2018-2020, HD video, stereo sound, 12 minutes
Jöns Carlson: A journalist writes articles that didn’t exist before. An author fashions stories, which she invents and tells. But a poet and an artist just create (poiesis=building, creating something out of nothing). What would you say to the claim that in your film, you briefly pose a typical Socratic question in artistic form? Or where does the difference between art and philosophy lie? (And I’m not talking about the philosophy of art.)
Mox Mäkelä: Good, you’re jumping right in. A journalist, even when writing about art, hails from the marketing family, acts as a certain sort of supplier: she collects, lays out, and sells seasonal delicacies for our fast-paced life made from easily digestible ingredients. Most authors are suppliers, as are most poets and artists. Yes. Socrates is an interesting figure. A soft coat collects things along the way, including fleas. Now that we’re living in an era on the brink of chaos that seeks equilibrium through a selective sense of style and is bathed in bubbles of IT vapidity, the ironic (=iron) door handle to the satin (=satire) shop may be the only thing those who want to parse fleas are left with – aside from the poison chalice. I’ve received mine drop by drop. An old tradition here in Finland, the land of deathbed museums. So what’s the difference between art and philosophy then? Art doesn’t last as long.
JC: I think the form of prank known as a practical joke sometimes takes on artistic form. When that happens, the joke that comments on or exploits practice rises to the level of creating; in a way, then, it is abstracted from its playful connection and takes on the form of a serious construction. And construction is poiesis, the way a poem truly builds the world, not merely through cobbling or scraping together. How do you see this significance in relation to construction and the idiotic practices of the world?
Mox: If the source work for the short film Strange – Art—the long–format audio play-slash-film Strange—were a house, it would have, say, verandas, a parlor, an attic, a root cellar, and a leaking detached stable floating immaterially in the backdrop. But it would also have a lookout tower outfitted with false windows. Strange – Art presents this tower. I don’t know if the house and its tower are serious beneath the playful.
JC: Exactly. Serious beneath the playful! In the clown arts, the serious is part of the playful in a different way and it’s laughed at in a different way. There are funny sculptures and paintings too. Even though you employ surrealistic methods you aren’t a surrealist, more like a surrationalist. Lévi-Strauss isn’t funny. What do you say: there’s more sculpture in clothes hangers and plastic or rusty hooks than there is in the garb of witches?
Mox: But I don’t know if the serious is there beneath the playful. It might be the other way around. But laughter: it’s an interesting thing, because it’s crying. It’s related to the paradox of human existence; it’s comfort and remedy. I’ve given very little thought to which corral I’d be put in, but that DIY-scientific -ism you just hung up for consideration is certainly interesting.
My rational observation about that which doesn’t make us laugh is that, in the evening, a witch who is un-academic can gladly hang up the trousers started by Lévi-Strauss (and this makes simple circles laugh). But how do we deal with "the human species is living in a sort of state of internal poisoning" (Lévi-Strauss). Our natural world is being destroyed in double time, and this appears to be a matter of less importance than, say, the normal journalistic bravura, a story intended for two brain cells: "who’s shagging whom." Within this frame, I deal with the strange and lonely beauty of the task my being is carrying out.
JC: If we’re living in a toxic state, could we posit that life in general is an anomaly comparable to the toxic state of the interstellar bio-universe? No, because we distinguish dying from poisons from other sorts of death. So we’re left with no yardstick other than a good life? And that good life entails the appropriate amount of insight. What else?
Mox: Anomaly or norm. When you journey far enough from the globe in your thoughts, when you look at it as if it were no more than a tiny pea in the darkness, you understand to try not to understand too much.
Astrid Lindgren’s fictional scamp Emil in Lönneberga runs off to the shed to escape limitations and whittles a small work. Maybe Astrid ended up whittling Emil for the same reasons once upon a time. A few run off so they can encounter that gap free of humankind where insights live. Then, in order to pass the time, you can whittle out of wood, grow from the soil, or put into plain words.
JC: Do you think an artist has to go over their tracks again, or is it enough to leave them? In other words, it’s possible to develop something and realize it has an enormous charge because the details are so rich, but there’s no way to understand it all. Roger Bacon, for instance.I mean Francis Bacon, of course.
Mox: By mixing monks, painters, jean makers, and straight shooters, we can bring about the same sort of beautiful cacophony we can achieve by mixing certain colors together: the result can be, oddly enough, white, sort of like nothing, and downshifting and even KonMari pale in comparison to this.
I have always avoided explaining my works and instead packed words into manuscripts, or the boldest into satires published under a pseudonym.
I don’t know whose footsteps we should walk in here, or how. The forests near my home are crisscrossed by ancient paths, bare passageways across the granite that are clearly distinguishable among the lichen and the moss. In this instance, I’d like to walk the way others who came before me walked, as in this instance there’s justifiable wisdom in doing so. The path of art is stranger, because as long as the artist lives, its external features are bound to social games. Look at the pool in that subterranean midden into which gold coins have been flung, and into which the magnificent, sad lizard of ancient times has been imprisoned. And then it’s supposed to be happy when it’s allowed to participate in culture too, even at the cost of its own species’ extinction.
JC: I think we’ve got enough bits of railing here. Could you think of beauty the way Poe did, as merely the heightening of emotions without any costs? Except of course one’s entire life.
Mox: Poe wrote a poem about a raven. He associated the bird with his terrors, so the familiar old resentment is at play there. I have ravens as neighbors. Not a day goes by without them flying overhead, croaking hoarsely. When I deal with terrors in my work, I can’t put bogeymen in the skin of any animal. Even when claiming otherwise, human culture and art often contain an expression of human superiority. I’ve decided to travel elsewhere, and in this system I can barely defend myself, let alone this planet I have such great respect for, and whose body and soul are tormented by incessant injury.
Translated from Finnish by Kristian London
“Vieras” - “Strange” - a Long Audio Play Movie, 2018
Author, Cinematographer, Editor, Sound Designer, Script and Director: Mox Mäkelä Cinematographers: Terhi Salomaa, Mikko Keinonen
Actors:Tom Pöysti, Sue Lemström, Juha Ekola, Antti Peltola, Eero Ojala,
AVEK - The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture (Funder)