“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”
George Orwell (1936)
乔治 奥威尔 (1936)
1953年，设计师Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmasniemi在Armi Ratia创立于1951年的芬兰设计品牌Marimekko的工作中设计出了一款手绘图案条纹面料：Piccolo。这种条纹元素被Fred Dervin认为是个体身份复杂性、包容性、多样性与多变性的视觉象征而加以运用。Marimekko品牌的另一重要设计元素为绽放的巨大花朵，其灵感来源或可从1913年在巴黎首演的伊戈尔·斯特拉文斯基（Igor Stravinsky）的芭蕾舞剧《春之祭（The Rite of Spring）》中找到线索，Fred 认为这部伟大作品中那些尖锐、紧张和突如其来的音响，表达出了北半球寒带地区的自然从冰雪之下展露头脚到春天到来时的狂野和人群的爆炸性喜悦。Fred画面中脸部背后的各种色点、螺旋线即被赋予了类似的内在认知活动与身份转化的意象。
Fred Dervin的祖辈来自欧洲四个不同的民族，强势的有德国血统的妈妈主导他从6岁起即接受严格的精英教育，在6—16岁的少年期，Fred每在学校学习六个月可回家待上两周，这塑造了他对于知识狂热渴望的性格与对于感情独立与依赖的矛盾情绪。他常常以法国作家居斯塔夫·福楼拜（Gustave Flaubert）所著的《布瓦尔与佩杜歇》（Bouvard et Pécuchet）中的布瓦尔，以及源自意大利喜剧并成为20世纪初法国戏剧界核心人物的小丑皮埃罗（Pierrot）自比。或许很少有人知道宗教在芬兰扮演着很重要的角色，尽管Fred声称当时的宗教教育对于他是乏味的，但他却始终抱持着对陀思妥耶夫斯基（Dostoyevsky）在《白痴（The Idiot）》中塑造的梅什金公爵（Prince Myshkin）的道德认同。他们都有点天真而幼稚，有一点愚蠢。
It is a pleasure to introduce Finland scholar Fred Dervin’s exhibition KASVOT – A Journey Through Ten Thousand Faces. KASVOT, a plural noun in the Finnish language, means face, and it is at the heart of Fred’s exhibition. The use of the Finnish word hints at the temporal, spatial and ecological transformations of our identity, symbolized by the complexity of our faces.
In 1953, designer Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmasniemi produced the hand-drawn Piccolo striped fabric for the Finnish Design House Marimekko founded in 1951 by Armi Ratia. This stripe element is considered by Fred Dervin to be a visual symbol of the complexity, inclusivity, diversity and variability of individual identities. Another iconic design element of the Marimekko brand is large blooming (poppy) flowers, which could have been inspired by the loud, tense and abrupt sound of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring, which premiered in Paris in 1913. For Fred, this great piece of music articulates well the wild nature of the northern hemisphere when snow and ice leave the floor to the wildness and explosive joy of the crowds at the arrival of spring. The variety of colorful dots and spirals accompanying Fred’s faces in the art pieces are endowed with a similar imagery of internal mental activities and identity transformations.
Fred Dervin’s diverse cultural heritage from four European countries, and his strong mother of German descent, led him to receive a strict elite education from the age of 6. As an adolescent, Fred was allowed to return home every six months, just for two weeks, which shaped his insatiable thirst for knowledge and his ambivalence about emotional in-/dependence. Until today he has often returned to the French writer Gustave Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet for inspiration. In a similar vein, he has often found solace in the figure of Pierrot, the clown who originated in Italian Commedia Dell’Arte and became a central figure in French theater in the early 20th century. Few people may know that religion plays an important role in Finland, and although Fred claims that religious education was uninspiring to him, morally, he has identified with Dostoyevsky’s Prince Myshkin in The Idiot. Bouvard and Pécuchet, Pierrot and Myshkin are all a little naïve, childish and foolish.
Fred has lived in different countries, teaching and researching interculturality, constantly questioning identities. Fred, who will soon be in the youth of old age, has cooperated with Chinese scholars for many years. Every time he visits China, he will go to the post office every day to send a postcard to his grandmother in Finland – another symbol of innocence and love or a redemptive feeling somehow comparable to religion. The paintings on display are from 2020 to 2022 and invite the viewer to a confusing and yet never-ending journey through identity.
When he was asked to talk about his music, Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) often answered that he could not do it in words, otherwise he would have been a writer instead of a composer. I often feel the same about my own art. However, as a scholar myself, talking is also my job. I am above all an academic, someone who specializes in intercultural communication and education. I spend my days thinking and writing about the important topic of interculturality. I have been doing so for the past 20 years. When my writing day is over, I move to another part of my home and do some art. For me, both activities are complementary. What I cannot say in writing, I express through painting. What I cannot express in art, I write about. Sometimes, I am able to combine both research and art. This exhibition, which presents art works from 2020 to 2022, showcases how my thinking, writing and art work hand in hand. It is a lesson in interculturality, humanity, and togetherness.
Working on intercultural encounters in both research and art, I wish to help others unthink and rethink the ways they engage with people, objects and ideas from different parts of the world. I see interculturality as a necessary lifelong process of in-betweenness and co-construction. In this exhibition I share pieces produced in 2020-2022 with a focus on identity and metamorphoses in the processes of encountering. All the pieces consist of portraits of social beings. In both my academic and artistic work, I am fascinated by both faces and mirrors, which are constitutive of interculturality. The entire exhibition takes the viewers through different emotions such as ecstatic creativity, ambivalence, feelings of rebirth and joy.
