At the gallery Nettie Horn, the Finnish artist Antti Laitinens second UK solo show featuring his latest performance entitled Bark Boat, documented through a series of photographs, a video and a boat, is on display till 19 June.
On the 7th of August 2010 at 4am, a rudimentary and yet authentic sailboat was launched for the first time in the Finnish peninsula of Porkkala to embark on its inaugural journey across the Gulf of Finland. At its command was a young and resilient journeyman who has made a name for himself through his adventurous-spirit and his ritualistic quests for achievement, and known by the name of Antti Laitinen.
The young sailor along with his boat, made of ancient pine bark collected from the floor of the Finnish forest, confidently undertook the conquest of the Baltic Sea with the firm intention to reach the welcoming island of Naissaar situated northwards of Tallinn in Estonia. During a nineteen hour long journey the small vessel braved the elements of this unpredictable sea; meeting on his way a seal and narrowly crossing paths with ocean liners sailing at high-speed.
Bark Boat is the latest in a series of performances where Antti Laitinen embarks on a personal journey, pushing the boundaries of his physical endurance and braving the natural elements, to engage with the world in a collective mission to stage mythologies and erase the boundary between success and failure. As in most of his previous projects, Bark Boat originates from classical Finnish tales and cultural imagery - in this instance, the title is taken from a Finnish childhood game whereby pieces of tree bark are used as rafts and are set sailing onto the vast sea until they disappear out of sight. The children would imagine their miniature boats sailing all the way to faraway lands.
The concept of this lone adventurer transiting physically from one land to another on a handmade raft in an epic journey across the sea is an extension to previous projects by Laitinen reunited under the title The Island Trilogy. In It’s My Island, the first performance in the series, Laitinen constructed an island made of two hundred bags filled with sand which the artist dragged into the Baltic Sea over a period of three months.
The second chapter presents a second handmade island which the artist rowed throughout various seascapes. In the final chapter, the third island is embodied by a small iceberg which Laitinen preserved throughout the winter to then resurrect during the summer months. For two days, the artist went on a slow rowing journey, iceberg in tow, during which the ice progressively disappeared and melted back into the water it once came from. The melting of this island and its symbolic disappearance ended this trilogy.
Through these islands or paradise-like places which are the emblems of independent lands and micro-nations, Laitinen points to the incongruity between an individual’s performance and circumstances and how it grows into a cultural metaphor. The particularity of Laitinen’s work lies in the multiple readings it offers, ranging from an intrinsic ecology-oriented aspect to the Monty Python-esque nature of his performances from which he shares some of its absurd seriousness and idiosyncratic imagination.