clutch

(2023)

 

This exhibition was held together with the artist Harriina Räinä as a result of a partnership between Saari Residence and Titanik Gallery, The project was commissioned by Kone Foundation (Finland)

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EN | PT

 

Torção | 2023

 

Video projection, speakers, audio cables, electric wires, metal spiral,
rack roller tracks, cotton threads and woody vine.
Variable dimensions

 

 

On movements and matters of oysters and lianas:

Harriina Räinä and Pedro Hurpia at Titanik Gallery.

~

Come close – see, sense, trace – the gestures of movement enveloped in the calcium carbonate rings

of a Pacific oyster shell, or those embedded in the ridges of a Mil-homens liana. Like the bones and

tissues in our own bodies, these matters are living archives of movement; of attachment; of habitat;

of freedom to roam; of systems; of intervention; of proximity. They connect and converge, make

and unmake, and hold within them millennia of knowledges. What can we learn from spending time

with oysters and lianas? Is it possible, as humans, to understand their ways of moving, attaching

and mattering? What happens when we witness, as well as imagine, the intricacies of these two

organisms and the forces that they negotiate with?

The artists and former Saari residents Harriina Räinä and Pedro Hurpia – though situated thousands

of kilometres apart – share their working spaces with their respective counterparts, the oyster and

the liana. For Harriina, whose studio is located in a former factory on Harrakka Island, Helsinki,

oyster shells and the Baltic Sea inform her daily practice. Though oysters are unable to thrive in the

Baltic Sea, the distance that it offers from the bustling city enables one to attune to more watery

ways of existence. In our conversation together on Harrakka Island, Harriina energetically reflects

on the 'leakages' that become apparent when working in 'remote' places: “I am leaking towards the

environment and the environment is leaking towards me”. In her studio, she spends time getting to

know the shells' irregularities and the stories that they tell, seeing them as parts of the oyster's body

and as matters with their own agencies.

Pedro adopts a similar contemplative and embodied practice. He walks for hours in the liana-laden

Atlantic Forest in Southern Brazil, making drawings and notes, before returning to his studio – a

yellow-washed building nestled in a tangle of green growth – to construct models and mechanisms.

During our video call he invites me into the verdant forest – his “backyard” as he calls it – through a

series of photographs and, here from afar in Finland, I can appreciate the intensity with which lianas

grow. It is interesting to observe that the wires and coils that flourish on his desk mimic the lianas'

own vivaciousness. Pedro comments that, in moving to this remote location – a former coffee farm

– four years ago, his relationship with lianas has intensified and he has become more familiar with

the forest's seasonal changes: “I started to observe how the forest changed during the year; how the

vines spread out and slow down large trees but also create pathways for animals in the canopy”.

Threaded throughout the work of both artists is a desire to reveal the gestures and mechanisms of

movement. As we converse, Harriina reflects on her transition from printing with Gofun (a white

pigment made from Itabo shells) to engaging with oysters more conceptually as a way of further

fathoming her longstanding curiosity in the agency of matter: “I am interested in the agency of

matter; how everything is in process and movement all of the time”. Though they appear lifeless,

the clusters of oyster shells that lay on a central table in her studio continue to unfold before us: she

comments on how the shell is “a process of dying”. In observing them, one can see that their layers

of skin-thin bone – at times colliding with barnacles and fellow bivalves – bear the traces of a life

lived (or living and dying) with the seas. In more watery conditions, these shells – derived from

Atlantic, European and Pacific oysters in Europe and the U.S. – would (re)configure through a host

of 'invisible' movements. Each shell-formation is made from the coming together of minerals; the

flows of the sea; attachments to, and becomings with, other shells; returning to the seabed as

sediment. Whether Harriina believes that there is an 'order' to this, she does not say. Instead the

artist notes that “things are messy”, despite our best efforts to control everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedro is vocal about the systematic movements that he surveys in the forest:“I want to speculate on the complex dynamism with which lianas grow. The way they spread out and rearrange themselvesmakes me imagine that there is an order behind it. It is a silent and slow operation far from human perception”. In engaging with the liana (which, I later learn, is not a taxonomic grouping but a word used to describe a plant's growth habits), Pedro continues his research into how things are viewed from different perspectives, particularly in modern science and popular belief. He reflects that, while lianas can drain trees of their resources, they also have healing qualities. Alongside their building of pathways, shelter and habitats for other organisms, Mil-Homens liana – an example referenced in his work – have been used medicinally by indigenous communities in the region for generations. In speaking, he shares images of dried and wrinkled medicinal Mil-homens, as well as a botanical lithograph of a liana from the 19th century. The contrasting perspectives represented by these two examples show how differently the same plant can be seen or experienced.

In their time spent with these organisms – by the sea, in the forest – the artists have gained a deep connection to the intricate ways in which the oyster and liana move and attach. The latter, the act of attachment, plays a central role in Harriina's practice with oysters. She reflects how, as a larvae in the 'eyed stage', they are able to move with a 'leg' and use it to attach themselves to a place – a rock or another oyster – for life. The artist shares images of oyster larvae that will be painted onto the window at Titanik Gallery: dozens of eyes and legs can be found amidst swathes of circular hatchlings. Having had the opportunity to work with an oyster farm in Brittany, France, Harriina is able to describe the oyster cultivation processes: “They prevent the attachment from happening by turning the sacks or physically hitting them.. it's a strong process”. This 'separation' technique ensures that the oysters remain detached – singular – for use in the food industry and ultimately alters their growth patterns. Harriina explains how their instinctual urge to come together and “create oyster reefs” which are, in turn, “really rich ecosystems” is stunted. In a series of photographs, the artist reveals the traces of culture and commerce through the contrasting shapes of cultivated and uncultivated shells: the former appear to have a certain 'regularity' about them, while the latter are seemingly more 'organic' in form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aristolochia Gigantea Brasiliensis | 2023

