Harri Piispanen (b.1981) is a Helsinki based visual and performance artist. Graduated from Aalto University’s Environmental Art master program in 2014, his earlier studies consist of material based art – namely glass and ceramics. Currently working with a wide range of materials and mediums Piispanen revolves his practice around the creation of objects and their use in performance.
The focus is on the most personal of spaces: the human body. More specifically, the body of the artist with all its imperfections. It is a platform for action and a canvas of display. Many of the works take on the form of a garment: hat, mask, shirt, dress etc. Each apparel made is a wrapping, an outlandish cocoon of colour and impracticality. It covers the body – or parts of it – often impairing the wearer in one way or the other.
As a part of his own practice Piispanen also works as an art educator. He has been teaching ceramics, environmental and visual arts as well as various open workshops at the Annantalo Arts Centre from 2011.
“My practice slides seamlessly from visual to performing art. I work with a range of materials and mediums but the solid core is in the creation of objects and their subsequent use. Most of the objects I make are garments. They are meant to be worn and as such are directly connected with the body. Each one is a wrapping, an outlandish cocoon of colour and impracticality covering the body, or parts of it. The exteriors are often humorous and bizarre visualizations of the profane trinity of consumption, sexuality and mortality – a trio that is ever-present.
None of the costumes are exactly easy or even remotely comfortable to wear and therein lies the point. They epitomise “style before purpose”, decoration at the cost of impairment. The colourful pop-like exteriors are in stark contrast with the experience of wearing them: in addition to being hot, bulky and cumbersome, they often obscure vision and hearing, isolating the wearer inside a personal bubble.
The sculptural costumes flirt with practices of couture and catwalks and the spheres of public and private. The nuance differentiating them from fashion is what happens when the garments are used. I consider the act of wearing to be equally important as the object itself – by wearing something I include my body and personality as a continuation of it. The object becomes a stage; use defines where an act begins and where it ends.
The wearables ignite action and become playgrounds for various uses. Often the process of making informs the way how it can be used. It can be for example a fashionshow-esque catwalk or mingling in a crowd as a sort of a living and moving sculpture. The outcome of this process often results in a whole body of work: performance, video and various objects that can be displayed.”
Koli tasting at Kehä festival. Article in newspaper Kaleva Kolin kansallismaisema tiivistyi uutteeksi (in Finnish)
The recipe for the Essence of Koli in the Living Cook Book
Emergency INDEX – an annual publication documenting the “state of the field” of performance art
Master’s theses Aalto University Now. After.
In his MA theses Harri Piispanen explores the ways of presenting selfhood and it’s changes in connection with the inevitable.