On Power and Control

I was five years old and we had just moved into a new house of our own. The house had a yard, and in the yard there was a somewhat modest swing, made from a piece of board and two ropes. I climbed onto it and started to swing furiously, systematically destroying my feelings of anger and longing for where we used to live. The air swept my face and the tension in my body was extreme. Suddenly I became fully aware of the power within me, of each single hair and pore. For the first time in my life I thought: life is here and now, in this emotion, in this moment. The next time the same feeling took over me was when I looked at a work of art. I could feel the power it conveyed to me. I knew I wanted to make art for a living. My works are autobiographical and deal with my relationship to my environment. These experiences reflect themselves in emotional states. Growing up as a woman in the narrow strait of Western values has not been easy. Gradually, self-therapy has given way to more general themes and participation. I have aimed at influencing the world around me. More recently, my works have been easily distributable and reprintable. The word ‘power’ contains at least two meanings: force and control. In my video work Power, there is a big man and a petite woman boxing. Set in the mood of a classic film in black and white, the fight does not seem to have a winner as neither boxer clearly aims at a knockout. The woman’s pathetic blows are easy for the man to block, but he does not exploit his size and skills, although he is stronger. To be powerful is to be able to control your power. Control. In the work, the woman has revealed the upper part of her body for blows and the viewer’s gaze. Naked women boxing or wrestling are imagery typical of commercial sex. Yet despite their roles, these characters are passive objects subjected to the male gaze. In the work, the active character of the woman reflects a violent gaze towards the sender. The theme song from the Rocky soundtrack is accompanied by a young woman humming: uncertainly, the sound disappears and rises in the background. When the bell rings, the fight is over. The boxers leave the arena without looking at each other. Let us return to the moment when the tree branches scraped my hair when I tried to swing as fast as I could on the backyard swing. In a single point my feelings are united. They multiply themselves and roll over me with an indescribable force. In that moment, I was unable to explain life that explained itself to me, as if I had been void of senses during my brief history. At best, art is capable of reflecting the greatest miracles. For me, to make art is to conduct a continuous death struggle with myself. If I decide to live, the power has returned me to my senses, even if for but a precious moment. Salla Tykkä January 2001

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