Mixed media installation, 2013
Flowerhat Phenomenology was an exhibition that united the video installation Thin Membrane, the video Settler and a five audio-painting series Flowerhat Phenomenology that took place at Turku gallery Titanik, 31.1-24.2 2013. The exhibition tackled the controversial topic of Titanik’s Open Call of what should be considered “natural”.
The video Settler is a remake of a scene from Jan Troell’s film of the same name about Swedish immigrants to North America in the late 19th century. This scene portrays a Swedish woman who proudly demonstrates her beautiful flower hat which in the film represents a symbol of fairer opportunities after emigrating to another country.
The person portrayed in the video – Fatima Usman, Chairperson at Africans and African-Europeans Association(Afaes ry), actor, dancer and teacher from Helsinki, had her own reasons for needing to start a new life with more opportunities abroad. The video, where we see her constructing her own hat, celebrates this universal human urge to go where we can be free to live and create, while it was also made in reaction to conservative ideas gaining support in Finland at the time.
The installation Flowerhat Phenomenology continues on these themes in a different format which consists of five framed portraits of people living in Finland with Greek, Finnish-Russian, Iranian, Finnish-Swedish-Italian and Swiss-Haitian background, that were painted based on interviews with them. The paintings appear in a discussion with one another due to specifically edited interviews and loudspeakers built into the canvas frames. These talking portraits converse about personal experiences and memories of living in or travelling to different places, revealing the attachment to various elements of the landscapes and social scenes.
Dark silhouettes with huge and colorful hats depicted in a ray of light on the canvases symbolize on the one hand the blind notion of the stranger, and on the other glimpses of infinitely rich subjective worlds made visible and flourishing. The flowers, fruits, trees and plants that constitute the prosperous hats are all mentioned in the interviews, as part of the individual experiences of places and situations these people have encountered.
The installation turns upside-down the Finnish term “Kukkahattutäti” (literally translated “Flower hat lady”, a Finnish insult mainly used in mundane populist commentary to disparage someone, often a politician or person in any decision making position with an open minded view on immigration). The term used in this context on the contrary highlights a person’s vibrant inner life coming through in colours and gifts of nature, while celebrating the appreciation of other people’s subjectivities as a prerequisite for a flourishing community.
Flowerhat Phenomenology was a solo exhibition in January 2013 at Titanik Gallery in Turku, Finland, that also included the film installation Thin Membrane.
Concept, camera and painting: Minna Långström
Cast: Fatima Usman
Sound: Jani Lehto
Carpentry: Manu Kuoppamäki
Thanks to everyone who participated by being interviewed and photographed for the paintings.