Still photo from Elina Saloranta's video work Voices of Consolation (2014).

Doctoral Thesis in Fine Arts: Genre Pictures and Experiments in Writing

Elina Saloranta's doctoral thesis, Genre pictures and experiments in writing is a study in article form of the interaction between image, word and sound. It consists of five essays, which have been published or otherwise made accessible to the public in various forums for artistic research, plus a total of seven videoworks. The last of these videos is a wordless epilogue. The thesis also includes an introduction in the form of a letter.

The subject matter of her research derives from the miraculous experience in which sound brings an image to life, and so the questions Saloranta asks are very practical ones: “What would happen if I put the clink of a spoon here? And what if I bring it forwards a few seconds?” But her treatment of the topic is not limited solely to the artworks, since, as the work has progressed, she says she has realized that writing, too, involves an investigation of image, word and sound or (her own) voice. The text component of her thesis can further be linked to the tradition of experimental research writing. When making each of the essays, Saloranta has thought: “Can one write like this? Is this acceptable in the research community?”

Elina Saloranta’s texts are also experiments in the sense that in them she explores various genres of writing. In the first essay, “Tango Lesson – Study on the encounter of empirical science and art”, the research focusses on scientific texts, even if the result is actually close to being conceptual art, playing with science. In the second essay (“What does silence sound like?”) she practises drama writing, in the third (“Delicate wash 40 degrees”) Saloranta keeps a diary, and in the fourth (“A videowork as a genre picture”) she review literary means with the help of the writer Riina Katajavuori. The fifth text (“An archive of consolation”) is the most radical of her experiments, since in it she imagines an essay as being a house with different rooms, and asks: Could a research text be constructed in the same way as a picture? This question is linked with a broader consideration of how to write as a visual artist, and can be seen as being one of the results of Saloranta’s research.

Another result is the videowork Voices of Consolation (2014), consisting of interiors by the Dane Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864–1916). To be sure, the other works are end results, too – not data or source material – but she sees them as kinds of interim statements of account, while Voices of Consolation is the sum total of all my research, a genre painter’s equivalent of the journeyman’s demonstration work. As a by-product of hery studies, she says in fact, to have realized that, even though she makes videoworks, at heart she is a painter, and her works are kinds of contemporary genre pictures, i.e. tableau-like scenes from everyday life.

The methods she uses in her research reflect the way she makes art: “I set up the camera in the corner of my home laboratory and watch what happens. If I don’t have time for anything else, I keep a diary or write letters”, Saloranta explains. Another thing that has become her key method has been ‘inviting guests’, i.e. asking for the help of other artists or researchers. In addition to the writer Riina Katajavuori, the guests in her study include the sound designer Tatu Virtamo and the graphic designer Jorma Hinkka, plus the members of the Nordic Summer University’s artistic-research study circle. “Thanks to them my work has not been a lone slog, but a form of collective play; “lab work”, in the sense that the term is used in performing-arts circles” Saloranta says.

The publication platform for Elina Saloranta’s thesis, Research Catalogue, is an international database of artistic research, which makes it possible to publish essays and videoworks together.