The exhibition Obstacles in Gallery Laterna Magica's Cellar and Tile Galleries consists of ceramic sculptures, oil paintings, and video works. Miia Kallio is a visual and ceramic artist, focusing on the use of Finnish red clay, or "wild clay" in her work. Otto Santala, a visual artist, also uses photography and moving images in his expression. The exhibition opening will be celebrated at the Gallery on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
The Obstacles exhibition continues the thematic approach of the joint exhibition "Structures of Power" held at the Gallery Laterna Magica in 2018. Both exhibitions are connected by the artists' previous work in done Hungary, at the Valoság residency in Budapest. The artists worked in Hungary for the first time in the spring of 2018 and then again in February 2022.
The residency period served as a foundation for the thematic approach of both exhibitions. Reflecting on the changes that occurred in the Hungarian art scene and society between the two residency periods, Miia Kallio observed some visible changes:
"The permanent protests had been stopped at the central park and the area was now to become a home of the largest Hungarian ethnographic museum. Based on what we saw, even in the art field, there was hardly any criticism for those in power. Critical art was referred to as "historical" and directed against the old communist power."
In her artworks, Kallio explores the obstacles that humans themselves construct and that society sets for the individual. The starting point for the works are the common stone stoppers at the city entrances that she observed in Budapest. Obstacles can be unnoticed and necessary in their role or a factor that essentially restricts activity.
In Hungary, the political discussion is limited and democracy is threatened. According to Kallio, it is almost impossible for an outsider to see the full reality of society. It is always an interpretation that is influenced by the observer's own preconceptions and perspectives. The variations of various obstacle forms collected in aluminum first aid boxes illustrate the multiplicity of obstacles and the limitations of objective observation.
During the residency period, Russia invaded Ukraine and the images of the war flooded the news. The idea of obstacles as restrictions set by society on the individual expanded to understand the obstacle as a very concrete structure protecting against military attack. The armored barriers, also known as "Czech hedgehogs" welded together by Ukrainian volunteers and placed on the streets of Odessa made us stop and think of barriers in another way. Made us think of the role of the individual in the society and the collective need for barriers. Miia Kallio's Odessa installation consists of 35 pieces, each with parts of Czech hedgehogs drawn on its surface.
Kallio's works are made from Finnish red clay, created by turning and hand-building. She leaves her works unglazed, but polishes them and sometimes smokes the surfaces.
Otto Santala’s theme is people who have fallen outside of society's safety net or were never within the reach of it in the first place. People for whom society and its obstacles have become impassable. The decline of democracy and the idealization of authoritarianism, for example, in a society like Hungary, pushes these vulnerable people more and more to the margins without opportunities to defend their rights.
Santala's art works in the exhibition are oil paintings and videos. Santala reflects on the theme of obstacles behind his works: "What is left for those who fall through the cracks? Those who are part of the society can defend their rights through protests, for example. But for some the structural obstacles of society form a wall that is inpenetrable. In Hungary, homelessness has been made illegal, which further narrows these people's opportunities. As a local tradition, food or clothing is left for those in need of help, in a public place."