Arttu Merimaa has constructed the Grandfather’s Leather Club exhibition around an object that was passed down in his family. In the 1920s, parts of the village of Harjunpää in Ulvila burned down. Legend has it that a little boy playing with matches was the cause of the tragedy. Apart from being traumatic for the village, the event also sparked friction between the boy’s family and the other villagers. The conflict led to victimization and fights, and, in order to be able to protect his little brother better, the boy’s big brother made a leather club. The club and its story are now part of a larger exhibition that Merimaa uses to address ideas of protection and self-defence, shedding light on them from the perspective of someone who stands outside the State justice system.
In Grandfather’s Leather Club Merimaa focusses on how culturally bound customs, heritage and other unwritten traditions of justice in today’s culture operate outside of the State legal system, and on how they are applied in the lower strata of society. He wants the exhibition to bring out the friction that arises between the individual and society, and the forms that this tension takes in public space. As his inspiration he makes use of his own feeling of powerlessness in the face of prevailing trends in society. The exhibition consists of free-standing works in various techniques; clay tablets, wooden sculptures, ready-made objects and photographs.
Clay tablets engraved with images of fantasy creatures: self-appointed “neighbourhood-watch” vigilantes, along with the leather club, form a hermetic whole. From out of the shadows they communicate with existing public figures, such as large photographs of Walter Runeberg’s Lex sculpture and Wäinö Aaltonen’s sculpture of Aleksis Kivi.
Arttu Merimaa (b.1983) lives and works in Helsinki. He graduated with an MFA from the Time and Space Arts subject area at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in 2013. His works are in the collections of Kiasma, Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), and elsewhere. His most recent solo exhibition was at SIC in Helsinki last year. He and his partner Miina Hujala run the Alkovi display-window gallery on Helsinginkatu Street, Helsinki. They are also co-curators of this year’s summer exhibition, Glorious Time, at Art Center Purnu in Orivesi.