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Award winner 2005

Roi Vaara

born 1953 in Moss, Norway, lives in Helsinki

Roi Vaara has criticised the artworld for being centred on museums and galleries, and has turned himself into an artwork that moves fluently among people, perplexing them and prompting them to ask questions.

We first came to recognise Vaara as a man painted white all over, his action being existence, walking around in a neat suit with a briefcase in his hand. The white man embodied many different dimensions and references, but the most fascinating of them was the sculpture tradition. In the exhibition context the white marble or plaster sculpture is a normal image of a human being, but outside museum precisely the same interpretation becomes abnormal.

Subsequently Vaara has taken the idea of a living sculpture into the museum and also developed a glass-case-doll version of it. Occasionally, putting on masks has been totally unnecessary: Vaara has simply stood on the spot – like the sculptures in a museum – and observed people’s reactions. The result has been surprising in itself. No provocation at all is required in order to be labelled a deviant. Simply calmly being there is enough.

When Vaara’s performances do not involve movement, time in them naturally takes on greater importance. Performances turn into endurance tests, humour is mingled with fakir-like suffering: a body shivering with cold is a living musical instrument, which rattles panes of glass, limbs glued high up on a display window create a decorative structure, like a modern sculpture.

Vaara’s imagination is inexhaustible and his courage extraordinary. In one of his performances he stands on barren ice, studying a signpost: Art or Life? He has apparently been able to go in both directions at once.

Pirjo Hämäläinen