Pekka and Teija Isorättyä

Ars Fennica candidate 2017

Machines with soul

Pekka and Teija Isorättyä first captured the popular imagination a few years ago with their Zimmer frame-pushing Invalid Robots. Since then, they have created a diversified array of kinetic sculptures of various forms and identities that pose questions about the connection between people, art and technology.

Their fusions of art and technology are a far cry from modernist machine aesthetics. Best defined as ‘electromechanical bio-art’, their sculptures are fashioned out of organic materials such as tanned hide, stripped bone and fish skin, to which they add a retrofitted second-hand motor.

To the contemporary eye, human-machine hybrids seem stiff, passive and soulless. But the roots of their posthumanist art trace back to the automata commissioned by the church and the court during the late Renaissance. These human simulacra were ‘living machines’ that seemed to act unpredictably, playfully, interactively, as if they had a mind of their own. Pekka and Teija Isorättyä thus justifiably pose the question: “For how long will mechanics and electronics look forward to the future – or do they already hark back to the past?”

The fusion of technology and organic materials invokes the idea of man playing God, a theme that inspires dread but also hope. The artists are the modern-day equivalent of Prometheus, breathing life into inorganic matter, endowing it with a human soul. The meticulous design and hand-crafted finish adds a poetic dimension to their technical contraptions.

The artists choose their materials by meeting people and searching for stories. They take the arte povera tradition of refashioning everyday materials one step further than their precursors: by adding moving parts, they infuse the materials with new significations, yet their art is also rich in allusions to art history. For instance the shape of The Mermaid is borrowed from Hokusai, but the metal studs connecting its plates hark back to Sirpa Alalääkkölä’s Aino triptych.

The themes of their works are decided by the material and its history, and the trajectory of movement is guided by the theme. The presence of humans is always implicit, even when we see nothing but infusion tubes, plastic bottles, tuna leather or bio-oil. The artists raise social issues with their oeuvre, yet without making overt political statements.

Pekka and Teija Isorättyä have spent many years working around the world, in Mexico, Germany, Japan, aboard a sailing boat on the Baltic Sea, in their home town of Tornio and, currently, in the US. They work as a family unit, throwing themselves into making art that transforms not only the viewer’s perceptions and the environment, but also themselves as artists.

Helena Sederholm

Translated by Silja Kudel

Pekka ja Teija Isorättyä, Natura Morte
Nature Morte, 2017
Detail, kinetic sculptural installation
Pekka ja Teija Isorättyä, Natura Morte 2
Nature Morte, 2017
Detail, kinetic sculptural installation
Pekka ja Teija Isorättyä, Natura Morte 3
Nature Morte, 2017
Detail, kinetic sculptural installation
Pekka ja Teija Isorättyä, Natura Morte 4
Nature Morte, 2017
Detail, kinetic sculptural installation

Photos: Juha Åman

Both born 1980.

Education

2010 Masters of Arts, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

Duo exhibitions (selected)

2015
Galleria Sculptor, Helsinki, Finland
Conference on Art and Art Projects: Kobe studios, Kobe, Japan

2014
Aine Art Museum, Tornio, Finland

2012
Galleria Sculptor, Helsinki, Finland
Finnland Institute in Deutchland, Berlin, Germany
Gängeviertel: Galleri Loge, Hamburg, Germany

2011
Invalid Robot Factory, Berlin, Germany

2009
Polyforum Siqueiros, Mexico City, Mexico

2008
Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, Mexico City, Mexico
Museo Ex Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico City, Mexico

Collective exhibitions (selected)

2016
MÄNTTÄ ART FESTIVAL Mänttä, Finland; curated Anssi Kasitonni
NORD ART International exhibition, Büdelsdorf, Germany; curated Wolfgang Gramm/Inga Aru

2015
OCCUPY SPACE ! Association of Finnish Sculptors exhibition, Korundi Art museum, Rovaniemi, Finland ;curated Daniel Werkmäster
12 NO MADO Confrence on Art and Art Projects, Kobe, Japan

2014
ON/OFF Exhibition of kinetic sculptures, Hyvinkää Art Museum, Finland 2014
ARS LIEKE Exhibition of electronic art, Poikilo Art Museum, Kouvola, Finland 2014; curated Jonne Pitkänen