 

Nylon bag, woody vines, digital photograph on cotton paper
Variable dimensions

 

 

Though there are multiple arguments for oyster farming over, say, cattle farming – Harriina notes

that the ethical issues with mammals are more black-and-white than with bivalves due to humans

knowing little about how the latter feel pain – the negative reverberations caused by this

aquaculture are plentiful. While oysters are carbon sequesters and facilitate water filtration, oyster

farming, like any intense act of cultivation, alters the animal, the seabed composition and the

benthos. Moreover, the notion that oyster farming “doesn't take land” perpetuates our society's

prioritisation of land over sea. Harriina highlights that “no, but it takes seabed. This argument tells

us a lot about our relationship to the seas”. In a terrestrially-orientated society which seeks to

contain things, the sea disrupts its concept of control as, quite evidently, things leak: the artist notes

that, in her work, 'uncultivated' does not mean 'wild' but rather represents the leakages from oyster

farms. Harriina introduces this element of 'messiness' through a floor installation made of oyster

shells, sea salt, sand, chalk, metal, wood and water from the Aura river. The piece, which references

oyster 'nurseries', questions the control in 'caretaking' while promoting the agency of water in both

farming and art: “Art is dry as we want to keep it archival. When moisture and water come in, life

starts to come in and things start to grow and so on”.

Pedro adopts a more speculative than evidential approach in his deciphering and (re)imagining of

the liana's movements. While still heavily influenced by his tactile forest walks, the artist's videos

and sculptures create spaces in which logic and imagination meet: they invite us to attune to a

slower rhythm and notice more than the liana's movements in the forest but also motions in other

'natural' and 'human-made' environments. He notes how, in his threading through the undergrowth,

the tangles of liana become so intense that he feels himself “being pulled” towards them. Pedro

speaks of practices of “attention” and “patience”, and of “leaning” into a perspective that is not his

own. Upon hearing that liana are both creative and destructive forces, I ask what can we learn from

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torção | 2023

 

Installation detail
Video projection, speakers, audio cables, electric wires,
metal spiral, rack roller tracks, cotton threads and woody vine.
Variable dimensions

a plant with such paradoxical capacities? Pedro responds with a comment on the necessity of oppositional forces for equilibriums to occur: “There is always an oppositional force. Sometimes it might not be a proportional one but there is always a movement to keep balance in the forest. Movement keeps balance, an equilibrium”. He adds “equilibriums take time and involve other agencies and invisible processes”. This overlaps with Harriina's interest in the agency of matter and how organisms, like oysters, come into existence in processes and time-scales that we are not attuned to noticing. In coming out of the forest and into the studio, Pedro has created a time lapse of a liana to reveal the plant's slow movements, up and up. A separate video translates the seemingly chaotic growth patterns of lianas into a rhythmic dance: his hands choreograph replica vines to wriggle up and down. Both of these videos, presented in black and white, invite us to engage with a different type of time – one that Pedro calls 'elastic time': “It's a concept that emerged in a previous project on deep time. It considers how, with elastic time, we could see the movement of lianas. It's presented like a dream, being shot in black and white”. Within the gallery, Pedro plans to replicate the liana's movements with sculptural works, one of which, a small electrical device, mimics its growth patterns by rotating a curved rod at a slow speed – a challenge for even the more attentive viewer to notice its gentle and intermittent motion. He also ideates ways of referencing self-sustaining systems, as well as the liana's capacity to transport something from one place to another, by entangling vine-like cotton threads in models of the 'Flow rack roller' used in the logistics industry.

This playfulness across 'natural' and 'human-made' systems opens up a dialogue on the physical but also the idea-based seepages that occurs between worlds. There exists a porosity between these bodies of work that comes from the permeable capacities of the oyster and the liana but also from the ways in which Harriina and Pedro engage with their creative counterparts. It is evident that each artist has spent time with these organisms and their habitats, seeking to shift their own perspectives as well as those of their prospective audiences. In their practices, each artist makes visible the seemingly 'hidden' movements of the oyster and the liana, and invites us to attune to alternative paces and scales. How might we think and move differently if we could see the oyster's coagulation with a neighbour's shell or the liana's tendrils twisting upwards to join the canopy? In attuning to smaller movements – those found in the skins, tissues and bones of multiple organisms – we might, with time, change our own ways of moving and alter the shape of larger reverberations to come.

~

This article draws on interviews carried out with former Saari Residency artists Harriina Räinä

and Pedro Hurpia in June 2023 in connection with their exhibition in August 2023 at Titanik Gallery, Turku (Original in English, version in Finnish and Swedish).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing plants | 2023

 

Video, torque motor, controller, power supply,
woody vine, electric wires and metal spiral.
Variable dimensions

 

 

 

 

 

Torção | 2023

 

Installation detail
Video projection, speakers, audio cables, electric wires,
metal spiral, rack roller tracks, cotton threads and woody vine.
Variable dimensions

 

 

 

 

 

Torção | 2023

 

Installation detail
Video projection, speakers, audio cables, electric wires,
metal spiral, rack roller tracks, cotton threads and woody vine.
Variable dimensions

 

 

 

 

 

Tendrils | 2023

 

Installation detail
digital photograph on cotton paper
18 x 25cm

 

 

 

 

 

Torção | 2023

 

Video | 16:9 | 9'25" | sound | b&w and colour