An Interview With: Katariina Yli-Malmi
What is your name and how would you best describe your practice in a sentence?
Hi, my name is Katariina Yli-Malmi and my I think the first question is the most difficult one.
My art practice is like a wave, constantly moving and reforming. It’s made of the same origin but it never stays as exactly the same. However, I am currently interested in researching the role of the artist in today’s art context, a reoccurring theme in my art practice is the female sexuality and how it is represented.
Could you highlight the key themes that you address in this body of work and your main concerns going into the project?
Through this project, I hoped to explore the ephemerality of the human experience and the ways in which we come to terms with the fragility of our existence. Questioning the finality of our linear timeline, I explored the cyclical rhythms of nature through the movement of the human body. I aimed to create a body of work that considers existence and death through people’s personal experience but also in relation to the broader discussion surrounding the topic. My research included looking into the relationship between the desires for bodily perfection, to develop immortal beings and to situate ourselves in virtual realities with the fears of the ageing body and death.
How did you arrive at the edit of photographs used in the degree show installation at Edinburgh?
At some point during my final year at ECA, I had this realisation that most of the photographs I have taken seem to discuss the same exact topic. Therefore my degree show project became about finally completing this project or at least arriving at some conclusions with the project. It meant that I had my entire photographic archive to work with and to use as research. I began the process by going through my whole art archive and pulling together photographs that stuck with me (in relation to the theme). Simultaneously I was taking new photographs all the time (consciously addressing the topic now). So the final edit of photographs is a combination of images from my archive and photographs I took during the last months of my art education. When finalising the execution of the project it was important for me to have a selection of photographs that each individually discussed the themes and context but most importantly that the series would come together as a whole. I was hoping to create almost like a journey through the photographs that when installed on the walls would begin with the first image on the left and finish with the last one on the right.
Why is it that you use photography over other mediums?
I have to admit that I work with other mediums too – movement based practices as well as with different workshops formats. However, photography is the medium that introduced me to art. I feel that the strict commitment I had towards photography, in the beginning, has meant that I always have a focus and a beginning point and then I can allow myself to experiment with other mediums too.
The reason why I am interested in using photography is that it is so strongly visual (obvious, I guess) but compared to the other mediums I use it is entirely different.
For me, photographs represent a path to another dimension: through photography, I can create realities that aren’t otherwise possible. I am exploring and collecting moments from this world, observing these moments in photographs and finally presenting them in new ways. Photography is a voyage to somewhere new.
The photographs selected vary visually and also in the sense that some appear more constructed, while some appear observational. Is this an approach that you use throughout your projects?
Yes, I have often used a similar approach in my projects. For me, it feels very natural to combine different methods and techniques in a single project. I believe the context is what brings the pictures together rather than the technique of photographing.
Each one of the four photographs in my final exhibition has been created differently: the first one (white background, hand) is a constructed image, taken on Hasselblad and was deliberately created for this project. The second one (the dancer) was produced in collaboration with the dancer-artist in the picture and initially for her research (this is a digital photograph, taken on DSLR). The third image (statue) I took on 35mm film camera and it is a colour photograph originally. The last picture (the body) is a black & white 35mm analogue photograph and was taken when observing the person going through their morning routine.
In your installation for the project you utilised some less conventional presentation methods, such as the glass plinths. Could you tell us more about the importance of bringing work to exhibition in a way that is cohesive to the work?
From the beginning, it felt essential that the presentation of the work would be in line with the concept of the piece. The series is about balance – balance between life and death – I wanted the installation to mimic the theme as well. I chose the glass plinths and the shelves to continue exploring the idea of balance and the presentation of the figures in the photographs. The human body is pulling up, floating, evaluated, balancing and pulled back down in the images. I consider the glass and the shelves to further contirbute to these ideas.
I have always appreciated a careful presentation, and the final art school project gave me an opportunity to experience how that can add so much more to the artwork.
In regards to the video piece that forms part of the project. what was your experience of making this, and what is your perspective as a photographer using moving image?
I often think my photographs as still films and my films as moving photographs. For me, photography and film have always been very closely related. Almost always when I take photographs, I also record some video clips. I work with these two mediums simultaneously and only later in the editing process I decide whether it is photographs or film I would prefer to use for a project. Sometimes I can't separate them, and they both become part of a project, also because they can express different notion about the same concept.
If you could turn back the clock five years, what would be your best advice to yourself?
There is no rush – take all the time you need to think, read, plan and complete your art projects.