I remove my glasses to see better, to allow my gaze to turn inwards, to grasp the vanishing images of memory. I am standing in a recently stitched up frock. The seam with its white tack thread is turned outwards, making it easier to perform adjustments. What if it where be taken in. Or should the stitches be unpicked, so that the dress would fit and reveal the full stretch of my figure. The salmon red garters rest against the thin legs and keep the coarse socks from falling down around the ankles while the needle worker's hands carry on the work of past generations, shifting history from past to future. The slowly circulating blood makes my legs tingle and transforms a moment into a small eternity.
The metamorphosis of clothes and threads drifts beyond pragmatic understanding, epitomized by a faded image in which the famous juxtaposition of a sewing machine and an umbrella can be distinguished. Could it be only coincidence that Lautréamont chose the sewing machine as a vector for his poetic vision? The surreal draws its strength from the infinite reservoir of dreams and associations. But while psychoanalysis tries to solve the mystery of that reservoir, the surrealist dives into its depths, and makes an ideal out of what is insoluble. Therefore, to attempt to reduce Lautréamont´s proposition to a system of binary opposites is inevitably to traduce it.
The surgery table, however, can be the locus of certain analytical operations concerning the body, the base from which we intrude into the corporeal inner space. On the other hand the mechanical movement of sewing is destined to create a new and close-fitting second skin. In the work of Ulla Jokisalo, these two operations seamlessly connect to each other. The nostalgic play that emerges from the tradition of craftsmanship and the scissored edges of the images deconstruct the ideal unity of the human body. The continuity of the headless figures is founded on small details. The direction of the pose, the model of the shoes and the time-bound designs turn a shattered story line into single images. The anthropology of experience becomes a poetic game of personal impressions.
The Akephalos are known to Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology and represent headless gods whose identities cannot be reduced to the same guarantee of resemblance as is provided by a passport photograph. The headless god was also the metaphor used by Georges Bataille in order to criticise rational thinking, as well as a communality built upon hierarchical authority. As fascism rose up in Europe in the 1930s, Bataille created a review and a secret society called Acéphale. In their activities, the questioning of existentialist issues, mechanisms of faith and the possibility of a collective experience were intertwined. The goal was a holy communality which in the vein of laughter, sacrifice and orgy would "blow up the isolation of the individual", as the philosopher Tiina Arppe put it.
In the work of Jokisalo, the inherent loneliness of human existence, my own loneliness, drowns within a stream, which encompasses generations. Delayed by time, the intonation resonates in my bones and opens the way to the archaic ruins of memory, to the stage of the lost original home. The architect Juhani Pallasmaa proposes that a home be seen as a condensation of hopes and fears, as well as an instrument though which to engage with the cosmos. Quoting Rainer Maria Rilke, he points out that the stubborn life that has taken place in rooms will always resist being trampled into oblivion. Rather it sticks to the nails poking from the walls, to the floor joists, to everything that is left behind. The sounds of lived life, the smells, and the events well up uncontrollably to the dull surface of present time and continue to exert their influence.
I remove my glasses and stare at myself in the picture. How my forms break up and build up again around my partial comprehension. The seams come unstitched and the tuck reveals a Bataille-like être composé, a being made up from the residues of communality: a retrospective future, an insufficiency craving for completion, a game of fort-da between presence and absence which has, at least in childhood, fascinated everyone.
Arja Elovirta, art historian
Translated by Nicolas Pekari