Mike Egan:

Iiu Susiraja: What Am I?

Mike Egan was a MOBIUS Fellow at Sinne, Helsinki in October 2016. His MOBIUS project, Iiu Susiraja's solo exhibition at Ramiken Crucible gallery in New York City, was on view from November 13 to December 18, 2016.

Iiu Susiraja, Ketsuppi, 2016. Video, 0'54. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Ketsuppi, 2016. Video, 0'54. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, What Am I?, installation view at Ramiken Crucible, New York. November 13 – December 18, 2016.
Iiu Susiraja, What Am I?, installation view at Ramiken Crucible, New York. November 13 – December 18, 2016.
Iiu Susiraja, Toimiva kommunikaatio, 2016. Chromogenic print, 15,5 x 22 inches framed. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Toimiva kommunikaatio, 2016. Chromogenic print, 15,5 x 22 inches framed. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Lucia, 2010. Chromogenic print, 16 x 15,75 inches. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Lucia, 2010. Chromogenic print, 16 x 15,75 inches. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Varasto, 2016. Video, 1'09. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Varasto, 2016. Video, 1'09. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.

To enter Iiu Susiraja’s ruthlessly deadpan universe, it helps to examine her home turf; this is how I connected to her work. Midcentury liberalization in Finland led to a booming full employment economy through the mid-1980s. Economic stagnation, a social texture familiar in the nearby Soviet Bloc, hit Finland hard in the late 1980’s. The 1990s were tough: a debt crisis was followed by austerity measures which gutted social programs. High unemployment in the cities led to an increase in the number of people without anywhere to live. Out of this time in Finland came some of the greatest, funniest, most humane films, by a director named Aki Kaurismäki. My favorite is The Man Without A Past (2002). Kaurismäki’s films focus on the working class, and the problems regular people have in life. His gift is the presentation of absolute deadpan, an emotionless candor that radiates hope and life. His characters are beautiful to watch, because their deadpan delivery doesn’t define their personality, but rather opens a door into a vulnerable soul, someone who has been defeated by the endless turmoil of interpretation, and is confused about what to feel. His characters surrender to what happens next, while trying to do the best they can, with their only tools being a set of basic human values. This kind of person creates space: the space in which life can happen. When I experience Iiu Susiraja’s work, I sense a variation of this very special honesty. Here, in her work, through her strange gaze, Susiraja is the most subtle and skilled of technicians, as she tests the observational limits of the audience, playing with our awareness. Her photographs and videos are shot in single takes at her parents’ house in Turku. There isn’t a false note. Her confident, comfortable ease suggests our own obsolescence. She’s quietly watching. She’s resting. She’s doing nothing. Her photography doesn’t offer any explanations. In Lucia (2010), she sits with a giant teddy bear and an electric candle taped to her forehead. In Luuta (2010), she has a broom, but she’s not sweeping. What is she doing? Susiraja’s self-portraits produce a hilarious complexity that cannot be reduced to a style of appearance, or a superlative attitude. Her work has no subject. She’s not acting. She asks herself, “What am I?” (Text by Mike Egan)

Iiu Susiraja (b. 1975) lives and works in Turku, Finland. This is her first solo exhibition at Ramiken.

The exhibition is supported by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York through the Mobius Fellowship Program.

Installation view photos by Dario Lasagni. Courtesy of Ramiken Crucible.

During his MOBIUS Fellowship in Helsinki in October 2016, Egan familiarized himself with the local contemporary art scene through studio visits and furthermore hosted two public events at the Frame Contemporary Art Finland and SIC Helsinki.

Iiu Susiraja, Luuta, 2010. Chromogenic print, 12,5 x 16 inches framed. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Luuta, 2010. Chromogenic print, 12,5 x 16 inches framed. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, What Am I?, installation view at Ramiken Crucible, New York. November 13 – December 18, 2016.
Iiu Susiraja, What Am I?, installation view at Ramiken Crucible, New York. November 13 – December 18, 2016.
Iiu Susiraja, Puruluu, 2010. Chromogenic print, 14 x 16 inches. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Puruluu, 2010. Chromogenic print, 14 x 16 inches. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Hampurilainen, 2015. Video. 4'08. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Hampurilainen, 2015. Video. 4'08. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Perinnepirkot huomio 1, 2012. Chromogenic print, 14,5 x 16 inches framed. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.
Iiu Susiraja, Perinnepirkot huomio 1, 2012. Chromogenic print, 14,5 x 16 inches framed. Installation view at Ramiken Crucible.

Mobius