© Mika Taanila. The Earth Who Fell to Man. Film still.
Mika Taanila


I like to see my works as pendulums. We stand looking back in time and sense the vision of the future there. It all goes back and forth constantly. Middle is where we stand today.

Interview Mika Taanila, Vincent Stroep, Ultra Eczema, 2010

STUK is delighted to present the work of Mika Taanila (°1965). In his work, Taanila rearranges existing materials, stories, and people to reflect on human’s condition in today’s society, often shaped by ideas and desires of scientific, technological and economic progress. With a practice spanning over two decades, Taanila has created a vast oeuvre of works ranging from beautifully paper-based sculptures such as Film Reader included in the Nordic Pavilion during the Venice Biennial 2017 to award-winning feature length films such as Return of the Atom (2015) and Tectonic Plate (2016).

For his solo exhibition in STUK, we selected four works providing an insight into Taanila’s practice.

The large triple-screen installationThe Most Electrified Town in Finland (2012) sketches a fifteen minute long portret of Eurajoki, a small town of 6.000 inhabitants on the west coast of Finland and home to a nuclear construction site. With already two nuclear reactors up and running since the 1970s, Eurajoki planned the construction of a third one - Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) -, intended to be the world’s most efficient nuclear reactor. The construction project ran into serious delays and its opening, originally planned for May 2009, has been postponed multiple times, the current estimate being September 2019. At a cost of ten billion euro, it is estimated to be the world’s second most expensive building (after a hotel complex called Abraj al-Bait, in Mecca).

Combining images of the construction site, images of nature, found footage and observations of the employees on-site, TMETIF creates a poetic compilation of a nuclear dream trying to become reality against the backdrop of its surrounding; the ambitions of the town to become “The Most Electrified Town in Finland”, and its local residents.

Installation shots © Kristof Vrancken
Full album via flickr

‘Eerola’s magnificent camerawork of the construction site and its surroundings merges the everyday with the surreal, including scenes of nature and local life under the aegis of enforced nuclear-powered normalcy. The installation presents a vision that defies simple explanation; words would not be able to capture the experience. Unlike most works about nuclear power, there are no clear winners, villains or victims. (...). In Taanila’s installation, there are no anti-nuclear demonstrations, but many small hints imply the looming danger. His beloved raw material, deteriorating film, makes its appearance, representing the creeping effects of nuclear radiation. No matter what happens, life must continue; the surface is calm.’

Erkki Huhtamo - Poetics of the Concrete: About Mika Taanila’s Art, Ars Fennica 2015

The Most Electrified Town in Finland (2012)was created for and first presented at dOCUMENTA 13. The installation is based on the feature documentary Return of the Atom which Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola worked on since 2004 and which premiered in 2015 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The ready-made marzipan sculpture Viimeinen käyttöpäivä [Date of Expiry] (2015) is shown alongside the video installation.

"We must have died alone, a long long time ago."

David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World

The exhibition in STUK continues with Taanila’s recent single-channel film The Earth Who Fell to Man (2017). Taking the Nicolas Roeg 1976 movie The Man Who Fell to Earth as his source material, Taanila systematically ‘erased’ man and especially the protagonist alien played by David Bowie, from the screen. The piece features only shots from the film that are without recognizable human beings: landscapes, buildings, backdrops, roads, the sky, the earth. The shots are running upside down on screen and are enhanced with sounds of earthquakes, falling rocks and landslides. The Earth (as the title suggests) seems to be falling to Man.

Nicolas Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell to Earth in turn was based upon American writer Walter Tevis's 1963 novel of the same name about an extraterrestrial who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet. Two sculptural works based on different editions of The Man Who Fell to Earth complete the installation in STUK. For these works, Taanila used a process parallel to traditional film editing, i.e. splicing. The books are works of moving image, quite literally: images are moved and taken out, erased, cut-out, transformed and discarded. The edits create a new tangible landscape.

In THE END, Taanila presents a selection of works in which future fictions and ideas of progress, pushed forward by scientific, technological and economic developments, encourages us to question our relation to each other, our surroundings and the planet. At the same time, The Most Electrified Town in Finland (2012) once again sheds light on the urgent debate around (nuclear) energy provision. And STUK seems to be the perfect place to do this as it turns out, in Finnish STUK is short for Säteilyturvakeskus, which means Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

Mika Taanila
(°1965, Helsinki, Finland)

Mika Taanila is a visual artist and filmmaker whose practice moves freely between documentary film-making and avant-garde cinema to the visual arts. In his work, ranging from paper-based work, sculpture and photography to films, video- and sound installations, Taanila questions the human condition in an increasingly technologized, mediated, and designed world. His works have been shown world-wide at major film festivals and important international group shows including La Biennale di Venezia (2017), Aichi Triennale (2013), Documenta (2012) Shanghai Biennale (2006), Berlin Biennale (2004), Manifesta (2002) and Istanbul Biennial (2001). Recent solo shows include Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki (2013–14), Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2013) and TENT, Rotterdam (2013). He is the recipient of the 2015 Ars Fennica Award, Finland’s most important art award.

Mika Taanila lives and works in Helsinki. He is represented by balzer projects.

Works in the exhibition:

The Most Electrified Town in Finland (2012)
3-Channel video installatie, Screening format: Digital files, Original Format: 16 mm film / video
3 x 1:1,77; väri & mv / Colour & B/W, 5.1, No dialogue, 15 min., Loop
Cinematography: Jussi Eerola / Sound Design: Olli Huhtanen / Music: Pan Sonic / Production: Kinotar
Courtesy of the artist and Kinotar Oy

Viimeinen Käyttöpäivä [Date of Expiry] (2015)
16x14x4 cm, Marsepein, Plastiek verpakking, Ready-made
Courtesy of Balzer Projects

The Earth Who Fell To Man (2017)
Single-channel video installatie, HD Video, 8 min., Loop
Courtesy of Balzer Projects

The Man Who Fell To Earth (Split), 2017
Prepared cinema book, Acrylic frame, 20 x 38 cm
Courtesy of Balzer Projects

The Man Who Fell To Earth (Profile), 2017
Prepared cinema book, Acrylic frame, 20 x 26 cm
Courtesy of Balzer Projects

The Man Who Fell to Earth (lamp), 2018
Prepared Cinema Book, Acrylic Frame, 19 x 13 cm
Courtesy of Balzer Projects

Wed 17 Oct 2018 19:00 - Sun 16 Dec 2018
Wed 17 Oct 2018 19:00 - Sun 16 Dec 2018


STUK Expozaal



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