John Zeppetelli is the curator of DHC-ART Foundation for Contemporary Art founded in Montreal by Phoebe Greenberg in the Fall of 2007. Eija-Liisa Ahtila is an internationally renowned video artist and photographer. Her exhibition (curated by John Zeppetelli) is on from 29 Jan – 9 May. The following is John Zeppetelli’s take on the work of Eija-Liisa Ahtila.
After a two or three year courtship, I officially fell in love with Eija-Liisa Ahtila in 1999 when I first saw a staggeringly intense two-screen work which seemed to combine both documentary realism and cinematic flourishes called Consolation Service. A couple, J-P and Anni, are in the throes of a bitter divorce, and so the two screens come together in a kind of spectacular failure, rupture and division – while at the same time are united like two hands playing the piano in serene counterpoint. There’s an unforgettable scene of amorous discord during the course of the couple’s therapy session where the marriage counselor instructs them to speak to one another without using words, so they begin to bark in a violent, primal and ultimately cathartic exchange. This occurs while variously afflicted patients in the waiting room file invisibly into the therapist’s office to silently witness the proceedings. I can’t tell you what a joy it is to be able to present this project at DHC/ART in Montreal, along with many other major film installations in what is the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in North America.
The title of the exhibition INT. STAGE-DAY is taken from a scene heading in a screenplay and beautifully sums up the working method of Eija-Liisa Ahtila, whose video installations are highly staged constructions concerned with the interior life of her characters. The Finnish artist is known mainly for her complex multi-screen narratives which address the fragile psychological states of her protagonists and the tenuous line separating fantasy from reality. Ahtila’s work is conceptually organized around the construction of image, narrative and space, while exploring issues of subjectivity, loss, madness and violence. The many unsettling emotions in her work are also leavened by a gentle humour and absurdity, and are presented in dynamic and considered environments which engage the viewer both physically and intellectually.
Curator, DHC/ART Foundation