The exhibition is divided up into three interrelated sections:
1. Identity metamorphoses,
3. Between nature and us.
Section 1, identity metamorphoses, consists of 32 pieces. Changing is considered as central to human and social life. We are never really the same with different people; we adapt to characters, situations and contexts. We also change with time and space. Who we are also depends on what we do and say with others. In the process of communicating with others, we influence each other for better or worse. The section engages with the complexities of identities, looking into the human face, relating it to change and transformation. Identity metamorphoses are problematized through individual pieces and 5 different series of works, including self-portraits. The image of the mask, literary figures and myths are found in the art pieces to illustrate identity metamorphoses. Pieces include:
- Individual pieces: Kasvot (face(s)), Persona (The Mask), Solid Self, The Philosopher, Two-faced, Red Moon Reflecting Self, Je Lis Trop (I Read Too Much); Self-Portrait as Bouvard, 我无法呼吸 (I Can’t Breathe)
- Series: Stripes (I- IV); Love Thyself (I-IV); To Exist is To Change (I-IV); My Reader (I-II); Self-portrait as Pierrot (I-IV); Transformation (I-V).
Identity always requires the presence of another person to function, that is, to allow it to change. Section 2 revolves around the idea of encountering, or to be more precise, (re-)encountering. The word encounter in English comes from old French encontrer (to meet). While English borrowed the verb directly as a synonym for to meet, contemporary French says rencontrer, which actually translates literally as to meet again. I note that encounter contains the Latin contra which means against – to encounter originally was counter to, against someone. By adding (re-) in front of encountering here I want to suggest that meeting someone always starts before we really meet them. (Re-)encountering someone usually involves relating the person and the situation of encounter to other moments, previous moments of encounters with others (a smell, a face, an accent, a piece of clothing worn by someone will always remind us of a previous experience). In the 23 pieces that are presented in this section, I problematize (re-)encountering by means of 5 series about voices, looking at the other, asking questions and looking into the other’s mirror. Some of the pieces help us to reflect on some of the problems we might come across when meeting others.
- Individual piece: Saknar Dig (Miss You)
- Series: Voices Between Us (I-IV); 看着我 I (Look At Me I-III); Where Are You From? (I-IV); Mon Miroir (My Mirror I-VII); Be Happy! (I-IV).
The final section takes a broader perspective on identity and encounters by including nature. Entitled Between nature and us, Section 3 contains 20 pieces. As long as I can remember, discussions around nature and the environment have taken place at school and the media in Europe. Only recently, through an increasing global awareness, nature has been part and parcel of our daily interests and questions for the future. This section reminds us of the centrality of nature for human beings. References to nature in China and Finland are made in the section pieces. Three series compose the section (with references to Stravinsky’s classic composition called the Rite of Spring and a park in Beijing). The section Between nature and us is a reminder that there is neither human identity nor encounters without bearing in mind the importance, beauty and power of nature.
- Individual pieces: Fracassant (Ear-Splitting), Shamefully Hiding From The Moon, A Piece of Finland in China, Le Piano Galopant (The Galloping Piano), Les Feuilles Vivantes (Living Leaves)
- Series: Rite of Spring (I-VIII); Bamboo Park (I-IV); La Nature et Moi (Nature and I I-III).
当皮埃尔·布列兹 (1925-2016) 被问及他的音乐时，他常答道: “我无法用文字来谈论音乐，否则我将成为作家，而非作曲家。”我对艺术也有同样的感觉。然而，作为一名学者，演说也是我的工作。
第一篇章 身份的多变 （Identity Metamorphoses）
身份的多样性和复杂性表明人们总是在适应中改变。第二篇章将围绕“相遇”这一主题，或者更准确地说是“（再）相遇”。英语encounter (相遇)一词源于古法语encontrer(遇见)一词。英文中的encounter只借用了“遇见”这层含义，但当代法语 rencontrer，意为“再相遇”。我注意到在拉丁语中，词根contra意味着“反对”，所以“相遇”一词最初是“反对某人”。通过加入（re-），我希望大家能注意到，其实人与人的相遇始于我们还未见面前，因为我们的相遇总会受我们之前相似的经历所影响，如，相似的见面场景，某一熟悉的味道、声音等。我将这部分的23幅作品分为五个系列，其中一些作品反映了当下我们遇见他人时所遇到的问题和困惑。
A renowned scholar in the field of intercultural communication and education, Fred Dervin (Chinese name: 文德 Wende) is also an artist. He holds two PhDs (Sorbonne University in Paris and University of Turku, Finland), is a full professor and PhD supervisor at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Dervin also holds several distinguished and visiting professorships in Australia, Canada, China, Luxembourg, Malaysia and Sweden, as well as in other Finnish universities. Dervin has published internationally on questions of identity, interculturality and mobility/migration (over 150 articles and 80 books). His interest in art began when he was a teenager and has continued to grow over the decades. Since the early 2010s, he has produced artworks in Finland and China to showcase his scientific ideas. His commitment to the arts has also influenced his personal research (e.g. the benefits of arts education for intercultural communication). For decades he has collected and specialized in Finnish art from the mid-20th century and since 2015 he has been actively involved in producing his own art in relation to his research work. In his 2022 book entitled Interculturality in Fragments: A Reflexive Approach (Springer), he included 10 of his works of art to stimulate his readers to think beyond words about intercultural communication and education. He is just about to publish a book on art and interculturality in education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023).
