Eija-Liisa Ahtila
Finland, 1959
In her artistic practice, Eija-Liisa Ahtila explores the nature of moving images, the construction of stories, the expression of feelings, and the relationship with viewers. Since completing her training at the London College of Printing, UCLA, and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Ahtila has produced audiovisual works that have been presented at film festivals and as museum installations. These different distribution channels allow her to vary her approach to constructing stories. Though they are narratives, her works do not follow conventional narrative patterns. They are concerned with what she has described as ‘human dramas’: relationships between individuals, and between characters and their environment. The main character often suffers from some form of mental illness that is reflected in the structure of the video, the way it is arranged and presented in the physical space, and the use of various screens and other elements. The use of multiple screens in her installations is another way of structuring the story within the exhibition space, where viewers are invited to take on the role of editor. In Today (1996), one of her earliest works, Ahtila used three screens to break free from the constraints of linear narrative and offer the viewer three visions of the same event, each from the viewpoint of a different character. Before writing a script and shooting, Ahtila carries out research that serves as the groundwork for the piece. The work that ultimately emerges from this process may combine factual and fictional elements. She also incorporates elements of the fantastic that fracture the overriding naturalism. One of the first works in which these fantastic elements appear is Consolation Service (1999), where the main characters are a young couple in the process of separating. In this piece, which is shown on two screens, Ahtila weaves a story based on the interplay of emotions generated between the characters and their environment.
Neus Miró