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First shown in: Galerie Artek, Helsinki, Finland, 11 – 30 September 1998

Birch sculptures made of works, mainly paintings, of famous artists: an investigation on painting, sculpture and the demand for artistic originality. Through the medium of sculpture, the visual becomes haptic, the painting a sculpture.

Koskinen continues to develop the themes of her previous project (Anne Koskinen auf dem Holzweg / I cannot come, 1996, Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts ) by taking as her point of departure the visual and the haptic, on the one hand, and the concepts of the original and the copy, on the other. Her works are an investigation of the demand for artistic originality.

Koskinen brings to Finland sculptures made of works by famous European artists. Through the medium of sculpture, the visual becomes haptic, the painting a sculpture. The material of the pieces is birch.

The exhibition included also Anne Koskinen’s “Ellen Thesleff, Autoportrait, 1894-95, Finnish National Gallery, Atheneum”, digital imaging signed printed sheet, series of 60 pieces, 1998, ca. 40.5×33×2cm when assembled, dimensions of sheet 100×68.5cm, unassembled

Anne Koskinen – a text by Gertrud Sandqvist

Anne Koskinen makes copies for the feel of it. If we are to make sense of them we have to use our fingertips rather than our eyes. In this way she takes the concept of the copy into regions other than that of the well-trodden path between eye and intellect. What does she gain by this?
She sees something – a painting, a drawing or a graphic print – that she likes but cannot have. It already belongs to someone else. She then makes a copy in another material: wood. In this way the original is sufficiently changed so that it can be further passed on as a work by Anne Koskinen. It is incorporated into her collection.

It is here that the difference from Sherrie Levine’s strategy of appropriation lies. Where Levine emphasised the act of taking over a tradition, a picture, by making an exact copy and calling the photograph After Walker Evans, Koskinen has left the picture recognisable only to the senses other than sight. Levine’s manoeuvre could only be performed specifically through sight. By her actions, Levine directed a feminist, postmodern critique against ideas like originality, authenticity, copyright. What then does Koskinen do? Does she bring in the father?

In an exhibition in 1996, Koskinen took autobiography as her point of departure. We could, for instance, see her sitting at a desk, of the kind her father sat at, copying his handwriting. She never met her father. The contact she had with him as a child was through postcards he sent from Stockholm. She also showed a copy in wood of his working clothes, and of his wardrobe, with the door a little ajar. But Koskinen’s wardrobe is a sculpture. We cannot widen the opening, we cannot fully open the wardrobe door. This ‘door’ has no hinges. We cannot change anything.

Adopting someone else’s handwriting is one path to fraud. This, of course, applies especially to signatures. In Koskinen’s most recent work, in which she has had prints made of a painting she likes in a collection, with instructions on how to trim and fold the edges to make the reproduction into a model, the positioning of the signature is crucial. She has written this so that anyone who wants to activate the graphic print by following Koskinen’s cutting instructions in practice also devalues the picture itself specifically into being a copy. What guarantees the print’s economic value is not the picture but the signature. It is only when the signature is damaged, by a careless cut, that the print becomes worthless. The individual’s own name, written by hand, is still our culture’s primary guarantee of authenticity. Our faith in the inability of the hand to make perfect imitations is still intact. That is why Koskinen’s action, imitating her father’s handwriting, is so disturbing, even more so since her father was a policeman.

The notion of the artist as a swindler has deep roots in our culture. That is why Plato wanted to exclude artists from his ideal republic. They worked with pictures, with illusions – with the illusory semblances of the cave in contrast to the truth of the philosopher out in the sunlight. For Plato, this also marked the difference between the sexes, with the feminine cave being the passivating deceitfulness that the masculine intellect must abandon so as – lead by the philosophers, dazzled by the light – to reach the Truth. When, during the period of Modernism, painting itself becomes the guarantee of authenticity, in contrast to deceptive photography, this provides an example of an ironic turn that is fundamental for Levine’s work.

Koskinen has more of a metonymic relationship with the concept of authenticity. She exchanges materials, and can thereby elicit associations with other senses, other ways of experiencing the world. Desire runs along this chain, from object to object, so that each existing article constantly refers to another, absent one. What this absence refers to – perhaps – is the experience of reality. “I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch,” Leonard Cohen weeps. For me, Koskinen’s work is about this longing, to allow the scissors to rest for a moment on the signature, to experience reality through the short circuit between an inner and an outer wound, to reveal the grief at the father’s absence, rather than to call his authority into question.

Gertrud Sandqvist, 1999

See installation view of the Sculpture series in the retrospective Anne Koskinen – Familie Koskinen, click here

See also: Helsinki City Art Museum exhibition information, Anne Koskinen – Familie Koskinen, Helsinki City Art Museum Tennis Palace, Helsinki, Finland, 28 November 2008 – 25 January 2009. suomeksi/på svenska/in english

Thanks to: Finnish Cultural Foundation, Finnish National Gallery, Finnish Cultural Foundation

Collections: Malmoe Art Museum, Malmoe, Sweden, Regierungspräsidium Freiburg, The State Art Collection of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tampere, Finland, Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Collection Swanljung, Vaasa, Finland, Vexi Salmi Collection, Finland, Christoph Merian Foundation, Basle, Switzerland, University of Art and Design Helsinki, Finland, private collections, the artist’s collection