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by Saara Hacklin 


Traces of violence and time

Anu Suhonen's Shooting People (2003) and Kalle Hamm & Dzamil Kamanger's Afaryan works (2007) bring forth more acute questions of violence and belonging. Hamm & Kamanger's video on the village of Afaryan, abandoned Kurd village in Iran, is an attempt to overcome the village's destiny of oblivion. A small village of some thirty houses was abandoned by its inhabitants mainly due to land reform and civil war, and finally the move of an army base near by to the village changed everything, so that the life style that had existed for centuries had soon vanished leaving nothing but a wreck and constellation of memories in the minds of those who had survived. In their work Hamm & Kamanger attempt to trace the story of the village as its remembered by the people, but also step into the future with a 3D animation of awakening the village to life again. Unlike the architectural 3D animations that are made to sell new brave plans, this 3D animation has a heavy historical load that it cannot detach from.

In Shooting People Suhonen found bullet holes in shop and café windows in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and placed herself with her camera behind the window-glass and "shot" people walking in the street by pushing the trigger just when someone passed the already existing bullet-hole. Passers by become part of a re-enacment, staged as potential victims of crimes taken place in the imaginary world of photography. Thinking about the spectator's place, the images situate us behind a double isolation: we are both behind the camera and the glass. The latter could be marking a screen, in a sense of protection or shield. In Shooting People we become, perhaps more than somewhere else within photography, witnesses or observers that do not take part. The only mediation between us and the passers-by seem to be the hole in the glass, the act of fitting bullet-holes on the passers by.

Suhonen's piece is not without irony on the role of the photographer. But could Shooting People simply be thought of as a visual game with bullet-holes? If we look at the series from another point of view, the photographs might open up towards a whole different setting. Perhaps this small fracture could also serve as a blind spot: For one thing, on visual level, it brings visible that we are isolated from the surroundings in the image - how else could we notice such a glass if it weren't for the defile? Simultaneously, the mark, rupture, shows us a point where we cannot see. In a way, it seems to me that Suhonen is playing with the traditional idea of trompe l'oeil where the spectator is lured into thinking that he or she could simply reach out their hand and join in the world of painting. Here the isolation from the world out there is being underlined in a way that easily makes one feel uncomfortable and unsheltered - maybe it is us that the bullet has been heading at. Here, the rupture nails us into our places, turning the image upside down, placing us as the targets. And from another viewpoint, we could say that the fissure marks our own seeing: It is actually our own blind spot, the area eye cannot or does not want to reach, like the backs of our necks, our very own seeing, or perhaps our darkest fantasies. It is all a question of point of view.

At this very moment - in anticipation of the opening of the exhibition taking place within a few weeks - the connotations of Suhonen's Shooting people also extend towards a deed of violence that took place in a school in Western Finland, taking the lives of eleven people. Once again, the community is horrified, as there seems to be no way to understand what happened, and moreover, what is more haunting, perhaps no guarantee for us that we ourselves would not be responsible for what took place. From this particular point of view, also another series by Suhonen titled Camouflage (2006) seems to raise important questions. Camouflage shows a series of photographs where a green bell pepper turns orange, to fit the environment - a fruit basket of oranges. Is this a peaceful acclimatisation, a voluntary blending into one's surrounding or are we actually watching an act of mental violence, of forced unification? The title "camouflage" would hint at there not being real accommodation, but simple adjustment of the surface in order to fit in. Is the bell pepper At heart still at war with the world ?


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