Category Archives: Dissertation

Defence of dissertation in the field of Visual Communication Design, MA Arja Karhumaa

Cover image of EPÄGENESIS: Tekstin muotoilu uusmateriaalisena kirjoitta/umisena. Tutkielma Y by Arja Karhumaa.

Cover of Arja Karhumaa's Dissertation second book Epägenesis: Katalogi X.

The audience is kindly asked to join at no later than 12:00. The defence will be recorded.

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Event language: Finnish 

Event page: In English In Finnish 

The dissertation is publicly displayed online 10 days before the defence here.

TITLE OF DISSERTATION

EPä/iGENESIS: Tekstin muotoilu uusmateriaalisena kirjoitta/umisena. Tutkielma Y

ABSTRACT

This is an artistic research into the materiality of typographic text. In everyday settings, the conventions of ordinary text documents render their writing almost transparent for their reader. However, at the same time, those conventions are so visual in nature that texts often become recognised even before reading, just by looking. As a designer and researcher, I expose these conventions in Epägenesis, an experimental writing project which is set in motion by appropriating found text from ordinary text documents.

In Epägenesis (eng. “Ungenesis”), the persuasive power of form is illuminated by my entangled gestures of writing, designing and reading, calling into question the established categories of ”form” and “content”. What is subsequently exposed is the situated knowledge and skilled practice of a text designer.

The dissertation consists of two books (X and Y), where X marks the practice-based part, and Y is this study which sheds light on the project. Together, X and Y define a space where practice and theory make new diffractive patterns, producing new knowledge where those two are inseparable.

The book Epägenesis: Katalogi X is a compilation of my experimental texts in four series: Alfa, Beeta, Delta and Gem. In writing these texts, I borrow methods and constraints from conceptual and procedural writing.

In this study, I reread my experimental writing in Epägenesis through theories and concepts which have been used in examining the visual and material aspects of typography. Linguistic and literary studies, art history, and visual and media studies have previously shown interest mainly towards textual artifacts that are recognisably material, i.e. unconventional. Multimodal research also recognises how texts are produced through various practices. In my research, I read typography through new materialist concepts, which suggest that text is always material-discursive regardless of whether its form is conventional or unconventional, transparent or prominent to its reader. New materialist thinking provides a frame where typographic writing is entangled with language and matter, with impact from both human and nonhuman. In my research, I am particularly interested in how this impact gets entangled with the notion of the public.

The history of typography is the history of printing, which carries with it many preconceived ideas about origin, author-ship, and value. The entanglements of writing, printing and typography deserve to be examined carefully in this exact moment when typographic practices and conventions migrate onto digital environments, where they emerge and transform in networks devoid of subjective authorship or discernable origin. This might be a turning point which will reveal that us humans never did our writing on our own. Not only do we write, but through material-discoursive agents something is always also epigenetically written into the world.

Showing evidence of the extensive impact of typography on the lives of publics is not easy, however my thesis begins to propose a certain “sociology of texts”. This is a space where categories of language and image, form and content, convention and invention, collapse. Instead, new differential, entangled relationships are recognised in how typographic choices impact our shared world and its patterns of variation and change. With multiple shifts in perspective, scale, and method, this thesis points to how the smallest punctuation marks are entangled with the vast phenomena of knowledge and power.

 

Image of Arja Karhumaa's work 'Nocturne'.

‘Nocturne’ by Arja Karhumaa.

THE DOCTORAND

Image of the doctorand Arja Karhumaa.

MA Arja Karhumaa.

Arja Karhumaa is a graphic designer who works at the intersection of writing, education, and research. Karhumaa has a history of design practice both in agencies and as an independent entrepreneur. Since 2010, she has focused not only on developing education in visual communication, but also on publication design, and writing that spans the territories of poetry, design, and scholarship. Karhumaa has been awarded with prizes and honorable mentions as well as prestigious jury positions both in Finland and in international competitions. She has worked at Aalto University since 2011 as a Lecturer and Assistant Professor.

Contact: Arja Karhumaa

 

 

Defence of dissertation in the field of Photography, MA Laura Nissinen

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Event page

The audience is asked to join at no later than 12:00. The defence will be recorded.

Event language(s): Finnish

Title of dissertation:

Abstraktin aika. Epäesittävä suomalainen valokuvataide 1920-2020

Opponent: PhD Johanna Frigård, University of Turku.

Custos: Professor Harri Laakso, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Media.

ABSTRACT

In recent years, no follower of photographic art can have avoided coming into contact with abstract photography. It seems to be everywhere, from the most expensive galleries to the smallest independent exhibition spaces. New makers emerge, and established artists who previously confined themselves to representational art are now working on abstract works. Numerous photography magazines have covered it, dedicating entire issues to the theme. What is it all about? And what exactly is abstract photography? Then there is the question of whether combining photography and abstraction is even possible or meaningful? To answer these questions this research gathers together over 100 years of abstract photography and approaches photographers and artists about their practice through interviews.

