Ten People in a Suitcase

Fig. 21749KEL (TM) A person who has lost a hand in an accident. Work safety campaign, 1926/2015
Fig. 0395GAS (TM) Aune Heimolainen, one of the best swimmer girls in Mänttä Sporting Club, 1943/2015
Fig. 04287KEL (TM) G. A. Serlachius Oy’s workers at Loukkusuo peat bog. One Woman, 1943/2015
Fig. 077OI (TM) Forester Häggman and an eight-kilogram pike, 1955/2015
Fig. 7510GAS (TM) Miss Tuula Järvenpää (The Serla Girl) domestic sales, 1961/2015
Fig. 8097GAS (TM) An apparatus for testing the absorption ability of a nappy, 1969/2015
Fig. 01832KEL (TM) Tapani Kansa sang at Kirstinharju dance pavilion. Departure, 1970/2015
Fig. 00029KEL (TM) KMV-news office, 1972/2015
Fig. 019KI (TM) Father and son clay pigeon shooting day Särkikangas sandpit, 1975/2015
Fig. 16799KEL (TM) Adult Education Centre’s painting and drawing class. Teacher Riitta Ranta. 1986 reimagined as, 1956/2015

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.