Antti Laitinen The Bark, 2010
New commission by A Foundation and Liverpool Biennial 2010 for Touched
The new commission, ‘The Bark’ comes in the form of Laitinen building a bark boat in the gallery at Greenland Street. Early on Saturday 25th September 2010 Laitinen sailed his craft on its maiden voyage across the river Mersey. (He sailed an identical bark boat across the Baltic in August 2010). Back at the gallery the boat is now on display, surrounded by construction tools, materials, bark shavings and other paraphernalia of its making as well as a strategically placed clump of seaweed. This installation appears artificially staged, an empty coffee cup left on a work bench making it seem as contrived as a folk museum reconstruction.
We literally enter the world of Antti Laitinen through a philosophy of bark to basics! A room is populated by a series of fake tree trunks clad in Laitinen’s material of choice, bark sourced from the floor of the forest from his native Finland. Made from chicken wire and using plastic ties to hold the sections of bark in place, this mock forest creates a kind of grotto effect which could pass as a plausible theatre set for a school’s retelling of a fairy tale.
Also presented at A Foundation are works from the past ten years, performances such as ‘It’s My Island’, ‘Bare Necessities’ and ‘Untitled’. In all these video works Laitinen appears as a sole player, acting out a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, battling against the elements, man versus nature. He appears quite a comical figure, none more so than in ‘Bare Necessities’ when he performs naked eating small insects and living in a shelter he has made for himself in a hole in the ground. And yet, throughout all these trials he plays the straight man, focused on his survival, serious in intent.
A set of drawings and prints which form ‘Walk the Line’ are evidence of the process which dictated a series of walks undertaken by Laitinen using his portrait overlaid onto maps in conjunction with a recording of the journey on a GPS device.
We find endurance and perseverance are themes which concern the artist and make him question his existence, but this is one man’s journey through the world and time. Laitinen cuts a lone figure and we find it impossible to see him as a spokesperson for all mankind. He is not advocating any political message or promoting any environmental issues but rather revels in his perfect isolation. This reading is reinforced by the very title of the 2007 work ‘It’s My Island’ which excludes our participation. The distinction between art and life is blurred by Laitinen’s self generated challenges and we are merely invited to act as a witness to his ongoing adventures. - allmycolours.wordpress.com