Dervin is interested in the complexity of depicting faces in his art by using different techniques. Interestingly, the Finnish word ‘face’, ‘kasvot’, always appears in the plural, which piqued his curiosity about the human face. This interest also comes from his scientific research on identity and intercultural communication, as well as his experience of living in different parts of the world (more information available at https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/persons/fred-dervin).
This piece is a comment on the Finnish word for face (Kasvot). The Finnish language seems to be the only language in the world that uses a plural word to refer to someone’s face. While in English we say ‘my face is dirty’, in Finnish one needs to formulate it as ‘my faces are dirty’. The piece seems to show a central figure whose face is hard to delimitate since it seems to be split into different pieces (like a jigsaw) and to compose part of other people’s faces. Kasvot symbolizes the complexities and metamorphoses of identity.
This piece also comments on the plurality of our identity by referring to the etymology of the word person in English. Persona, a Latin word, originally referred to the mask. In the artwork, a man is seen wearing a white mask, showing an expression-less face, ‘performing’ for and with other people. In the background an orange mountain full of colour figures symbolizes what is really happening behind this mask: the character’s identity is much more complex and colourful than the expression-less mask that he wears. However, wearing a mask is the only way he can deal with the challenges that he faces when he meets others. Sometimes we can be ‘ourselves’, at other times, we perform like actors and actresses on stage.
This piece represents another metaphor for how we often need to turn our self into a solid substance when we meet others. Here, the female character stands like a statue, like a bust at a museum. The colourful lines on the bust and head, as well as her double face indicate that there is more to this solid representation – that she is more than what our eyes meet.
This piece is dedicated to philosophy. I started studying philosophy when I was 14 and I remember that the first topic that we discussed was death (‘what is death?’). Too young at the time to think about this topic in ‘interesting’ ways, I was much more fascinated by other topics such as ‘who am I?’. This question is in fact the core of identity. How I see myself, how I see others, how they see me and how we see each other are issues that we deal with constantly. Since my teenage years, I have thus been interested in these questions and they have been central in my own research on interculturality. Philosophy has had a major role to play in my thinking and this art piece represents an imagined ‘philosopher’, who could be (somehow) from any part of the world. In Europe, we always claim that philosophy can only be European since it was ‘invented’ by the Greeks. However, when one travels, reads and discusses with people from different corners of the world, one cannot but notice that philosophy is everywhere and that global philosophers of yesterday and today can inspire different ways of thinking about who we are alone and together with others.
The title of the piece plays around the phrase ‘two-faced’ in English which refers to someone who is not sincere but who appears to be pleasant with others. For this piece I worked on the eyes to indicate this two-facedness. Often, we say that the eyes are the window to a person’s soul. Here two different kinds of windows are depicted. This duplicity is a phenomenon that we often have to face when we ‘perform’ identity with others.
This piece introduces several symbols that the viewer will notice in my work: the mirror, the moon and striped clothing. Here the moon serves as a mirror for the character to look into himself, his identities. The striped T-shirt is an important aspect of my identity. Stripes in clothing have a fascinating history in Europe and although they are more and more common in today’s fashion, for me a striped T-shirt always reminds me of Finnishness. A Finnish clothing company called Marimekko is famous for having included stripes in their patterns for decades now. The company celebrates these stripes as a sign of inclusion and diversity. I often wear striped clothes as they make me feel ‘at home’ – stripes are me. Stripes are recurrent in my work. I note that Picasso often wore stripes too.
The following four pieces reflect on stripes, red and blue, as worn by different characters portrayed in the art. The stripes are meant to symbolize an important part of the characters’ identities. As a reminder, these stripes indicate diversity, inclusion and comfort with one’s identities here. All these pieces were done at very creative and joyful moments over the past two years.
This is a portrait of a Chinese friend wearing the aforementioned Finnish Marimekko T-shirt.
This is the second piece with a mirror – this time held by the character the other way around, showing his own face to the viewer, instead of showing it to himself. Here again, we have a symbol for the complexities of identity. This also reminds us of the importance of other people in the way we see ourselves. As such, our identity can exist and change, only through the presence of other people. This art piece appeared on the cover of my latest book published in the French language entitled L’interculturalité en miettes (2022).
这是第二件带有镜子元素的作品——画中人物手持镜子。然而，他不是照镜子，而是将脸转向他人/他者。“他者”是我们复杂身份的又一影响因素。这幅作品提醒我们“他者”将影响我们如何看待自己。我们身份的存在和转变，都受到“他者”的影响。这幅作品是我最新出版的法语专著《L’interculturalité en miettes》(2022年)的封面画。
With this piece, I am playing around the multiplicity of identity. The same character is seen wearing the striped T-shirt with two different colours, facing himself, reflecting on his different positions and appreciating his own complex and changing identity. In the background, notes taken during a seminar are included as a hint at my own multiple identities as a scholar, an educator and an artist – three identities that intersect constantly in my entire work.
