Ten People in a Suitcase
Ten People in a Suitcase was commissioned by Gösta Serlachius Fine Art Foundation in Finland. Ten international artists came to Mänttä for two weeks in 2014 to make work about the town, to be exhibitied at the Gösta Museum the following year. Ten People in a Suitcase was my response to the collection of over 30,000 photographs that are held in the museum archives. The town was originally built around a paper mill which was founded in 1868. Though the mill is still there, it is a pale shadow of its original glory, now producing mostly toilet paper. Mänttä currently has just over 6,000 inhabitants.
Some of the pictures in the archive are of places and individuals of note, important people in the history of the mill and of the town. Most of the images however are of the ordinary folk of Mänttä, often anonymous, mostly engaged in mundane activities.
I chose ten photographs as guides, recreating the scenes with myself as protagonist and narrator. Each character I chose to re-imagine had something about them that I recognised. I felt there was a part of me already within the photograph. It could have been the way the character stood, or the space they took up in the frame, a glint in the eye, or an authority in the angle of the hand. I felt a visceral connection to them. My work often plays with the idea of photography as a language that can be translated and understood in different ways. Through performance I play with the tropes of certain genres of photography, and distort them to produce new meanings.
In order to create these new photographs, I had to imagine the events that led up to this moment in the character’s lives, and in doing so, felt closer to the town itself. The photographs transcend mere re-enactments, they are embodiments of real individuals who are more than just their snap shot.