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Jenni Toikka (1983) is showing her latest videowork at Sinne. Its formal subject matter is the cross-country-skiing and rifle-shooting biathlon, with the sporting performance turning into abstract motion in the viewing experience. The artist herself writes: “The initial impulse for my videowork was seeing a biathlon on the TV. I liked the event’s visuality and the way it has parallels with visual art. Added to that, it came as a surprise that a good performance by a biathlete in a race seemed to correspond psychologically to the state of ‘flow’ in my own artistic working process.”
The artist goes on to describe her work on the video piece: “The main character in the video is a promising 19-year-old biathlete, Erika Jänkä, who I observed training from autumn 2014 to spring 2015. The work was shot at the Ahvenisto Race Circuit in Hämeenlinna during winter 2015. The visual elements of the location, such as the blue-and-white metal barriers, the markings painted on the asphalt and the scoreboards, create a possibility for photographing the sporting performance from both a psychological and a visual angle.” Now, the location and the skier that were its starting points have been turned into material in Toikka’s work and have lost their individuality.
The work is a contemporary living relative of Soviet-Russian films, with Toikka being a skilled user of montage, i.e. creating series of rapid shots. The movement and pictorial composition show the formal allure of sporting performances and sports arenas, and reveal the mental world of competitive sports. The fast-paced alternation between skiing and shooting are combined together in an abstract, white snowscape, while the red flags and blue-and-white barriers serve as a comment on this. Alongside their everyday usage, the targets take on a relationship with abstract art and other visual history.
The work has a circuit structure and we return to the target at the end, but the journey has left its mark on our minds. The image format of Toikka’s video is a narrow rectangle, so that the area cropped out of shot remains unknown material to us, and yet we feel its presence. The invisible thus leaves its imprint on the visible. The artist sees her new work as being a counterpart to Sovitus (Adaptation) completed in 2009. The new work is more understated and no symbolic details appear in it that serve as alienation effects. Both are, however, examples of the way that Toikka creates a filmic world. Her works generate powerful mental experiences, which are based more on the work’s multi-level structure than on plot twists.
The filmic quality of the work is its own independent reality and tells us how a visual experience brings us to a halt and takes us mentally somewhere else, creating its own world. Toikka’s imagery leaves its mark on our minds and has an impact on us through the viewing experience. The work has been edited like an action film and, in the end, depending on who they are, viewers can have the experience of being purified, or a feeling of euphoria, or even forgiveness. The pictures have passed through our minds and that purification has taken place within us.
Jenni Toikka (b. 1983 in Helsinki) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in 2012. Prior to this, her third solo exhibition, at Sinne, she has shown at Kluuvi Gallery and Forum Box. Toikka’s videoworks have been shown in several international group exhibitions and festivals. The videowork Sovitus (Adaptation) won a prize at the Start Point exhibition in the Czech Republic. Her works are in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Saastamoinen Foundation. In the near future, she will be working with Leena Nio and Taneli Rautiainen on a public work for a new hospital in Espoo.