Mira Caselius is a multidisciplinary artist based in Helsinki, Finland, whose working methods vary from drawing and painting to video, installation art and writing. She has had several solo and group exhibitions in Finland and Italy. Her artistic thinking is strongly directed towards exploring the depths of human nature and she often works on themes that rise from the dark side of humanity. Caselius has a BA degree in Spatial and Furniture Design and she is currently carrying out Master of Art studies in the program of Visual Culture, Curating and Contemporary Art (ViCCA) at the Aalto University. She also works as an illustrator and graphic designer and collaborates with the Finnish alternative pop group Elliot’s Crazy Compass. Among other things, Caselius has created album and single covers and a music video for the band.
I do not claim to know best what my art is about. Making art is reaching for a universal field of knowledge and channelling it through your practice, and it often happens that meanings and viewpoints go unnoticed by you and are later pointed out by someone else.
What I can say is that my artistic thinking (and thinking in general) is strongly directed towards exploring the depths of human nature. I am interested in the collective subconscious, transgenerational emotional memories, the social origins of mental health issues and, related to this, the conflict between our deepest, often unrecognised needs and the distorted, capitalist normality, which I see as anti-human. My art is political but mostly in a subtle, not obvious way. I like to leave things open for interpretations.
The political dimension of my art is closely tied to my idea of humanity. I perceive humans as beings fundamentally driven by love, fundamentally equal through their uniqueness, and meant to be profoundly free. Love, among its other aspects, also means passion for work: doing what you enjoy, according to your personal resources. This is not reality for most people because the relationship with work in our societies is twisted. Work should be in service of humanity and Nature that we are part of; instead people are subordinated to the (in essence imaginary) capital through work and the lack of it. Idleness, which is the prerequisite of thinking and creativity, is seen as reprehensible. The paradigm of work does not only physically drain us of energy – it is in my view one of the major factors (intentionally) obscuring our true nature from ourselves, and thus causing a sense of meaninglessness, often leading to depression.
In my visual art and writing, I have been picturing people as an infinite mesh transcending space and time, where everyone is interconnected, and our history as the history of a multi-layered, collective trauma with long, invisible roots that reach long beyond the horizon of memory and understanding; a trauma created by different forms of violence and conditioning, of ancient origin, continuously reproducing themselves assisted by their allies, oblivion and fear: shared darkness, now darker than ever thanks to the destructive neoliberal doctrine of our time.
Amidst the ecological crisis, it has become increasingly popular to see this darkness simply as human nature. I am, however, more inclined to see a fairly small group of privileged people acting in psychopathic ways through the capitalist machinery, manipulating us and profiting in every possible way from the insanity of the system, only possible because of the wide range, historical depth and complexity of the collective trauma. People are incredibly adaptable and oblivious, they adapt to almost anything – and soon cannot see outside the box they are put in, introduced to them as the only possible reality.
However, there are always people who do not fit in, those who do not find their places in the machinery. They are often more sensitive than the average: they feel there is something wrong, but sadly, tend to blame themselves and suffer mentally. I have been like this. Throughout the years, my difficulties have led me to reflect upon the system that has made me suffer so much. This has played an important role in my becoming an artist, which is not to say that I do not struggle anymore, I do.
Being an artist is indeed like having a box seat to observe the absurdity around from, especially the absurdity around work. Being an artist is (not exclusively) about as close as you can get to not “just working” in a detached manner, but the work being who you are. It is in your cognitive processes, in the way you, even subconsciously, perceive the world – make associations, observe colours, proportions, anomalies, find unconventional angles. I think of being an artist as a process of growth, a form of spiritual practice. It is something situated in the core of humanity, which makes it fundamentally anti-capitalist. Is that not, considering the amount of financial speculation around art, a controversial statement? Yes and no: the deadly embrace of capitalism is indeed able to drain anything, art included, of its substance, and turn it into money, but that kind of works are not aligned with how I conceive art. For me art is about continuous discovery and continuous endeavour to understand. It is definitely work and should be regarded as such, also and foremost in the monetary sense, but it is not only work. It is a way of life: a (hopefully) lifelong journey on which intuition, awe, honesty and curiosity are the best fellows.
God is great
he loves greatness
he doesn’t care for small things
like fleas and people and stuff
he laughs and tosses steel and granite
at their dens from the clear blue sky
a poor demon called Genius Loci
flees from her hideout
God hunts her down and tames her
and locks her up on the 101st floor
of his temple
where no shadows are cast
a temple too large, too grand
for this small people’s town
that grows smaller and smaller
in the ultra-hard shadow
of its grey supremacy
My contribution to this project is a poem I wrote as a comment on the cult of money and urban design aligned with it, prioritising private profit over humanity, sustainability, wellbeing and aesthetics.
The idea for the poem was sparked by the presence of the massive headquarters of a bank at the edge of the idyllic, 100-year-old district of wooden workers’ houses in Vallila, Helsinki: a contemporary monument with a smooth, vector based façade of glass and granite, with no intent to blend in. I describe it as a monument not only in the half-figurative sense often used about prominent buildings but also because of its sculpture-like appearance. It is like a statue of power: abstract, showy, ridiculously large for its site. To enter is a different experience: the central lobby, open all the way up to the roof, is breathtaking. It is a sophisticated play of light, geometry and different surfaces, incorporating the façade of the neighbouring brick building of a few decades of age and forming a miniature quarter: a hidden, private reality just a 100 metres away from the old workers’ dwellings, separated from the surrounding world with a cold, uninviting wall.
The poem is documented as a video: I filmed myself reading the poem aloud and juxtaposed the material with footage of urban and natural environments. Some of the places featured on the video are, or have lately been, at the centre of public debate, while others have a more representational role. The site-specificity emerges through these places, while the actual site is not local but global and temporal: the neoliberal zeitgeist manifesting itself through architecture and urban design.