Harri Laakso: Heavy writing

One of the few principles concerning artistic research, that I have been able to hold onto, is that it has to do with the relationship between images and words, and in particular with what resists that relation. The creative research impulse is directly related to a sense of containment, like a piece of graphite is simultaneously capable of serving a poet’s or a draughtsman’s hand and able to moderate a nuclear reaction.

A piece of graphite? Yes: A few years back I was able to acquire a few heavy graphite blocks that were unused leftover material of a research nuclear reactor (Finland’s first nuclear reactor FiR1, which operated from 1962 until 2015). Since then, the material has been mostly sitting in my studio, irradiating an air of creative potential tinged with danger. Next to it I have a couple of sacks of bentonite clay, a substance with equally divergent uses, ranging from cat litter to nuclear waste management.

The performative lecture, with its direct reference to and use of the graphite, is an exploration of the volatile relation of artistic research writing, occurring alongside an artwork (or aside from it). The presentation consists of a series of performative acts and (writing) gestures involving the graphite and bentonite as well as a series of musings seeking an appropriate critical mass.


Harri Laakso studied photography and art in New York, Helsinki and Chicago and obtained a Doctor of Arts degree in 2003. He is Associate Professor of Photography Research at Aalto University, Finland. Laakso is an artist, researcher and curator interested in photographic images and theory, artistic research and word/image relations. He has led, and participated in, many artistic and research projects, curated exhibitions and published texts related to photography and contemporary art.