as for various cooperation projects and interventions. Areena offers EMMA an opportunity to expand the museum’s cooperation with active Finnish and international artists, both young and established names, and with various foundations and other organisations.