Pasi Autio (b.1974) works with photography, moving image and installation. He has a MA in Fine Art Photography from Aalto University, and his works often deal with the inner world of thoughts and its relation to external reality. We discussed internal monologues, soundscapes, and accessing different types of knowledge.
“Meet the artist” interview by Verna Kuusniemi autumn 2019. Published in AV-arkki’s monthly series of interviews with AV-arkki´s artists.
Autio’s works are often investigations of specific environments, circling around a single moment or train of thought and opening it up for examination. Autio feels like he often has a visual starting point that’s influenced by his background in photography. “I'm drawn to a photographic scene that also has some movement. I like to observe my surroundings, the mundane everyday, and then think of their relation to your internal world and imagination, which are also a part of that existing reality.”
In the work Meandering, the unseen narrator engages in a short internal monologue that continuously re-arranges itself, attempting to re-define their relation to the changing environment. “I was interested in how the four words repeatedly spoken in a different order can be used to examine the thought, reverse the meaning of the thought, ‘I traverse the world within myself, within myself the world traverses…’. The narrator attempts to reflect on the state of things, what's really within what, and tries to grasp this reality somehow.“
In Aarne’s Window, and older man’s inner spoken monologue is made up of observations of the view from his window, seasonal changes, and thoughts about his own life. It was born out of Autio’s desire to create something interesting out of his immediate surroundings, which act as the visual environment of the video. “I was looking out of my window, and thought to myself what a boring view it was, with a parking lot. I wanted to see if I could make something from it.”
Fear of Falling
Autio began thinking about our conscious and unconscious thought processes, and the unaccessible knowledge our bodies hold, after undergoing hypnosis. “I ended up going into a very deep state of hypnosis. After that, I found I was scared to fall asleep, in case I’d find myself suddenly in this state of hypnosis again. Somehow, I was really afraid my body would make a decision that my conscious mind had no control over. I used this experience as a spring board for the work ‘An Unusual Step', and really started to think about what is really happening when you take a step, what are the processes that enable it.”
An Unusual Step consists of a spoken text Autio wrote with a physiotherapist. The work was filmed near a crossing in Helsinki, and depicts a man walking slowly, while a narrator simultaneously describes the physiological processes of taking a step.
“I was interested in how our conscious thoughts are accessible to us, whereas the various processes in our bodies are not, they're just something the body knows how to do. And how those bodily processes are lightning-fast, but our conscious processing is slow, and verbalising those fast physical processes would slow them down impossibly.
Autio is interested not only in our intuitive bodily processes, but intuitive knowledge in general. “We also have so much inner dialogue we go through. There’s a reason for it. There’s so much in our unconscious that we don’t have access to, but it’s a source of many things. Verbalising something can stop an intuitive process, but on the other hand, it can also allow our conscious to better understand why we had an intuitive thought in the first place.”
Referencing the world of our internal, imagined realities, Autio’s works present that which is close-to-truth, like an instrumental sound that closely mimics birdsong, or, in In My Portable Room, a light that reflects from a crystal, bleeding through the video projection and into the general space surrounding it.
Right now he's developing a public art work for a hospital in Södermalm. The work will be projected onto a stretch of empty wall space above the reception; a video of the sky, reflected on still water. The surface of the water starts rippling, and morphs into something more abstract, eventually returning back to stillness. You do not immediately recognise it is only a reflection of the sky. There is also a potential sound element, that could lend another dimension to the work.
“In an image, we only see one point of view, but sound is 360, and let's us intuit the environment in all its vastness, providing us with more information than vision. I can register multiple sounds from different angles; a bird I don't recognise, a brook I don't see, car sounds somewhere near. Their difference interests me, and also how sounds engage with the emotions, whereas images lend themselves more to analysis.”
Autio thinks a lot about the musicality in his pieces. “Sometimes the starting point is a desire to create a piece exploring the rhythm of a self-repeating, spoken piece. But it can be something completely different too. I’ve started working something called TITITYY BEAT; stressful, minimalistic dance-music created from birdsong.”
Autio is also interested in how the environment we find ourselves in changes the way we communicate.
“I’m interested in birdsong, how the same bird can alter its song depending on the environment. In the city, they condense their song, so that it's easier to distinguish through all the noises of the city. In the peace of the countryside, they sing differently.”