2013
Gallery Casona, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
EFEKTI Purnu, Finland; curated Petri Eskelinen

2012
48 STUNDEN NEUKÖLLN Berlin, Germany
Galleri Heike Arndt, Berlin, Germany

2011
UUSI VEISTOS Lahti Art Museum, Finland.
CRUCE DE CAMINOS – EUROPA EN MEXICO Museo de Arte de la SHCP Antiguo Palacio del Arzobispado, Mexico City, Mexico; Curated Martha Papadimitrieou
IHMEEN LÄHELLÄ Oulu Art Museum, Finland

2010
NORD ART International Exhibition & Symposium, Büdelsdorf, Germany ; Curated Wolfgang Gramm/ Inga Aru
EXPO BICENTENARIO Guanajuato, Mexico; Curated Martha Papadimitrieou
PIXELACHE Kerava Art Museum, Finland

Performances (selected)

2015
Isorättyä Swingers with Mimosa Pale, Mikko Myllylahti, Martti Kaartinen, Riku Rousu. Helsinki festival, Finland

2014
Isorättyä Swingers with Mimosa Pale, Martti Kaartinen, Riku Rousu, Jyrki Hakomäki. KalottJazz & Blues Festival, Tornio, Finland

2013
Isorättyä Swingers with Mimosa Pale, Martti Kaartinen. Biofilia openings, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

2012
Isorättyä Swingers with Mimosa Pale, Martti Kaartinen. Fusion Festival, Neustrelitz, Germany
Isorättyä Swingers & Martti Kaartinen. Embassy of Nordic Countries, Berlin
Isorättyä Swingers & Martti Kaartinen. Gängeviertel festival, Hamburg

2011
Isorättyä Swingers & Roku Rousu. Muusajuhlat -Literary art festival, Oulu, Finland
Isorättyä Swingers & Roku Rousu. NordArt, Büdelsdorf, Germany

2010
Isorättyä Swingers & Ray Vera. UrsusFest – Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki, Finland
Mimproject & Invalid Robot Factory. Vabauduse Väljak, Tallinn, Estonia

2009
Polka Madre & Chicharrona project. Glastonbury Contemporary Performing Art Festival, Glastonbury, England
Tuomari Nurmio, Polka Madre & Chicharrona project. Jyväskylä Summer Festival, Finland

2008
Polka Madre & Chicharrona project. Festival de Centro Historico, Mexico City, Mexico
Polka Madre, Trans American Gipsy Punk Tour.12 Galaxies, San Francisco, U.S.A.
Polka Madre, Trans American Gipsy Punk Tour. Mehanata Bulgarian Bar, New York, U.S.A

Comissions

2013
BROKEN LANTERN steel and glass sculpture at riverside plaza. Tornio, Finland

2016
BUCK SALMON steel model for public sculpture (planned erection 2017, Tornio, Finland)
STREAM model for restaurant/planetarium edifice (scheduled construction 2017-2018, Kakslauttanen, Finland)

Awards & grants (selected)

2016 Art council of Lapland. Grant for artistic work
2015 Finnish Cultural Foundation. Grant for artistic work
2014 Alfred Kordelin Foundation. Grant for artistic work
2014 Arts Council of Finland. Grant for artistic work.
2013 Finnish Cultural Foundation. Grant for artistic work
2012 Arts Council of Finland. Grant for artistic work
2011Arts Council of Finland. Grant for artistic work
2010 Nord Art, Public Choice Award, 1st prize.
2010 Finnish Art Association. Grant for artistic work
2009 Finnish Cultural Foundation. Grant for artistic work
2008 Arts Council of Finland.Grant for artistic work
2007 FRAME. Project grant

Works in collections

Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation Art Collection
Finnish Art Association Collection
Aine Art Museum, Tornio, Finland
Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku Finland
Poikilo Art Museum, Kouvola, Finland
Basware Art Collection, Finland

Memberships

Association of Finnish Sculptors
Artists’ Association of Lapland

Residencies, stipends

2017 ISCP New York
2015 Conference on art and Art Projects, Kobe, Japan
2014 Heike Arndt Residency, Kettinge, Denmark
2012 Gängeviertel Hamburg, Germany
2010 Art council of Lapland residency, Berlin, Germany