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Hanna Maria Anttila intervewed by Gitte Broeng Kristensen
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MORE THAN ONE OPTION

Hanging right outside the Mall in Frederiksberg Hanna Maria Anttila's billboard is bound to wake up sleepy shoppers. It pictures herself hanging with her head down while apartment buildings are grounded in the sky. At least this is what it looks like to the beholder.

Your picture is called 'Helsinki, Option 3'. Why is that?

The picture was taken in Helsinki, on the balcony of my apartment building in Kallio (Berghäll). I made the image pair 'Helsinki, Option 1' and 'Helsinki, Option2' about a year ago, they are one meter wide digital printouts next to each other.

An individual's experience of his/her environment is always multifaceted. 'Helsinki, Option 1' and 'Helsinki, Option 2' reveals a tickling uncertainty. These pictures give two options instead of straight answers: Is the picture upside down or is she really hanging like that?

Helsinki is my hometown; I have spent most of my adult years there. It is a cosy place where things work well and coffee tastes good. At the same time and in many ways Helsinki is a small place - being there too long can be a bit suffocating. Many of my friends (from all over the world) share the same experience: You love your hometown and at the same time you can't wait to get out of there.

Why did you choose this picture for the project in Copenhagen?

People pass billboards fast. I wanted to use something eye-catching. I wanted to question an individual's relationship to the surrounding cityscape, which I feel this picture does. The upside-down-factor of 'Helsinki, Option 3' can appear as a mistake, as if the poster has been glued incorrectly. This amuses me as a visual idea.

You depict yourself in many of your pictures, which can be said to be a characteristic feature in female art. Do you see your work as a part of a female tradition...?

Your question makes me think: what is the difference between self-portraiture and using oneself as a prop? A traditional portrait is an attempt to reveal a specific point of view (usually something intimate) about the subject matter. My pictures do not reveal much about my personality. I am not the subject matter of my art. My work derives from a formal level of questioning the mediums I utilize. Therefore I do not see my work as a part of a 'female tradition'.

My experience is: both men and women have an equally narcissistic desire to see their own image.

What kind of impact does your gender have on your work. If any?

I do not consciously work from a female point of view. My art does not, for example, deal with gender expectations. I would say that being female influences my work in similar ways as being Finnish. Both factors affect the way I navigate in the world and therefore have an influence on my work. However, I do not consciously make art about being female.

How about turning the question around and asking my male artist friends: Does being male influence your work? I think they would be a bit confused.

You are currently living in New York. In the US public space is even more 'polluted' than in Scandinavia with commercials everywhere. Does the fact that public space is so commercialized, very often using stereotyped female models affect you in any way as an artist?

Visual clutter goes hand in hand with a hectic pace of life in New York. This makes me numb - I need a lot of time to gather my thoughts. I have lived only in New York in the United States and therefore my view of the whole country is limited. I would say that the commercial TV broadcasting makes me angry much more often than advertising in New York's public city spaces.

Why is that?

TV programming (in the U.S.) is planned to sell as much advertising time as possible. TV channels air sensationalist shows which portray human relationships in weird ways. Luckily I get to choose: I can turn the TV off or switch to BBC.

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