Person

Raising critique

The problem of competence, impartiality and bias in decision-making in the field of the arts is becoming increasingly topical.
Text:
Marko Lysmä
Images:
Mikko Huotari

“One of the reasons for criticism is that it is becoming more and more common for those to have their voice, works or views acknowledged who have the ability or opportunity to operate in several simultaneous roles in the field of the arts. It should be discussed in more depth, why these multiple roles exist and what their repercussions might be. The problem of bias and disqualification in decision-making in the field of the arts is becoming increasingly topical,” says artist and curator Jussi Koitela, 32.

Born in Kuopio, but currently based in Helsinki after a period in Tampere, Koitela works in media art and participatory art projects. He is quite prepared to broach difficult issues regarding the many problems that the incompetence, financial mechanisms and biased position of decision-makers leads to in the arts.

Koitela has stirred up heated debate by voicing his critical comments in several situations on the ways art institutions operate and the financial leverage that they employ.

Koitela, who prefers to call himself a media artist, has organised a Skills of Economy project to question and rethink the role of financial considerations in decision-making. The critical and active artist-curator is interested in the power structures in the world of art and the status of artists in the current economy. Koitela’s works and critique have the same target: to invite discussion on the reactions and thoughts provoked by the economy and economic discourse, which seems to have acquired a nearly prophetic dimension in the field of art and media.

“How do economic pressures affect the mentality of an artist and the creation of art, or the lack thereof?” Koitela says.

“Grass-roots economic systems, such as time-banks and local currencies, have shown that economic values and concepts can be attributed new meanings. They may in some point become part of the economic mechanism within the field of art.”

Culture sections in national mainstream media have been sacrificed on the altar of economic austerity. Critique has suffered both in quantity and quality, and the same reviews and opinions are often recycled in many instances. However, the Internet has in contrast created a platform for interesting and diverse critical art debate. From the perspective of the general public, the problem is the relative obscurity of this dialogue, which does not seem to get much beyond an exchange of words amongst a small circle of people.

“The Internet is a fertile ground for critique and debate, but the content of this exchange is often limited to a small sector in its scope. The inner workings of the artistic domain are not easy to grasp when approaching it from this angle, and takes a lot of effort. I would argue that the disappearance of the traditional critique in the press is the result of the fact that news and knowledge about art is consumed by a wider variety of users. This is a development we just have to adjust to.”

Koitela’s own main channel for this writing is the Internet, but to make a living writing in this manner would be difficult in his view. He wants to see a much deeper discussion on the values governing the field of art. He considers himself as being fully employed as an artist, with several projects on the go at once and sufficient income. In the increasingly tight grip of the real economy, this has become rare luxury for an artist.

“To me, success as an artist is a person who, having seen a work of art, stops to think about the meaning of the work and taking his or her thoughts further in this way,” Koitela says.

“I feel quite positive about the future. I have enough to keep me busy. The right balance between work and rest is, however, essential. I try to plan my weeks so that I work within normal working hours so that my social life does not have to suffer. I try to avoid maintaining a continuous flow of creativity, which would mean that work would carry over into evenings and weekends. I couldn’t take it after a while.”

Jussi Koitela

    • Helsinki-based 32-year-old artist born in Kuopio.
    • He received his degree from the Tampere University of Applied Science in spring 2010.
    • Bachelor of Culture and Arts, Master of Fine Arts to be completed in 2014. Koitela is studying in the Praxis Master’s Programme at the Academy of Fine Arts.
    • He is currently working as a producer and curator in various exhibition projects and writes critical content for various sites, including jussikoitela.com.
    • He is also working on the Skills of Economy project (skillsof-economy.com).
    • His work in projects and as a curator involves frequent travel between Gothenburg, Oslo, St Petersburg and Berlin.

Marko Lysmä’s diverse career in journalism spans three decades. He finds that critique has become more constructive and destructive over the years.

Comment