This piece introduces a series entitled Love Thyself (4 pieces). Our global postmodern era, which started after the second world war in some parts of the world and a bit later in others, is demanding and requires from us to confront ourselves with others all the time. We are asked to be ‘beautiful’, ‘successful’ and ‘happy’ (amongst others). For many people around the world, these are unachievable goals and they suffer, feeling for example that they are never good enough, that their identity is not valued/valuable. This series reminds us to refrain from listening too much to the ‘calls’ for being perfect – which are often illusions! One way of dealing with this issue is to start looking at oneself, to observe one’s own (plural) identity and to ‘love oneself’ critically and reflexively. This is not meant to tell us that we should believe that the world revolves around us or that we are the best, but simply to look at oneself from our own eyes more, and to feed in our own energy in ourselves – away from some of the outside ‘noise’. Some of the faces in this series look exactly the same while others reflect diversity from within (use of different shapes and colours).
Note the stripes here too.
The title of this short series is based on a quote from French Philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941). As a philosopher of change, Bergson urges us to place change at the centre of our reflections on self, other, life and the world. This section of the exhibition does the same by depicting multifaceted change in the different characters in the art pieces.
该系列作品标题引用了法国哲学家亨利·柏格森(Henri Bergson, 1859-1941) 的名言：存在即改变。柏格森（Bergson）强调“变化”在反思自我、他者、生活及世界的重要作用，即，用变化的眼光看到一切。此系列作品，通过描绘作品中不同人物的多方面变化，展示这一哲学理念。
In this piece, I used a piece of Canson paper where I had taken notes during a seminar with my PhD students. During the seminar, we had discussed issues of identity and interculturality, trying to determine what change could mean concretely for those experiencing intercultural encounters. The piece seems to show two people interacting or one person dialoguing with herself.
This piece plays around the ‘split’ of the face, with two different kinds of blue (bright versus plain). This is meant to hint at silent changes – these changes taking place in us that we don’t necessarily notice unless someone tells us that something has changed in us. The colourful symbols around the character refer to different influential forces for change.
The ‘face split’ (‘faces’) is much subtler here, with half of the face depicted as very white and the other half purple. Looking at the piece, one is not sure if we are facing one person or two (the two parts are oriented in different directions, the eyes look different). Behind the character a multitude of faces are represented in the yellow halo. The character wears another striped shirt, this time with blue and red alternating (not blue and white or red and white). Change is multiform in this piece.
An important part of my work is to read so that I can keep in touch with current research but also feed in new ideas in my writing. This is my identity. I try to read something every day, but there are more intense periods of reading during which I can spend up to 10 hours reading per day. In such situations, my eyes hurt and I can hardly see. In May 2022 my eyes hurt so much and turn so red that I could not read for several days. Reading contributes to reshaping my ideas and, indirectly, my own identity as a social being but also a scholar, an educator and an artist. The red circles that I show on this piece not only depict the pain I experience with ‘over-reading’ but also the necessity to ‘confront’ myself with others’ minds by reading what they have to say about us, the world and themselves.
One of my favourite novels was written by Gustave Flaubert and is entitled Bouvard and Pécuchet – a tragi-comic novel of bourgeois life (1904). In the novel, two friends aim to write a book about every subject in the world (agriculture, biology, chemistry, gymnastics, politics, etc.) by educating themselves in every possible field. However, their overly ambitious and unrealizable project ends as a disaster as they become engulfed by the complexity of knowledge available. I like this novel because it reminds us of the importance of being modest, realistic and focused. This art piece is a self-portrait based on one of the characters, Bouvard. It shows an enthusiastic and yet somewhat confused person in front of all this knowledge that he could acquire. My thirst for knowledge – all kinds of knowledge – is insatiable.
我最喜欢的小说之一是居斯塔夫·福楼拜（Gustave Flaubert）所著的《布瓦尔与佩杜歇》(Bouvard and Pécuchet）—一部描写资产阶级生活的悲喜剧小说（1904年）。在这部小说中，两个朋友打算写一本关于世界上所有学科(农业、生物、化学、体操、政治等)的书，并通过这本书进行全方位的自我教育。然而，这项“宏伟壮举”最终以灾难告终。他们被现有的复杂知识所吞没。我喜欢这部小说，因为它提醒我们要保持谦虚、实事求是和专心致志。这件作品是以小说人物布瓦尔德(Bouvard)为原型的自画像。展现了人物在面对他需要获得的纷繁复杂的知识面前，一种热情而迷茫的样子。我对知识的渴望——各种各样的知识——永无止境。
Last year I had a discussion with a colleague that made me think deeply about my own relationships with the people who read my books. I rarely meet them and I have no idea who they are and what they think of what I write. With my colleague we started wondering: “Who is it that we write for?”. We realized that few of us scholars consider this question seriously. I then started to imagine who could be reading me. My readers are also part of my identity – a hidden part. I now feel that I need to take them more into consideration, cherish them and talk to them. In this short series, I have portrayed two imaginary readers, with different potential reactions to my work, my ideas and thus to my identity.
This self-portrait is not a comment on having to wear a mask during the COVID-19 crisis. It never really disturbed me. I actually quite like wearing mine as it provides protection from infections but also from others’ staring somehow. It also gives a safe sense of anonymity. This piece was done after reading news about the world. With so many crises, conflicts and misunderstandings, I felt unwell, I could not breathe. The state of the world does have an influence on how we see ourselves, how we feel. As someone interested in intercultural encounters, reading world news from the ‘West’ often makes me feel uncomfortable about my own work, my own writing. Reading such news often questions my own identity as someone who is working hard to try to make a difference, to create bridges between different parts of the world. However, although there are such ‘breathless’ moments, I remain hopeful. Crises can be good moments for preparing for better times.
