Kalle Lampela - Artist and artisan. Article by Paavo Kässi in Latitude 2014.
 
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Is there room for autonomous art anymore? Or is it doomed to be merely a means of economic or political gain? Kalle Lampela, an artist and doctor of arts, explores the possibilities of contemporary art.


Kalle Lampela questions the idea that artists should use only one single technique or style.

"There isn't anything unusual about an artist expressing him- or herself with different techniques and styles", he explains.

"Quite the contrary, it's rather bizarre to declare that someone is an artist of a certain type. Artists should try to avoid using a stereotypical palette and expand their own way of expression. My friend and colleague Eemil Karila is a good example of this: even while following his commitment to visual art, he has carried out projects in the areas of dance and music."


After finishing his studies in art education at the University of Lapland in 2000, Kalle rented a workroom in an old industrial building in Rovaniemi and began to make art. In 2007, he started his doctoral studies in the University's Faculty of Art and Design. Three years later he finished a master's degree in social sciences with a major in sociology. Although he was writing his doctoral thesis from the point of view of art, his methodology is more typical of approaches in the social sciences.

In his doctoral thesis, completed in 2012 as part of a broader research project funded by the Academy of Finland, Kalle examined the views of Finnish artists on the instrumentalisation of art. He notes that art has ceased to be independent.

"The intrinsic value of art has become irrelevant in post-welfare Finland", he asserts.

"Nowadays artists' associations have managers, who try to turn artists' works into products and brands. Art doesn't possess any autonomous value of its own."

Another case in which art is instrumentalised is when it reduced to a mere means of furthering political ambitions. This is what Kalle has noticed in his research.

"At first I was only interested in the economic exploitation of art. After starting to analyse the data, I discovered that many artists found the idea of art as a vehicle for politics to be problematic. I then decided to focus on this point of view as well".


As part of the artistic section of his doctoral thesis, Kalle held two exhibitions and performed one intervention. The first exhibition, titled "Sofa", was held in Galleria Katve at the University. It was a process exhibition, where the artist himself was present the whole time, talking with visitors and painting a citation by philosopher Hannah Arendt.

The second exhibition was held in Galleria Titanik in Turku, where Kalle presented a group of embroidered pieces, as well as two conceptual works, one representing the first volume of Karl Marx's Capital and the other Theodor Adorno's Aesthetic Theory. The latter pieces, which at first glance look like black and red ink squares on two big pieces of paper, were constructed by the artist using a mechanical typewriter he came across in the attic of his workroom.

"I have been strongly affected and inspired by both the idea of artisanship and the cryptic philosophical work of Theodor Adorno. When I found the typewriter, I started experimenting with it. Later I began to write the contents of these two books on one single sheet of paper".

The last part of the artistic section is "Interventionist Manifesto", a textual intervention that deals with the issues that Kalle discusses in his thesis and that he sent to representatives of different Finnish art institutions.

"The manifesto was a direct, conceptual intervention in the everyday life of art. This kind of method seemed to be far more efficient in enabling the art to be critical than holding the two exhibitions."


The philosophy of Theodor Adorno has functioned both as a challenge and a source of inspiration for Kalle.

"The first time I read Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, I didn’t really understand much of it. Nevertheless, I felt that I needed to understand it. It was partly my interest in Adorno’s book that prompted me to study the social sciences."

"The typewritten works and the embroidered pieces share the same underlying conceptual problem, one which I found in Adornoäs philosophy. In a way, my works can be seen as empirical experimentations used to test Adorno's idea of the possibility of art as a form of social criticism."

Kalle Lampela doesn't consider himself a political artist, although he has dealt with topics of political history in his art.

"Rather than promoting a specific ideology, my intention is to criticise, mock and ridicule", he explains, and reveals that his interests lean towards grotesque and taunting expression.

"Doing research demands a disciplined approach. In the case of my doctoral thesis, I have put the grotesque stuff aside, but I'm still interested in it."


Photo: Arto Liiti

Kalle Lampela
Born in Rovaniemi, where he currently lives.

Master of Arts (art education), Master of Social Sciences (sociology) and Doctor of Arts (art and design). Doctoral dissertation in Finnish

Uses different techniques: painting, drawing, embroidery, ready-made.

Member of Contemporary Santa Claus Artist Association

Find out more at www.kallelampela.com