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The Artists

Aro Mielonen

Who is Aro Mielonen?
I’m a contemporary artist working on photographic and video arts. A storyteller. A visual poet. I graduated from the Pekka Halonen Academy in the spring of 2019 and I’m currently studying at the Arts Academy of Turku University of Applied Sciences. I’ve also studied creative writing in the writing program of the Critical Academy. I live and work in Helsinki.

What types of themes do you explore in your art?
My art is mostly about identity and freedom. The individual’s relationship with society. Beauty and concepts of being a human being in this world.

How did you become interested in photography?
I became a photographer because I didn’t consider myself a creative person. I figured out I could document things instead of creating them. During my studies, my sense of self was transformed, and now I’m interested in images with heavy staging and costuming instead of purely documentary photographs. In photography, I’m interested in the relationship between the image and the reality. Regardless of how staged, constructed and costumed the image is, it was still real for a moment. I’m interested in creating visual worlds of my own.

Would you talk a little more about the pieces selected for the Pride window installation?
The photographic pieces were created when I was working on the “Born into this body” series of photographs displayed at the Young Artists 2019 exhibition of Kunsthalle Helsinki. My photographs explore masculinity by mirroring it with femininity, beauty and the childhood games of playing princess or ice hockey. The photographs ask, what is allowed and for whom? Who gets to play princess? The images illustrate a visual world characteristic of my style, combining gentle humor and nostalgia towards a time that never existed, as well as some recognizable items, such as a 1995 World Championships bedsheet as the canvas and a hockey jersey transformed into a confirmation robe. For me, the photographs are similar to collector cards, something between a die cut scrap and a hockey card.

What does the Pride week mean to you?
I grew up in the countryside, and homosexuality was considered a taboo in my childhood. I was nine years old when the Finnish Act on Registered Partnerships entered into force, and I couldn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to talk about it. Participating in Helsinki Pride for the first time felt liberating and incredible. I felt like I had found a community I didn’t even know existed. For me, Pride means making the community known, bringing people together and defending human rights. It’s a reminder that we are here.

Aro Mielonen

Viljami Nissi

Who is Viljami Nissi?
I’m a 26-year-old artist and graduate of the Kankaanpää School of Art. I originally hail from Kannus but now live in Helsinki.

What types of themes do you explore in your art?
I’ve dealt with various themes over the years. Ultimately, it all comes down to your sense of self and the need to process something, such as the death of a beloved dog. However, my art rarely focuses on one single theme. The process may start with a specific topic but it usually gets overlapped and supplemented by other themes and material. There are some topics that are characteristic of my work and usually end up getting infused into the process, such as masculinity, religion, sensitivity and sexuality.

Over the past year, I’ve been doing research for this religious exhibition on the relationship between human and dog by, for example, conducting a type of anthropological research on subcultures featuring dogs and thinking about questions such as why humans wish to be dogs and why we find eroticism in the state of being a dog.

The painting installation selected for the Pride window is part of the Most Beautiful Dog in the World exhibition. Please tell us a little more about the exhibition and the piece selected for the window installation.
The Most Beautiful Dog in the World is a series of artwork consisting of fictional text, painting installations and manipulated images that was debuted earlier this summer at Platform in Vaasa and at Roihutila in Helsinki.

The exhibition tells the story of a person who becomes marginalized after their dog runs away but finds new meaning for their life in a dog-themed roleplay fetish known as puppy play and transforms into a dog. The dream-like story slowly evolves from the real world into fantasy where the earth is covered in seashells and God, a beautiful young dog-person, stands on top of a pink mountain of quartz, transforming people into dogs. The happy people-turned-dogs fall from the mountain, changing into dust that is carried by the wind.

The painting installation selected for the Pride exhibition emulates an ancient cave painting depicting this scene, although the muscular dogs guarding the mountain have been painted on a sheet using neon acrylics and chains have been sewn onto the sheet to remind us that, even as dogs, we wouldn’t be free but tied to a leash. The dogs in the painting have been moulded out of unfired clay and will eventually dry, become brittle and transform into clay dust.

What does the Pride week mean to you?
Pride week is a happy reminder of how far we have come in many issues over the decades. However, we mustn’t forget that Pride is still a protest march, and the fight for equality and human rights will not be over until all the discrimination in the world has ended.

Viljami Nissi