Elina Saloranta: Could research take the form of a letter?

How to write as an artist? Could a research text take the form of a picture or a letter? These are questions that I posed to myself when working on my doctoral thesis, and as a result, each essay became a test, an experiment in writing. In my postdoctoral research, I continue exploring writing by engaging in correspondence with three 19th century sisters. In practice, I read their letters and “reply” to them from today’s perspective. Sometimes the reply is a text, sometimes a video piece.

In my presentation I will introduce my journey as an artist-researcher and show its latest outcome, an 8-minute video piece titled A letter from Liisi (2021). The video is based on a letter from April 17, 1912. On the same day, there was a solar eclipse, which the letter-writer was preparing to view through coloured glass. While waiting for the eclipse, she recalls the death of her sick brother and the birth of her sister’s new baby. The letter is thus a combination of intimate microhistory and huge, universal themes. On the image track, this is reflected by combining family pictures with astronomical glass plates from early 1900s.

My questions to the audience are very simple: Do you write letters? If yes, how is it different from writing a research text? What could we learn from the genre and practice of letter-writing?


I am a postdoctoral researcher from the University of the Arts Helsinki. I am also someone who likes to write letters, and while I was working on my doctoral thesis Genre pictures and experiments in writing (2017), I became interested in letter-writing as a genre and practice. As a result, I have now engaged in correspondence with three 19th century sisters. I also teach writing to art students and help coordinate the Nordic Summer University’s study circle on artistic research.