A central figure of French theatre from the early 20th century Pierrot is based on a character from the Italian commedia dell’arte. Unlike other characters, Pierrot does not wear a mask but white make-up. An unsuccessful lover, Pierrot is often the victim of bullying from others. He is naïve and somewhat foolish but appealed immensely to French audiences. The four self-portraits in this series show a side of my (our) identity that we don’t necessarily wish to admit to. However, being naïve and a laughing stock is something that most of us experience, often without realizing (the character is smiling). Here again we see identity as something that is influenced very much by how others see us and thus contribute to construct us. This first portrait was done after another long period of writing (red eyes).
This Pierrot self-portrait splits the white face of the character into green and white. Green is somewhat taking over the ‘faces’ of Pierrot. As a colour symbolizing goodness, stability and physical energy, green allows to show an image of a Pierrot that could be winning over his naivety and ridicule.
Here Pierrot is done with performing. He has removed some of his white make-up. He looks happy again but this time because he is liberated from the gaze of the other. Black has taken over in the background, showing that change is about to happen. Pierrot is becoming another person. His identity is changing.
In this piece Pierrot has removed his white make-up. The art piece is smaller than the others in the series to show more confidence in Pierrot – beyond naivety and foolishness. His clothing has evolved from yellow-blue squares, light ‘dramatic’ blue to a nuanced and comfortable blue here. Identity as change.
This final series for section 1 goes back to the idea of metamorphoses through the word transformation. The first and second pieces are based on imaginary representations of what a friend’s child could look like in the future. This lovely child has one particularity: he always plays with his own hands. So, I represent his imaginary future selves, reproducing this constant ‘hand game’, which is central to his current identity. While this first piece is darker, the second one represents him with a lighter face. My interest in diversity influences the use of colour to represent a future imaginary self.
This piece shows Sisyphus from Greek mythology looking at us upside down (or looking at himself in the mirror of our eyes?) between two mountains. Sisyphus was condemned to push a boulder up and down a hill by the Gods. A meaningless, endless and tedious task. Albert Camus (1913-1960) ends his book about the Myth of Sisyphus by asking us to imagine Sisyphus happy – although his plight is unbearable. Our lives might sound and look like the Myth of Sisyphus at times. Taking a break to consider what we do (and not do), have (and not have), think (and not think), might be a good reminder of the necessity to go on and to see things from different perspectives – and to transform ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings, our identities.
这幅作品展示了希腊神话中的西西弗（Sisyphus），他在两座山之间倒立着看向我们（或者他正与我们双目对视，就如同照镜子一般）。西西弗因得罪诸神，罚他把一块巨石来回推上山。这是一项毫无目的、永无止境且乏味的工作。阿尔贝·加缪（Albert Camus, 1913-1960）在他《西西弗的神话》一书的结尾中让我们想象西西弗是幸福的——尽管他的处境极度困难。尽管我们的生活有时听起来也像是《西西弗的神话》，但我们不妨停下来思考一下，我们做了什么（或没做什么）、我们有了什么（或没有什么）、我们思考（或不思考）。这也许很好地提醒我们继续前行，并且从不同的角度去看问题——去改变我们自己、我们的思想、我们的感受和我们的身份。
The viewer might see different phenomena in this piece. Some might see anger, tiredness, anxiety (the reddish colour). What this piece tries to depict is what a creative process might look like. A creative process can trigger contradictory emotions in us from joy to frustration. The character in this piece looks happy and is staring at someone or something while ideas are ‘streaming’ inside of him. Such moments of inspiration and creativity are important to me as a scholar, educator and artist since they can bring in new input into my work and thus in my engagement with other people.
This last piece from the Transformation series complements and is in direct dialogue with Transformation IV. The character is shown here again in a powerful fit of creativity, inspired by different voices and images (symbolized by the colourful shapes around his head). The word ebullition symbolizes the kinds of feelings that one can experience in such moments of identity metamorphoses.
In my research on intercultural encounters, which usually involve people from different parts of the world, I have used a theory entitled Dialogism inspired by the work of the literary critique Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975). This theory maintains that any encounter is always embedded in previous (real and/or imaginary) encounters with other people. This means that meeting someone for the first time always involves finding connections to other situations, words and faces that we have come across. When we meet interculturally, there are always multiple voices between us – the voices of those we have met or ideas that we have been introduced to. All these usually influence the way we treat others and speak to each other. They might also give us the illusion that we already know the other. For example, national stereotypes about other people contribute to mis-reading the other. In this art piece I show two persons, one facing the other, the other one looking away from her gaze. Between and around them, all the different voices that they have come across in their lives are represented. Dialogism is central to how we express, present and construct our identity with others. The fact that the scene between these two strangers is represented in a big circle (bubble) also reminds us that seeing it as spectators will create dialogues between the art piece and us as well as within ourselves.
Here again, the main character looks sub-divided while connected to himself. Is it him only or him with another person? In any case, the resulting identity is that of encounters and dialogues between self and other, self and self, other and other. The theory of dialogism reminds us that dialogue is not just between two persons but that it often happens within each person.
This third piece from the series depicts a person with multiple layers of ‘others’, represented by expanding colourful shapes. The character is looking slightly sideways as if he were addressing someone on the left side of the painting. The subtitle of the piece, discover your alter, reminds us that it is through in-/direct encounters that we construct who we are and that the alter (Latin for other) is central in this process.
