Frame 61

Liisa Ahlfors

Frame 61
Liisa Ahlfors

"Rather than following a line of systematic production I cultivate my ability to respond specifically to each situation, space, or context."


Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?

I studied at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences in Tampere, Finland and graduated from the programme of Fine Art in 2011. I worked as an artist for few years before entering my master studies at the Aalto University, School of Art, Design, and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland, in the programme of Environmental Art from which I graduated in 2015. In addition, I have studied in the Estonian Academy of Arts at the department of Sculpture in Tallinn, Estonia. 

Most of your work seems to be a reaction/reflection of the environment that it is set in, do you feel that this way of working pushes you / “keeps you on your toes” to create works that are new and challenging for you? 

My work is definitely fuelled by the challenge of a new environment. Rather than following a line of systematic production I cultivate my ability to respond specifically to each situation, space, or context. Each environment forces me to reconsider my approach to it as what may have worked in one environment does not necessarily work in the other. 

No Man is an Iland (installation), 2016

No Man is an Iland (installation), 2016

Study (performance), 2014

Could you tell us about the project “Siege”?

Siege is a project I did in 2015 after being asked by two Austrian artists/curators Julia Hartig and Marie Theresé Luger to exhibit at Kunsthalle Linz, a transportable miniature kunsthalle ran by Hartig and Luger. Originating from Linz, Austria, the kunsthalle toured the world for project Kunsthalle Linz Export. Siege was exhibited at the relocated Kunsthalle Linz in my apartment in Tampere, Finland. Compiled out of deconstructed chair inside the Kunsthalle Linz, the remaining legs served as a pedestal for the ensemble extending the installation outside the pseudo-public exhibition space of the Kunsthalle Linz into the private living room.

By reframing the scale of the private and public, the installation was addressing issues of authority and accessibility related to the established art institutions (to which the project Kunsthalle Linz originally responded to), proposed with my installation as under siege by artist-run projects such as Kunsthalle Linz. The exhibition was an event resembling a happening, with speech held by Luger, musical act Sunny&Cloudy performing, and a screening projected onto the kitchen wall from Linz, where the exhibition was celebrated simultaneously via Skype.

Siege, 2015

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?

In fact, I do not have a studio. Creating ideas is more of a conceptual than material or technical process for me, so I justdo my research at home. My work is divided into periods of research and other background work like applying for funding and exhibitions, when I am mostly on my laptop writing, and into periods of more concrete artistic work which often takes place on the exhibition site. 

How do you go about naming your work?

Siege is a good example how I usually name my work: the title refers both to a seat as well as a military surrounding or blockading of a city or fortress, the material of the work being a chair. I usually aim at adding a conceptual layer to the work or give an insight of the content for the viewer with the title. I like word plays. 

What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?

Surprise! Which is why the public space is probably so appealing to me. I like to see what happens when the viewer encounters with art without expecting it and without a mindset of a museum or gallery space.

Homespun, 2014

Curtain, 2015

Perler, 2012

Perler (detail), 2012

Unmentionables, 2015

Unmentionables, 2015

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

Few that resonated with me were Simryn Gill’s Here Art Grows on Trees (2013) and Joan Jonas’sThey Come to Us Without a Word (2015) – both seen at the Venice Biennale and dealing with temporal dimensions of space. Gill’s work focused on temporal process in one particular space, while Jonas’s exhibition created a sort of a counterpart to Gill’s in my mind; a project that was activated and reactivated again in various spaces and thus proposing an existence in the infinitive form.

What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about? 

At the moment I am working on a project, a collaboration with my friend and colleague Anastasia Artemeva, which deals with shared cultural history of summer cottages and dachas between Finnish and Russians and will take a form of a performative and participatory installation at Gallery Huuto in Helsinki, Finland in the summer 2017. Prior to this, I will be an artist-in-residence at SÍM in Reykjavík, Iceland and Fusion Art Gallery in Turin, Italy. 

Artist's website

Interview published: 30/09/16