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The Davis proudly presents Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Olentoja (Creatures), the first major U.S. exhibition by the internationally acclaimed Finnish artist.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila is best known for her lushly beautiful and psychologically intense videos, and for the precise calibration (of image, sound, and environment) of her installations. Vivid and mesmerizing, her videos are mysterious and open-ended, often imbued by notions of the sacred and miraculous in everyday experience. The work’s distinctive narrative complexity is further enhanced by multi-screen projection, designed to question both the nature of the “moving image” and the possibility of seeing from many perspectives at once.
Culled from over a decade of production, the pieces— Horizontal (2011), Anthropomorphic Exercises on Film (2011), Companions (2011), The Annunciation (2010), and The House (2002)— demonstrate the depth and range of the artist’s practice. Recently, Ahtila has been inspired by German biologist Jacob von Uexküll’s notion of umwelt, which posits the multiplicity and simultaneity of world-views among creatures. The projects selected for this exhibition are filled with beings—human, animal, magical, and botanical—poised in uncertain relationships. For the exhibition title, the artist chose the word “olentoja” (creatures) which captures this scope and adds something ineffable— “a bit more soul.”
Born in 1959, Ahtila studied filmmaking at the London College of Printing, UCLA, and at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1990 she received the Young Artist of the Year Award, Tampere, Finland. Since then, she has received numerous grants and awards, including an AVEK-award for important achievements in the field of audio-visual culture (1997), the Edstrand Art Price (1998), a DAAD fellowship (1999), honorary mention at the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), the Vincent Van Gogh Bi-annual Award for Contemporary Art in Europe (2000), and a five-year grant from the Central Committee for the Arts (2001), as well as the Artes Mundi Prize (2006). She also exhibited in Documenta XI (2002) and the 50th Venice Biennale (2005). Parallel Worlds, a major mid-career survey of her work, traveled between the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki.
Curated by Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ‘37 Director of the Davis, the exhibition and related programs are presented with major support from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 Fund for World Cultures and Leadership, with special funding provided by Wellesley College Friends of Art.