This piece focuses on the inclusion of the other in self. A small face seems to be part of the left side of the main character’s head (or is it not?). When we meet someone, we become somehow part of each other for a while. We merge, we consume each other, we construct with each other but we can also reject and destroy each other. In the painting it is hard to read the emotions of the two faces. Maybe they are angry, maybe they are eager to be with each other, maybe they dislike each other, maybe they like disliking each other. The message of this piece is that of change again – change in emotions as we engage with each other.
This imaginary face is used here to try to depict the feeling of missing someone – a feeling that all of us will have experienced throughout their lives. How to express this feeling? Are words strong and delicate enough to do so? The use of colours (red, blue, white and grey) here and shapes (elongated features) represent symbols of missing someone to me as a thinker and an artist. I am aware that for viewers from different parts of the world, representing ‘missing someone’ might not be viewed in similar terms.
This piece opens a short series on looking at each other – an important component of encountering. The title of the series looks like an order (look at me!). Yet looking at someone should not be about being forced to do it. It should come naturally; it should be reciprocal, meaningful and ‘educational’ – in the sense that I can learn from and with the other by looking at them. This first piece represents two characters who appear to be very different physically (with one wearing a white mask). They are staring into each other’s eyes. Viewers might see different messages here, depending on the way they have been made to think about intercultural communication. My own message here is: Observe each other, listen to each other, learn with each other. Make encounters your own encounters!
This painting is a bit intriguing and some viewers might see it as troubling. Looking at each other here appears to be a bit forceful and making one of the characters uncomfortable. What is their relationship? Why does their encounter appear to be creating some anxiety? What have they done to each other? Here again, the use of colours might be interpreted in different ways by viewers. I thus invite you to try to put yourself in the two characters’ positions to reflect on how we behave and think in such encounters.
This colourful piece was inspired by a visit to an art shop where many busts of famous (Western) figures were lined up on shelves. They all had different personalities, features and postures. But the situation was somewhat morbid. They just stood there, lifeless, all in their own splendor. I did this piece in colourful ways to contrast with the reality of what I saw in the art shop. Yet, the two characters are lifeless. One has his eyes closed looking sideways and the other one has his eyes wide open and yet ‘zombie-like’. This appears to be the epitome of what I call a mis-encounter (an encounter that is not an encounter; an encounter that is not happening).
This series is composed of four pieces that depict specific forms of intercultural encounters based on mere staring. No words, no verbal exchange between the characters. Just their eyes considering the other in certain ways. In this first piece one of the characters appears to be uneasy about the stare that he is experiencing from the red-eyed lady. His mouth is opened as if he is about to say something – or just shocked. In the background, one sees symbols of multiple voices again, representing what is happening in the back of their minds as staring is occurring. Why is she staring? What is so intriguing about him? Why is he staring back? What is he about to say? How does she feel? To me the staring in this series has to do with the question that anyone in the position of the foreigner anywhere in the world has to answer: where are you from?
I drew this piece after an encounter in a park in China. As I was sitting on a bench reading, I realized that someone was about to take of picture of me – without asking for my permission. Somewhat destabilized by this experience, I asked them not to stare at and ‘freeze’ me through their camera. I then wondered about this episode: was this an encounter? Why would someone take a picture of me like that? What would they do with the picture? Who would see it and what would they make of me? What would this (unwanted) encounter and the future encounters of those viewing the picture later do to my identity? I drew the photographer half-hiding behind a curtain – that of his camera. My face is ‘split’ into two parts, since what the photographer saw in me probably has nothing to do with who I am.
In this piece about staring the question of origins is asked directly (where are you from?). I used different colours for the contour of the eyes of the two characters to show that their understanding and representation of the answer (e.g. France, China, Brazil) tend to differ immensely. The fact that one character seems to be bending over the other might also have to do with the kind of hierarchies that one creates with labels derived from answering the question of origins. For some of us, putting our origins on the table might lead to admiration, kindness and dialogue, for others, this might lead to negative stereotypes, prejudice and even racism.
This series focuses on an important element that is recurrent in my work: the mirror. It contains seven paintings entitled Mon miroir (French for My Mirror) and represents looking at oneself in a real mirror or in the mirror of the other’s eyes. Mirrors have a long ‘mythical’ history in different parts of the world. As important bridges to self and other, mirrors help us reflect on ourselves with others and vice versa. In this first piece, I show two persons facing each other, with one holding a mirror in front of the other, revealing him with a COVID mask on, hiding half of his face. Why is he looking into this mirror? What is he thinking about himself being ‘masked’ while seeing the other unmasked? What does this encounter tell them about who they are?
In this piece the eye of the other becomes the mirror. While engaging with others, we can reflect on ourselves, compare ourselves to others. When others talk to us, describe us, criticize us, we use them as mirrors. This mirroring effect can lead to change in both of us.
This third piece of the Mon Miroir series I drew for the Italian version of a book I published in 2022. The piece shows two persons facing each other, with one character physically in front of us, and the other viewed in a mirror. The one reflected in the mirror seems to wear white make-up like the Pierrot character from other art pieces. They both wear the same blue striped T-shirt, seen in many pieces before. What is unclear here is who holds the mirror and why they are holding the mirror to show one of the characters. My intentions in doing this piece was to emphasize the hyphen, the necessary connection between you and me when we meet. What we do together, say together, co-construct together has an influence on both of us. Although physically we are separated, ‘mentally’ we are part of the same continuum. A Chinese idiom, The moon is not better on the other side, reminds us that admiring the other must be done with reflexivity and criticality. Self is as good and bad as the other.
