by angelo grillas

I had the opportunity to see the beautiful Finnish filmmaker, photographer, and video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s exhibition INT. STAGE-DAY at the DHC (Art Foundation for Contemporary Art) in Old Montreal.

Artist: Team Canada
Song: Grindin My Way


Ahtila experiments with narrative storytellings, which depict the psychological impact of interpersonal conflict, the intricacies and ambiguities of human emotion, and failed relationships.

Not knowing what to expect, I quickly established a connection to her protagonists portrayed in multi-screen narratives. The Hour of Prayer (2005), which touched me the most, is about grief and loss after the death of the narrator’s dog.

Ahtila’s skillful camerawork is translated by a mix perception of time, yet concentrates closely on the personal lives of her narrators. Her stories focus on ordinary human experiences through extraordinary circumstances. There are powerful emotions, deep psychological states of loss, madness, and mourning. Her short films had a sense of urgency that kept you guessing what part is real and what is fantasy, outlining the psychotic/extreme realities of her protagonist’s mixed perception.

In Ahtila’s biggest installment – a huge six-screen, 53 minute epic, Where is Where? – begins with an animated film sequence, but the main drama is played out on four synchronized screen projections in a large room. The story mixes politics and religion after two young Algerian boys murder a French playmate in an act of revenge against the perceived hatred of all Europeans for Arabs. Ahtila presents the struggles after the tragic reaction to French brutality during the Algerian war of independence by visuals on multiple screens,  and simultaneous shots between contrasting settings in Finland and images of Algeria. The emotional trauma of war on civilian victims and the psychological effects of colonization are exemplified strongly with the poetic narration of these events.

Other exhibits I should mention: Consolation Service, Dog Bites, The Present, The House, and Today are well worthy and are presented with similar inspiring and dramatic film and video installations.

I urge anyone to check out the exhibit which is presented worldwide and completes its run Montreal on May 9th.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 25, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

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