Flatlands is a project that will be produced by the Lönnström Art Museum in collaboration with Jani Ruscica  over the course of 2017 and 2018. The project takes as its starting point three visual sources from different historical periods and contexts and the objects embodied therein. Each of the images reflects its own time and the values of the society it represents. In the project, the images will be used as starting points for the creation of three musical instruments that are also objects of art. The instruments will reflect the original objects as faithfully as possible, and they will be made collaboratively with various artisans.

All three instruments are highly symbolic and embody cultural values. The three original images are associated with the notion of silencing. This makes sound – and thereby also hearing, listening and the act of being heard – the primary manners of reception.

The Flatlands project will manifest itself as performances given by three musicians during 2018. The three instruments will also require their players to master entirely new techniques of playing.
Performances: 2.–3.6.2018 Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA1), 9.8.2018 at Poselli, Rauma and on 16.8.2018 at Helsinki Music Centre.
Performance at Music Centre (video)
Flatlands performances

An animated short by Warner Brothers from 1938, The Isle of Pingo Pongo is an example of cultural appropriation (Merrie Melodies cartoon by Tex Avery). The racist film is rife with colonial stereotypes and generalisations. Its pastiche imagery includes a piano-like instrument made of bamboo and thereby portrayed as an indigenous instrument. The film has been banned since 1968.

The bamboo instrument is constructed by Czech wood sculptor Jan Kolář. Its keys and strings comes from a clavichord made in the 1960s, and its body is made of bamboo sections of varying thickness and quality. The finished bamboo instrument will sound different than a clavichord, a salon instrument.

Andrei Khrzhanovsky’s (b. 1939) Soviet animation Steklyannaya garmonika (1968) depicts how an individual is crushed by the power of bureaucracy. The instrument in the film symbolises a counterforce to structures that limit the freedom of expression, to bureaucracy and to corruption. The film was the first animation to be banned in Soviet Union.

The 3D model of the glass instrument is made by flute maker Matti Kähönen. It consist of transparent materials: 12 glass pipes and a Plexiglas sound board with air holes and glass decorations. The instrument is not played by blowing. Sound production is challenging and require the adoption of a special technique.

A cartoon of Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) depicts the composer on the eve of his Sixth Symphony’s premiere (the cover of weekly journal Die Muskete (19/01/1907). Mahler’s composition violated prevalent conventions and musical structures. It includes sounds made of unusual instruments such as a hammer.

The wooden parts of the imaginary instrument is made by joiner Antti Salmela from Rauma, Finland and the instrument was finished off by Niko Rissanen from Helsinki. The playable parts consist of readymades suspended in a wooden frame, such as a cowbell, a ratchet and a horn, as well as a kettledrum from the late 19th century. 

Jani Ruscica (b. 1978) is a Finnish-Italian visual artist based in Helsinki. He has a BFA from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London and an MFA from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. Ruscica’s works frequently feature creative collaboration between different artistic disciplines. The works themselves often combine performativity with sculpture, moving images and sound.

Jan Kolář. Constructing bambuinstument (video)




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