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Riitta Päiväläinen

Riitta Päiväläinen

Vestige - Series

"Unwritten history, memory, landscape"

 

Several years ago, an old black dress made of velvet caught my attention in a second-hand shop. I

examined the garment carefully. There was no label. The style of the dress was from the twenties. The seams revealed the dress was handmade. The owner of the shop told me that she had bought it in Paris. I tried the dress on and it fitted me perfectly. I became intrigued by the history of the dress. Who was the woman who had had the dress made? What was her life story?

 

Our daily life is full of history. I am fascinated by the history that you cannot find in library books, official files or archives. This "unwritten history" surrounds me all the time. I can feel its presence in various ways: as a rip in a coat; as a place worn thin in an armchair; as a light footprint on an inner sole of a shoe.

 

The main theme and primary driving force of my work is my interest in old clothing. In my photographs, I use discarded clothes from second-hand shops and flea markets. I am interested in old garments, because they carry silent, unknown stories and histories. The unavoidable fact that I will never know the actual stories and personal histories connected with the clothes arouses my curiosity. The clothes remain silent withholding their secrets. Little by little, personal histories are absorbed into the collective history.

 

Who or what is historically remarkable enough to be recorded or remembered. I do not want to emphasise the historical significance or the importance of remembering everybody and everything. As much as I need to remember, I need to be able to forget. The idea of having only "one historical truth" would not make alternative truths possible. In this sense, forgetting can be regarded as a positive potential.

Instead of thinking what or who we have lost, I want, through my photography, to concentrate on what is still to be found.

 

For me, a piece of clothing represents, above all, its former wearer. It tells you that somebody has been present. However, the person who wore it is now gone. The faded colours and tears in the fabric show the signs of the time passed. By freezing the garment or letting the wind fill it with air, I am able to create a sculptural space, which reminds me of its former user. This "Imaginary Meeting" represents, for me, the subtle distinction between absence and presence.

 

In the series "Wind","Structura" and "Camouflage" landscape plays an essential role. Landscape is not only a topographical, objective phenomenon. For me, it is personal and subjective. Working with a landscape means going into it: experiencing and sensing the place. When I place clothes into a landscape, I create an installation. In this sense, landscape can be considered as a stage. Bringing these two elements (landscape and clothes) together, I create a dialogue - an interaction. My aim is to suggest and bring forth potential stories, mental images and associations.

 

 

VESTIGE : Etymology: French, from Latin vestigium footstep, footprint, track, vestige

Date: 1602

1 a (1) : a trace, mark, or visible sign left by something ( as an ancient city or a

condition or practice) vanished or lost

(2) : the smallest quantity or trace

b : FOOTPRINT

© 1998 by Merriam- Webster, Incorporated

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