"I built an island" - Antti Laitinen's works at the Royal Academy of Arts

23rd December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Antti Laitinen is the first Finnish artist to have his artwork on display at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Laitinen’s body of work It’s My Island is part of the Earth – Art of a changing world exhibition that opened on 3 December. The exhibition features leading artists from across the world, looking at their varied and provocative responses to the theme of climate change.

The opening of the must-see show this winter at the Royal Academy of Arts was not scheduled to coincide with the United Nations summit in Copenhagen by accident.  Earth – Art of changing world sets out to consider the impact of climate change, and our transition to the new world, on the practice of a broad range of contemporary artists.

In It´s My Island, Laitinen builds his own island in the Baltic Sea over a period of three months. (photo: Antti Laitinen)It´s My Island, , Laitinen builds his own island in the Baltic Sea over a period of three months. (photo: Antti Laitinen)

Among some thirty artists is Antti Laitinen – who himself does not consider climate change to be the main issue in his works. “Climate change is not the main thing, but people have started to look at my work through this theme. I understand this well since climate change is currently a trendy topic”, Laitinen says.

Laitinen’s body of work on display at Earth exhibition, It´s My Island, (2007), consists of a selection of videos and photographs. The three simultaneous videos go on to show Laitinen as he builds his own island in the Baltic Sea by dragging two hundred sand bags into the water – using nothing but a spade, sand and stacks.     

Building a paradise-like place to somewhere it does not belong is a repeating theme in Laitinen’s works. “The will to build oneself an own independent micro-nation inhabited by a single citizen - I would consider themes such as these to be the starting point for my works, not climate change”, he reckons.

“Not that it’s wrong to interpret my works from that point of view. There is no one right way to read an artwork.”

No expectations

Antti Laitinen, who graduated from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2005, considers Earth to be the biggest exhibition where he’s had his works on display. It’s My Island has previously been showcased, in addition to New York, in Nettie Horn Gallery in East London, from where it was probably picked up by the RAA.

“I don’t really have expectations when it comes to this exhibition”, Laitinen says. “I mean, it is nice to see what comes out of this, if anything. My work has never before been presented in a place where potentially so many people could see it.”

Besides photographs, Laitinen’s previous works include sculptures, performances and installations. A forest-themed installation by Laitinen was on display in Britain earlier this autumn, also in Nettie Horn, London. For the installation, Laitinen collected hundreds of pounds of bark from the trees outside his study in Helsinki to re-build a forest.

Voyage performance in Thames, London. (photo: Antti Laitinen)Voyage performance in Thames, London. (photo: Antti Laitinen)

The Voyage performance Laitinen did in Thames, London a year ago involves another wonderful story. As part of a Hotel Meridian show by the artist collective Mahony, Laitinen aspired to row a self-build paradise island through Central London.

“The first three miles went well, but soon after we got closer to the Houses of Parliament, a police boat stopped me and asked if I knew the buildings that surrounded me. I said I didn’t. As they told that I was close not only to the Parliament but also to the Security Service MI5, I said to them that’s where I was going. The police did not agree.”

Laitinen did not get any further and the police took down his details. “The police also stalled the motor of the convoy boat I had with me. After they let us go, the motor did not fire again – so eventually the police had to tow both the convoy boat and my palm tree island back to the upstream.”

Antti Laitinen
Earth - Art of a changing world

Tiina Heinilä/ Embassy of Finland/Expatica
Photos: Antti Laitinen

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