Finland is participating in the 55th Venice Biennale that opens on June 1st with an exceptionally large exhibition. Falling Trees, curated by the Gruppo 111 collective of Mika Elo, Marko Karo and Harri Laakso, combines the exhibitions of the Finnish artists Terike Haapoja and Antti Laitinen into a whole where the parts complement each other and which takes over both the Nordic Pavilion and the Finnish Alvar Aalto Pavilion.
The exhibition Falling Trees has gained not only its name, but also its conceptual starting point from an unexpected event in the Venice Biennale of 2011, when a large tree fell on the Aalto Pavilion, shattering it and cutting short the exhibition on display at the time.
The exhibition in the Aalto Pavilion by Antti Laitinen (b. 1975), who lives and works in Somerniemi, Finland, is a dialogue between his new and earlier works.
In the centre stage is the triptych Forest Square (2013) consisting of three photographs, which will be finished for the Biennale. The work is rooted – literally, in this case – into 100 square metres of forest: after Laitinen had felled the trees and torn out their roots from the ground, he removed the covering layer of soil and all the natural material from the area. After this, he started to sort the materials into their constituent parts and finally to assemble the material into a carefully composed area for photography. The sorted forest takes exactly one hundred square metres of space, just like the original patch of forest.
Many features characterising Laitinen as an artist culminate in this work: craftsmanship, concrete thinking, repetition, the coexistence of exhausting persistence, the transience of the blink of an eye and tragicomedy. Laitinen is generally considered to be an artist of extremes. He has sailed from Finland to Estonia in a bark boat of his own making (Bark Boat, 2010), built his own island (It’s My Island, 2007), and spent several days in the forest without food or clothing (Bare Necessities, 2002).
In addition about 5,000 kg of birch logs split into firewood will be transported to the Biennale. The wood felled and chopped by the artist serves as material for the performance and installation planned for the front of the Aalto Pavilion. With the help of a hammer and nails, they will become a forest of their own.