This piece is also based on another Chinese saying that suggests getting out of our own well to see more perspectives on who we are and what the world is. The piece shows a face emerging from their well staring at another being who stands outside the well. Encountering other people outside one’s own comfort zone and looking at oneself in the mirror they represent, can make encounters more fruitful and enriching. Again, in the piece, the characters are surrounded by multiple shapes representing different voices and influences.
This piece shows a character with a striped shirt embracing the moon with the face of another person embedded in it. The title of the piece refers to the moon character, someone who is ‘charming’ the other character by misleading him to see himself (and at the same time their relations) in fabricated ways. This type of encounter, which can be short-term or long-term, damages both self and future trust in others.
This piece is a reference to a ballet composed for full orchestra by Béla Bartók (1881-1945). In the ballet, a cruel girl and a gang of thieves thrive by stealing from and killing strangers on the streets. One day the girl meets a gentle but mythical Mandarin with whom she falls in love. But the Mandarin has to die before their love is consumed, after which the girl repents. The main character in the art piece represents the wise Mandarin looking at the thieves and the girl plotting to abuse him. This last piece from the Mon Miroir series is another reminder that encounters can be transformative, even if tragic.
这幅作品的创作基于贝拉·巴托克（Béla Bartók, 1881-1945）为管弦乐队所创作的芭蕾舞曲目。芭蕾舞围绕着这样的一个故事展开。一个残忍的女孩和一帮小偷，通过在街上偷窃和杀害陌生人，而发展壮大变得更有钱。有一天，女孩遇到了一位温柔且神秘的中国人，并与之陷入爱河。但，这位中国人在他们的爱情消逝之前死去了。在这之后女孩才悔悟之前的所作所为。这幅作品的人物表示了聪明的中国人正看着小偷和女孩，他们正在密谋如何虐待他。《我的镜子》系列的最后一部作品揭示了另一个提醒，即使是悲惨的遇见，也会带来改变的力量。
The final series of the (Re-)encountering section is colourful and joyful. It asks us to remember to look for and observe good things in our encounters. This first piece shows three people (maybe there are more?) standing next to each other, with two staring at the central figure. This is meant to represent both the discomfort but also excitement of meeting people for the first time. The large sun above their heads is a symbol of hope and happiness here.
Three happy funny/special-looking characters are depicted here. They seem to be characters from either a comedy show or some sort of Hollywood superhero film. These characters are in fact inspired by a Chinese family I have met many times, with each of the family members being special, friendly and delightful. The piece describes them laughing and smiling, being delighted to meet a new person, a new friend who might be us the viewers of the piece of art. I have often seen the English word Happy printed on different documents (e.g. calendars) in China. Although I find it hard to understand the meaning of this word, meeting the aforementioned Chinese family, I get a sense of what it could mean for them.
This is a piece describing a young family, with a buoyant wife, a responsible father and a curious little boy. I tried to represent the very special smile of the wife, which contrasts with the ‘seriousness’ of the husband. Who the little boy is staring at is hard to say. The encounter with this family can trigger different emotions in us.
The last piece of this section is titillating. A couple is engaged in a passionate kiss. One can read the strong passion in the eyes of one of the kissers. Who are they? How long have they known each other? When did they meet? What is their future together?
The first series of the third and last section of the exhibition is my interpretation of a ballet (Ballets Russes) and of a piece of accompanying music by composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Le Sacre du Printemps – the Rite of Spring. Premiered in Paris in 1913, the ballet provoked a scandal and is remembered as one of the most important ballet/music pieces of the 20th century. The theme of the ballet is the arrival and awakening of the spring. For many people around the world, spring might mean different things and their experiences of this season be nearly non-existent. In Finland spring is a very important moment since it represents the end of a long cold and dark winter. Overnight, when spring comes, everything blossoms, nature is alive again and shares with us its celebration of life. Originally from Russia, Stravinsky’s experience of spring was very similar to my own experiences of the season in the North of Europe. Through his music, he wanted to share what nature does to itself and to human beings when it emerges from ‘under the snow and ice’. I have spent a few spring times in countries where one does not really feel that a new season has emerged and I have longed for experiencing what I call a ‘real’ spring like the one I described. The pieces in this series all show the joy but also the brutality of the arrival of spring through the lens of both the ballet and the music of Stravinsky. I depict some of the dancers from the ballet as well as the impact of spring on nature.
展览第三部分也是最后一部分，第一个系列是我对作曲家伊戈尔·斯特拉文斯基（Igor Stravinsky，1882-1971）所做创作的伴奏曲《春之祭》（Le Sacre du Printemps–The Rite of Spring）的诠释。虽然这部芭蕾舞剧在1913年巴黎的首演时引发了一场丑闻，但它仍被誉为20世纪最重要的芭蕾舞/音乐作品之一。芭蕾舞的主题是春天的到来和觉醒。世界各地的许多人对春天的理解不尽相同，有些人几乎没有体验过“真正的”春天。在芬兰，春天是一个非常重要的时刻，因为它表示漫长而寒冷的冬天就要结束了。一夜之间，春来，万物苏醒，大自然重新焕发出生机，与我们共庆新生的到来。斯特拉文斯基（Stravinsky）来自俄罗斯，他对春天的感受和我对北欧的感受非常相似。通过他的音乐，他想要分享当自然从“冰雪之下”展露头脚时，大自然对自己和人类做了什么。我曾在一些国家度过了几个春天，在那里人们并没有真正感到新季节的到来，我渴望体验我所描述的“真正的”春天。该系列作品通过芭蕾舞和斯特拉文斯基（Stravinsky）的音乐，展现了春天到来的狂喜。我描绘了芭蕾舞剧中不同的舞者，以及春天对自然的影响。
The ballet of the Rite of Spring was criticized by many spectators because of the movements of the dancers which, today, might be reminiscent of ‘robots’. Some had called the movements typical of ‘people at a mental asylum’. This was 1913. Today, the dance world is no stranger to diverse forms of dance moves. In the pieces that describe the dancers, I have tried to depict the somewhat atypical movements of the dancers – showing the influence of nature and spring on the human psyche.
