Minna Suoniemi







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About City breaks
(Nov. 2004)


About City breaks
(Jan. 2005)


About City breaks
(Mar. 2005)





About City Breaks
Minna Suoniemi, March 2005



About how I work: My first thoughts about City Breaks about a year ago when Taru asked me if I would be interested to participate in the project: How I see my own city, what is my mapping of Helsinki. Always taking the same routes to work, studio, home, favorite bar. I end up seeing the same parts of the city every day, not often going to some other parts. The way I move is very confident and oriented. (Interestingly, I like being able to move like that also when I'm as a tourist somewhere, and I do: I look at the map first and then stroll off with some kind of sence of direction. I don't actually like being a tourist). My other thought was about how I sometimes get stuck near my home or work place, walking back and forward on one spot, not being able to decide which way to go. Or to be more accurate, I get in a state of mind where it's not possible to even think about what makes sence, where to go first. A feeling of your thoughts getting a hold of your body, getting a bit paralized and num, fighting between reason and indifference. And then noticing the other people around you, what they must think of you bouncing here and there like a madman. And still not being able to stop. Not proper behavior for a public place.

So, when thinking back of how my working process developed in relation to how I work in general, this process was very similar to that in a sence that I finally ended up making a video about the undecisive walk. This for me is more a portrait of any anonymous person in an urban environment than a portrait of a city in itself. It is shot in Helsinki, in two very urban locations, but it could be anywhere in any urban situation. The urge to move decisively and confidently is caracteristic to a city environment, or actually certain kinds of places in a city, where there are specialized places for spending time and others for just passing through.

Back to my way of working, I had a feeling that it would be very hard for me to in any way make something related to London. My work evolves from spending time in a place with the people and coming up with my ideas through anything that might occur in my way. I don't normally sketch much, or make very many notes, or if I do, they are so vage that I have difficulties getting my point when reading them afterwards. My work is not based on any organised or visible research in a sence that it would be easy for me to look back in to my notes and trace how my process developed. Still, I have very long processes in making work. Putting up an exhibition, I usually have been thinking of the idea a year earlier and made the work a week before (raughly put). How I was able to trace back my early thoughts about City Breaks was through an old
e-mail to Taru, where I write about routes, routines and zic zac -walking.

So, when I first came to London I remember feeling a pressure to collect material that I could look at later and use for the project. The problem was that my only plan was to observe, go around the city with my camera and record anythink that would catch my attention. London was totally new to me, so I was, whether I wanted or not, a tourist. And I don't like being a tourist. So I did not go see the landmarks and monuments, the must -sees, but tried to look at londoners' routines and ways of being in the city. It was clear to me that this kind of observations would be in a way superficial, a scratch of the surface of the everyday life /lives in London. It was also a very different way of working for me, going around with the camera and catching bits and pieces here and there. I write about this approach in my earlier plans in the City Breaks website: What caught my attention was how people create a safe space around them in public places. I was spying people who where waiting for somebody or otherwise taking a break from the busy rhythm of the city. The people always had something to do, like smoking a cicarette after another or texting with their mobile or fixing their suit. These actions were signs to other people saying that they were not just standing there, that they were waiting for someone, that they were not alone. The other situation where I noticed people stopping and taking a break from the walking crowd was posing for a photograph. I was filming tourists who had their picture taken, how they were posing to make that moment unforgettable and then moving on to the next moment worth remembering. These two materials form an interesting comparison of people who take their private space in a public space, either with a very conscious posing action or more non-functional safety actions.

I don't know if the process could have gone differently for me. My approach is very straight forward and direct, so I feel that I had to at least see the place (London) before being able to relate to it in some way, let alone find something to work with. What would work well in a project like City Breaks would be a project where you know in advance what you want to do and how to approach your subject. In a way, a very reseach -like approach. And I mean in a traditional sence reseach -like, because I also see my own work as some kind of reseach, without a sketchbook, but anyway.

About the group and working as a group. Here I feel that the problem for me has been the same as with the place: To work more as a group we would have needed much more time together. The importance of the group has grown through the project as we have seen more of each other and had time to discuss together. These discussion inside the group have been some of the best things about the project, the highlights of the whole thing, but for the audience in both of the exhibitions they remain unvisible. There has been little effect on the actual work that individual artists have made for the shows from the group or the discussions. I think it has to do with time and the open format of the whole project. There was no strict rule to work together or no stuctured patterns to work along, but all exchange was alloved to happen if it would. There has been a lot of exchange between people, but in a level of discussions, not co-operation what comes to the final work. This is interesting, because the project originally wanted to emphasize the process, not the final result. If I think of my own artistic process, it's very difficult to somehow present the process. Still, the most valuable part of City Breaks has been discussing with other artists, getting an insight into their way of working, having discussions about work in process where everyone was open to comments about their not finished work. So, in a way, we inside the group had an experience of seeing different artistic processes, but not to an extent where we would have formed other processes together and managed to make those processes visible to anyone outside the group. How that would be possible, I don't know.