In living a life there are very few guarantees, but experiencing loss is one emotional hurdle we all will face at some given point. How we handle it depends upon its nature, but the death of a loved one carries its own signature. It is a fundamental human experience that can bring solace for some and the loss of self for others. This is the starting point in understanding Hilla Kurki series Fallen Feathers (from the Phoenix series). It begins with her sister’s death at the early age of 28 and how Kurki incorporates this personal tragedy into her own story, using her grief as stepping-stones towards a New Becoming. She transforms her sister’s forgotten black dresses into a bridge to link us through to her memories in hope of self-recovery. Kurki‘s photographs have a familiar feel to Yoko Ono‘s early performances from the 1960s, where she sits upon a stage in a self-induced trance while members of the audience come forward to cut pieces from her clothing. By cutting, sewing and weaving, Kurki works through all her sister’s collected garments to reshape her personal story, to enable her to take back the authority to determine her own fate. The dresses are symbolic vestiges, incomplete empty shells invoking the absence of presence. One cannot empty out an emotion just by feeling it. One can overcome it and learn to own it, by meticulously retelling it. This follows a long history of female artists who renegotiate the past through self-reflection and re-evaluation of their own families’ relationships and how a profound experience can endlessly resonate. 

Hilla Kurki was born in Anjalankoski, Finland, in 1985. She lives and works in Helsinki. Her recent exhibitions include the solo show Fallen Feathers (from the Phoenix series), at Gallery Taik Persons, (Berlin, 2017) and group exhibitions, such as Photo the Finnish Museum of Photography (Helsinki, 2013).