As a part of the generation of contemporary artists on Instagram, Jaana-Kristiina Alakoski challenges the conventional understandings of beauty and art as such. Check out our interview below.
Jaana-Kristiina Alakoski is a multimedia artist originally from Stockholm, currently studying and creating in London. Known for her bold presentation through her Instagram account, Jaana creates a grid of raw aesthetics with photo edits, cut and paste, flash snaps, and filter-on-reality pics. Join us for a little chat. We talk about art within the space of contemporary social media, the notion of “realness” of art, and bodies.
Hey Jaana, how’s your February going so far?
Hello! It’s going splendid. I just celebrated my birthday and my studio is getting warmer and warmer.
You are originally from Stockholm, currently living in London. What made you do that move?
I moved because I wanted to study art. I didn’t know anything about any art schools, and hardly anything about art, but had a friend that was going to apply to my school. So I just went along. But I also had an eye on London since I was 18 and for the first time met Swedes that were living in London. It seemed SO cool that they were studying at these huge institutions, in English, away from the prying eyes of the little context of Stockholm.
Do you think this change of environment has been somehow reflected in your work?
I don’t think I would have even liked art if I would have tried to study it in Stockholm or Sweden, not to begin with at least.
If you were to describe your art as an indefinite object what would it be? Live/inanimate, shape, pattern, colour, static/moving?
It’s a filter over reality, a layer of semi-transparent motions in different colours and textures, that are added to reality when experiencing or remembering it. The different ways the filter takes shape is very much influenced by science-fiction and fantasy, and how feelings, attitudes and ideas are usually conveyed as supernatural phenomena in these genres. Imagine, like love being portrayed through a pink glow, sadness through a blue fog or anger through yellow lightnings. It just makes sense, and it feels like it makes sense in a way that is natural but it is completely and utterly cultural.
You use various media for your artworks. How do you know which form you wanna use to execute a specific idea?
The medium is definitely built into the idea. They take shape at the same time. But then it might change along the way, and when it changes it is mostly due to practical reasons. A big part of my practice, as I imagine it is for many other people that do art too, is making random experiments in different mediums and bumping into ideas through them. One of my favourite words that I learnt recently in English is no less than serendipity, hahah.
One of the platforms you regularly use to publish your work is Instagram. What do you think about the whole generation of contemporary Instagram artists? What made you choose this space to present your art?
I think it is interesting! It’s exciting to have this “new” sphere for art, and seeing how the limitations and possibilities of the medium affect the art, what questions spring out of it. How it transforms and changes, what influences it. There’s a lot to be very inspired by. And it can lead to so much change in discourse around different topics.
Regarding why I use it myself – I don’t think I ever chose it. It was rather a question of my art practice and my Instagram usage developing parallels, slowly fusing. For a long time, I didn’t realise that I was doing art, just because of this big idea in general that art should be tangible, sellable, exhibitable in a gallery. But now, I feel like maybe the only place where I do “REAL” art, if one is to use such words, is Instagram. Simply because that is where my ideas are the least affected by the notion of what contemporary and conceptual art is, and how artistic processes in art schools are bloody drilled towards a way of creating that fits into the conceptual paradigm. I like it when the intention to do art, or the realisation you did art, comes after the art. Because then somehow the theorisation is truly the tool you use only to make it graspable, possible to talk about – and not a tool you use to make it sensational and to show you can bend your mind around contemporary themes and trending interests, and art history.
One of the famous sides of Instagram feeds these days are pictures striving for smooth perfection and unrealistic concepts and shapes. How does your art work in juxtaposition to these images?
Something that’s great about having a place where a lot of people can take part of each other’s ideas and have a conversation of sorts is that there will always be a multiplicity of expressions, like that smooth perfection and its opposite. I feel like some of my artwork and other people with similar aesthetics is probably a reaction to the aesthetics you mention. But then again not a reaction to it as bad or less interesting, but just a step forward or to the side or however you would like to put it. Something in dialogue with it. But speaking only for my art in particular, the raw aesthetic is also linked to an interest in how the medium through its history is so very linked to the diary format and people’s everyday life. Having a raw aesthetic lets the images and videos stay in that realm in a way that can be hard with other mediums, simply because they don’t have the same history.
The notion of human body seems to be one of the inherent themes in your work. What is a BODY for you?
This has actually changed a lot throughout the years. Or maybe recently? Right now, the body for me is a vehicle, for matters that are way more difficult to grasp. Such as consciousness, identity, or the experience of a reality, or emotions. It’s so interesting with consciousness, and how it interplays with body, how the way one conducts one’s body affects one’s perception of reality for instance. Or how a perception of reality affects the way one conducts one’s body.
Furthermore, it is also interesting to link questions in one field to other fields of theory. Often I feel like the terminology in each theoretical field is translatable, interchangeable, and that one can reach different understandings of the same phenomena, but from slightly different angles. The way I phrased it that “perception of reality” affects an embodiment, for instance, could be exchanged for how social structures affect identity, and then we could get a sociological scrutiny of bodies as culturally shaped and limited for social representation.
How do you perceive your own body and how does that change when you use it in your art?
I try to not perceive my body too much, tbh. When my body appears in my art it is as a symbol for a body, like any signifier would appear in a painting, a photograph or an installation. I like to use myself because I am always at hand, and it allows me to have a slow process that is very linked to everyday actions. And then, this is also what allows the images to draw towards a performative reading of them.
Do we live through our bodies or through our minds?
A combination, of course.
Imagine a clueless teen stumbling upon your Instagram account/artworks. What would be the one thing you would like for them to take from your art?
Exactly the same as anyone else! A sensation of having felt something when looking at it, and subsequently also thought something. What that might be I can’t control, but as long as it is something I am happy. :) Cliché but true.
What do you find beautiful in that touching and awe-inspiring way?
Siblings, family, weather, people’s mimicry and emotions in their faces, unconscious movements and actions, big groups of people taking political action, body contact.
Let’s play a little association game. What do you think of first when you see these words:
blood – blood
belly button – piercing
scratch – toe
blusher – makeup
scissors – blood
Last question, could you share with us some artists/musicians that caught your attention lately?
Edmonia Lewis, the 19th hundred century sculpture-maker, lead a very interesting life. Performance artist Clifford Owens has also interested me. Some songs: One Of Us – ABBA, Nothing – Ji Nilsson, It Must Have Been Love – Roxette, Blow Me Away – Sean Nicholas Savage.
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