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All Cute Filth - Stop! No More


By Pirkko Siitari

Artist Riiko Sakkinen claims he makes realistic art – shows the free world as it is: “I don’t propose a change. The function of art is to make visible those things that people don’t want to notice or don’t want to talk about. My job is to show all that cute filth, but it is up to the politicians and urban guerrillas to change the world.”

The origins of Sakkinen’s drawings and installations are in product catalogues and advertisements. Many of the figures in his works come from the shelves of  the super market or from TV commercials. They receive new meanings from the texts the artist attaches to them. Observations on intercultural conflicts, market economy, nationalism, globalisation and current political questions have been dressed up in cartoon or advert -like costumes.

On first sight Sakkinen’s works look like colourful and happy consumerism. Only a deeper reading reveals the darker side of the spectacle. Sakkinen knows how to crystallise his point and how to hit the sore spots without adopting a preaching attitude, all veiled up in lightness. ”Stop No More African Immigrants If They Are Not Top Football Players”, ”Eat More and Get More. More Choco. More $. More Freedom.” ”I Love Mexican Food But I Hate Mexicans”, ”Cold Cola War” are examples of the texts in Sakkinen’s works.

Background study is often necessary in Sakkinen’s way of working. For example, for his exhibition in Berlin in the summer 2008, Sakkinen modernised the slogans of the 1968 Paris demonstrations. ”Comrade, stop applauding, the spectacle is everywhere” translated into: ”Consumer, applaud, the spectacle is everywhere” or the original ”Be Realistic And Demand The Impossible” slogan’s modern-day version was: ”Be Realistic And Demand More Cheeseburger”.

Sakkinen describes his own work thus: ”I read everything from politics to sport and from the economy pages to the prostitutes’ ads in the newspapers. While buying my groceries I examine every bag of sweets and box of cerials. When I have chosen a theme for a work or even an entire exhibition, my main tools are Wikipedia, Google and Urban Dictionary.”

Many contemporary artists have chosen a visible and active role in relation to the everyday life and the surrounding world. Sakkinen on the relationship between art and everyday life: ”My art is about the everyday life from special offers to terrorist attacks and from prostitution to fast food. My dogma is that art should not be about art – or artists – or refer to it. Modernism was and is criminal.”

Pirkko Siitari is the chief curator of collections at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki.

Extract from the article Borrow, Change and Steal. Originally published in the catalog Tracking Traces... Kiasma, 2009