Flatlands

Lönnström Art Museum elected Jani Ruscica’s Flatlands as the museum’s second contemporary art project in November 2016. The project will be carried out from 2017 through 2018. Ruscica himself describes the project as follows:

Flatlands will centre around three musical instruments that were all presented originally in images. The work appropriates and reinterprets the instruments in the form of actual three-dimensional objects, thereby underlining the materiality of the objects of visual representation, as well as associations awakened by matter and material.

“Originating from different eras and vastly different contexts, the instruments carry strong political overtones. They are paradoxical and ambiguous. The theme of silencing is an integral aspect of the imagery addressed in the work, making sound and thereby also hearing, listening and being heard, the primary methods of reception of the piece.

“The three instruments in the piece are all highly allegorical. The ‘glass harmonica’ in the 1960s Soviet animation – seemingly a cross between an organ and a harp – is presented as oppositional to bureaucracy, to restrictions of the freedom of speech and to other societal structures that oppress individual thought. Musical instruments are also culturally valorised, as demonstrated by the Warner Brothers’ racist animation from the 1930s. A pastiche comprised of a questionable blend of genres and styles, the film with its colonial undertones shows a jazz piano as an instrument made of bamboo and built by an imaginary indigenous people. Another example of conservatism and cultural reactionism is the early-20th-century cartoon that mocks Mahler’s experimental Sixth Symphony through the depiction of imaginary percussion instruments made of everyday objects.

Flatlands explores issues of representation on several temporal and conceptual levels while also questioning the conventions of the presentation of art.

Flatlands would be silent without its performative aspect. The three instruments will require their players to master entirely new techniques of playing. The interaction between player and instrument is vital for the piece and can only be achieved through extended practice. The same requirement of dedicated effort is needed both to understand the original context of the instruments and to interpret the material to be played on it. Time, effort and thought are all necessary because meanings are ultimately created through reinterpretation.”

Photo Sini Pelkki.