RIITTA IKONEN & KAROLINE HJORTH:
EYES AS BIG AS PLATES
January 19 - February 18, 2018
We need to learn to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes, not just with human eyes but with golden-cheeked warbler eyes, coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes, and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of clouds and seas and rocks and trees and stars.
The Chimney NYC is pleased to present “Eyes as Big as Plates”, the ongoing collaborative photographic series between the Finnish-Norwegian artist duo Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth. Starting out as a play on characters from Nordic folklore, “Eyes as Big as Plates” has evolved into a continual search for redefining human interactions with nature through phantasmagorical realities.
Levitating from the ground, a series of 12 photographs are hung in a visual unity in a column-like installation throughout The Chimney. Each work features a solitary human figure, standing meditatively in their favored scenery, adorned with an organic attire made of leaves, branches, pine needles, rocks, or flowers. The models are invariably senior citizens, a demographic group often marginalized or depicted as a stereotypical cliché.
While Ikonen’s & Hjorth’s photographs are constructed around the human figure, the protagonists wear earthy sculptures made of local plants and gradually fade, dissolve and merge in the environment they are staged in. There is an ambiguity in the photographs between the natural and human realm, reflecting the complex phenomenon of humanity's geological impact on earth systems today. As both actors and victims of ecological alterations, human agency is now so embedded within nature that the distinction between subject and object becomes obsolete.
“Eyes as Big as Plates” is the receptacle of both the artists’ fascination with tales depicting enchanted and evil creatures in the Scandinavian folklore as a way to apprehend inexplicable phenomena. They do not fall into disillusion, but rather offer images balanced between oral tradition, imagination and collaboration with the subjects to depict their own lives.
The figures are each captured in different phases - some caught in a state of innocence, enchantment or play, others seem to surrender to nature’s sublime but often cruel force. Marie carries reeds uphill like Sisyphus with his boulder. Captured in a beach in Fort Tilden a few months after hurricane Sandy struck New York City and devastated the Rockaways, the figure gracefully blends in the environment. Jina, almost imperceptible under her costume of horse chestnuts aspires to be "lighter of mind and of body neither human or animal, woman nor man, just a part of life."
The series oscillates between documentary and fiction, a fantastic tragedy and a harmonious union. “Eyes as Big as Plates” presents us with the process of ‘becoming’ and ‘returning’ to nature as well as with the last chapter of one’s life through a form of reconciliation with the earth. Acting as a rehearsal before the final departure, these individuals mold themselves to their surrounding and open up a hopeful, sustainable and fateful space.
Eyes as Big as Plates is the ongoing collaborative project between the Finnish-Norwegian artist duo Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth. The series is produced in collaboration with retired farmers, fishermen, zoologists, plumbers, opera singers, housewives, artists, academics and ninety year old parachutists. Since 2011 the artist duo has portrayed seniors in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, France, the United States, Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, Japan, Czech Republic and South Korea.
Eyes as Big as Plates is currently touring with the Norwegian National Museum and has previously been shown at The Museum of Contemporary Arts Kiasma (Helsinki), NADA Miami, Art Toronto, Fotogalleriet (Oslo), Pioneer Works (NYC), Shoot Gallery (Oslo), The Nordic House (Reykjavik), The Finnish Institute in Oslo, Paris and Stockholm, Tetley Brewery (Leeds), Seibu Shibuya (Tokyo), Villa Borghese (Rome), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Nebraska US), Bogota International Photo Biennale (Colombia), gallery FACTORY (Seoul), Finlandia University Gallery (Michigan), The Nordic House (Faroe Islands), The National Museum of Greenland, Kunsthall Grenland (Porsgrunn), amongst others. The project was published as a book in August 2017 (Press Publishing) and is available from the Eyes as Big as Plates website and various bookstores: Artbook @MoMA PS1, Printed Matter (NYC), The Kiasma Shop (Helsinki), Nide (Helsinki), Fotogalleriet (Oslo), Tronsmo (Oslo), Gallery FACTORY (Seoul), NevaBooks (Sweden) amongst others. In September 2017 it was shortlisted for the Paris Photo / Aperture Foundation – Photobook Awards 2017, as one of 20 books from nearly 1000 entries in the ‘First Photobook’ category.