Having seen a re-creation of the original ballet from 1913, I noticed how colourful the dancers’ costumes were. I was also impressed by their resemblances with some traditional costumes from Finland. In this piece and others, I share my interpretations and reimagining of these costumes, using different colours and shapes.
(See previous pieces)
Here I imagine myself (see the character containing my stamp signature) meeting and dialoguing with the old man from the ballet, surrounded by men from his tribe. The old man is leading the sacrifice that will take place to celebrate the arrival of spring.
(See previous pieces)
In this piece, I have added a white mask to the face of one of the male dancers, hinting back at the mask metaphor used in other sections. This is meant to symbolize the influence of nature on our (changing) identity too.
This piece is my reaction to listening to the Rite of Spring again after many months of not hearing it. I use the French word Fracassant (ear-splitting) to describe this experience. The music from the Rite is somewhat extreme, but especially unique, empowering and energising. Listening to it again is like awakening at the end of winter in Finland. I use black and bronze in the piece since these two colours symbolize both death and rebirth to me. Bronze is also a material that I associate with traditional Finnish handicraft, of which I am very fond.
This piece and its title can be interpreted in different ways and is full of symbolism that I prefer the viewers to reflect on by themselves.
This piece depicts how I felt when I discovered a section of a park in Beijing that was very much reminiscent of a forest that is very dear to me in Finland. The park was empty on that day so I was mostly alone in this ‘mini-Finland’. The piece shows my surprise and tries to describe how the déjà-vu of the place blends in with my head and body, as if I was saying this place is also me. Nature in me, in China and Finland.
This funny piece I drew after a piano recital. As I was sitting at the front of the stage, I could observe the piano and every movement of the pianist who looked as if he was riding a horse while playing. I thus represented the piano as galloping here. Seeing people, animals and other things in other objects is a very common phenomenon that reminds us that the borders that some of us have created between the living and the (non-)living deserve to be questioned and revised. I have published a couple of books on what I have called ‘silent partners’ in communication, referring to things.
At the beginning of the summer, some years ago in Beijing, I noticed at a park that water lilies contained hundreds of little drops on top of them after rain showers. The drops stood there without disappearing. On one occasion, as I was admiring this phenomenon all alone (there were no other park visitors), I started seeing crowds of people in these thousands of drops on the ‘leaves’. I then drew these crowds of people, calling the water lilies ‘living leaves’.
Bamboo Park in Haidian (Beijing) has always been an important park for me – a source of energy, creativity and amazement. When summer comes, the park changes, more colours appear, lotus flowers start blossoming. A feast for the eyes. In this series, I share interpretations of different sections of the park, offering at the same time dialogues with Finnish nature.
In this piece, I have tried to represent the small water drops on the water lilies after a rain shower that I mentioned earlier.
(See other pieces from this series)
The very last series focuses on representing self and nature, especially mountains. Mountains are not very common sights in Finland since the country tends to be rather ‘flat’. In a place like Beijing, there are many mountains surrounding the city. I have always been amazed by mountains. They remind us how small we are as beings – they even put us back in our ‘small’ place! I have noticed how in Chinese art, mountains are usually depicted as dominating a landscape, with people given a very small part. These three pieces show how I relate to white, black and colourful mountains. However, the characters that I have placed in front of them, although somewhat smaller than the mountains, still seem to dominate the landscapes. What do the mountains tell about these characters? How complementary are the characters and nature here?
The character here, who looks somewhat confused, is towering in front of the mountains. He is the focus of the painting, the mountains a mere background.
In this piece, the character seems to blend in with the colourfulness of the mountains.
ICI LABAS 艺栈画廊简介
2017 年，随着法国画家弗朗西斯 . 德 . 朗洛画展的开幕， ICI-LABAS 艺栈也打开了大门，在 798 艺术园区正式落户了。它的成立为园区增添了新的气息，为艺术家提供了新的天地，为中外文化交流搭建了新的平台。艺栈将秉承融汇东西、鼓励创新、搭建平台、服务大众的理念，让东西方文化在这里得以交流，让年轻的艺术家在这里施展才华，让广大民众在这里得到艺术的享受，让中华优秀文化从这里走向世界。
ICI LABAS Gallery was founded as part of Beijing WM Architecture Design Company in 2017. The gallery aims to showcase first-rate international visual art from the East and the West, highlighting innovation, building up a platform for communication around art and serving the general public. Introducing Chinese art to the rest of the world also represents one of its main endeavours. Based on academic and outstanding service, focusing on the past, present and future, ICI LABAS Gallery opens up more possibilities for today’s contemporary art world.
北京市朝阳区酒仙桥 798 艺术区 D10
798 东街 ICI LABAS 艺栈画廊
ICI LABAS Art Gallery, East Street,
798 Art District, Beijing
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