As concepts, photography and abstraction seem to be almost opposites. The concept of abstract is usually used specifically to refer to non-representational art and photographic medium is tradition- ally described as a medium of exact representation. Interpreting non-representational images is further complicated by the variety of definitions used. The thought patterns and manufacturing techniques involved in producing abstractions are manifold. However, what all the definitions have in common is that they refer to photography with unrecognisable or hard-to-recognise subjects.

Other recurring themes in abstract photo- graphic art include an investigative orientation, experimentalism, a focus on the working process, and commentary on technical reforms. Medium- related self-referentiality is key: the subjects of abstraction often include the history and characteristics of photography, and the materials of the medium. Throughout its existence, the main subject of photographic abstraction has been photography itself. Furthermore, abstract photographic art is pictorial, non-narrative, and non-verbal. However, this does not mean that abstract photographic art could not be political. Throughout its history, abstract photography has been used as a means to criticise the features and changes of the art world and society in large.

Time after time, abstraction challenges the traditional forms of expression and methods of photography, and functions within this medium as a force promoting renewal and vitality. Abstraction reflects the historical changes in photography over the past century. It highlights the technical changes in photography, but also the relationship between photography and the issues surrounding it, such as science or other art. The history of abstraction reflects the essential questions in the field of photography in each era. Finnish contemporary photographic abstraction returns to 19th-century scientific photography, 1920s avant-garde photograms, and studies of motion. With the emergence of new artists, however, each decade sees a change in content. What all abstractionists have in common is a desire to break the representational character of photography and to boldly study different aspects of photography. Makers of photographic abstractions are always required to consciously work against the norms of photography. Abstraction is bold thinking.”

Photograph. Aleatory Variable (burning b&w sheet film), I (2014) by Laura Nissinen.

Laura Nissinen: Aleatory Variable (burning b&w sheet film), I (2014).

More information on the thesis
Vilho Setälä, who photographed Finland’s earliest photographic abstraction, Sähkökruunu, in 1928, warned in a photography guide he wrote: “And now, my friend, when you try to open your eyes to the unseen, prepare for disappointment. Your friends don’t understand you and the editors reject your best pictures.”

Laura Nissinen’s doctoral dissertation Abstraktin aika. Epäesittävä suomalainen valokuvataide 1920–2020 will be examined at Aalto University on 26th March 2021. The thesis delves into one of medium’s most interesting problems, the possibility of abstract photography. The study, which also includes an artistic part, deals with the production of a total of 32 Finnish photographers and artists through an extensive interview section. In addition, several foreign photographers and artists are involved, as well as 19th Century Finnish and foreign scientists from different fields.

During its 100-year existence, photographic abstraction has established itself as part of photographic expression. However, the reception it has received has varied. Abstract photographs have been perceived as non-photographic and have been seen to resemble too much other visual arts, especially painting. The most turbulent stages in the history of Finnish abstract photography were experienced between 1950s and 1980s. Looking back, especially the 1970s, when many of the permanent structures of Finnish photography also took shape, appear to be problematic in many ways with photographic abstraction.

Today, there are only occasional echoes of the abstract’s sometimes very challenging position in Finnish art photography. However, the reservations of the past decades about the phenomenon can still be seen as interruptions in the narrative of Finnish photographic history and shortcomings in photo archives. Based on the small number of photographic abstractions in archives and collections, we have a gap in our country’s art history.

The strengthened art status of contemporary photography has increased the number of Finnish photographic abstractions and made the unrepresentative form of expression more common. On the other hand, this research shows that the importance of abstract photography in classifying photography as art in Finland has been essential. As Juhani Riekkola, member of the group Fotograafikot stated in his interview: “We hung the first photographs in the galleries, not today’s curators”.

The dissertation is publicly displayed online 10 days before the defence here.

THE DOCTORAND

Picture of the doctorand, MA Laura Nissinen. @Helinä Kuusela

The doctorand, MA Laura Nissinen. @Helinä Kuusela.

Laura Nissinen is Helsinki based photographer, artist and researcher. Her doctoral dissertation “Abstraktin aika. Epäesittävä suomalainen valokuvataide 1920–2020” deals with photographic abstraction. The dissertation includes an artistic production and is published by Aalto Arts Books. In 2017 Nissinen curated the exhibition “Abstract! 100 Years of Abstract Photography 1917–2017” in the Finnish Museum of Photography. Along with her doctoral studies in Aalto University, Nissinen is currently an art history master student in the University of Helsinki. Nissinen has previously graduated with MA from the University of Art and Design Helsinki (Taik). She has also studied photography and art in the University of Westminster, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and École National Supérieure de la Photographie.

More information please contact Laura Nissinen