Persons Projects is proud to present Niina Vatanen’s solo exhibition titled
Gravity Experiments and Cyclic Phenomena. This exhibition follows her 2015 solo show at C/O Berlin based upon her Time Atlas series. One’s experience of time is incredibly complex: By studying the movement of the planets, and with the help of various omens, such as prophecies, religions, and oracles, humans have investigated our place in the universe. In this exhibition, Vatanen does the same – she has combined images from various archives to create an encyclopedic visual essay concerning time.
Vatanen has challenged, seduced, and explored time as a mystery from the beginnings of her career. She has repeatedly attempted to decode the intricate workings of time’s passage and our perception of it as the core question in her work. She explores time through means of collage, collecting, and archiving, as well as conceptual and intentional storytelling. She draws upon the myth of the "world egg” for her artwork of the same title. The old myth has roots in many cultures, among them Greek, Egyptian, and Finnish mythology. The reproducing of the story of the Earth being hatched from an egg shows that same search for an answer to our convoluted experience of time.
Her archive that she has utilized for her art was slowly built up over decades and is incredibly personal. Initially, Vatanen started with her own personal memorabilia and then continued to collect images from outside sources; She then began pairing them and developing new connections. Her raw material comes from old encyclopedias that touch on topics that relate to time and its measurement: math, religion, science, and philosophy. She also utilizes newspapers, manuals, contemporary Internet imagery, and her own personal letters in order to create these new and inventive connections between different and otherwise unrelated fields. The content of each work is organized thematically and the association of images is based purely on formal qualities or content. In doing so, Vatanen poses questions about our perception of time, the convolution of history, personal experiences, the temporality of existence, and her own visual recollection. Rather than imposing her own recollections onto the viewer, she merely guides them; much like a compass without degrees. Vatanen also poses questions about the nature of art, photography, and authority, using her artworks to blur these lines – Vatanen pulls from numerous sources to create one composite image, inviting the viewer to ponder upon who is the creator of the final work. The artist is motivated by the way the images can be transformed. The prints of eclipses in
The Eclipser (2022), for example, were initially old photos Vatanen found in the U.K. that were around 3 x 3 cm in size; She decided to enlarge them multiple times to reach her desired size. Thus, she is more concerned with the contextual content of what’s unseen rather than the photograph’s initial aesthetic.
Vatanen’s large-scale fabric works are also titled
Gravity Experiments and Cyclic Phenomena. Gravity is the phenomenon that keeps the Earth on its orbit, creating tides and causing objects to fall towards the Earth – these hanging fabric works similarly observe the cycles of nature, the passage of time, and the connections between the two. With these pieces, she effortlessly brings together our Earthly perceptions of gravity’s weight with the vastness and weightlessness of space. The installation of these fabric works also allude to the feeling of walking through a historic archive, searching for materials and the many hidden truths within them. When walking through her exhibition, there is no one correct way to navigate the beginning or end – Like the fluidity of the Japanese ensō circle, Vatanen takes the viewer on a playful journey through her own perception of time’s cycle and humans’ place within it.