• Outi Koivisto, Galleria Huuto

Outi Koivisto

Olhava as seen from the map of Volkhov

Huuto IV 23.7.-15.8.2021

Outi Koivisto
Olhava as seen from the map of Volkhov

You can meet the artist at the gallery on 7 and 8 August.

The starting point for the exhibition is to examine a place through common names and how language is, through names, part of a space. In the municipality of Ii in Northern Ostrobothnia, there is a village called Olhava. The name Olhava comes from the Karelian language and means a gully or a ravine, often with water at the bottom. The Olhava village is located along the Olhavajoki river. The town of Volkhov in Russia is also called Olhava in Finnish. The Volkhov river (Olhavanjoki in Finnish) runs through the town that is located some 120 km east of St. Petersburg. Why do these two places that are geographically far away from each other have the same name?

Naming things is an essential part of language. For example, named things allow us to tell about a place. Naming a place becomes necessary when it is settled or when moving from one place to another. Naming allows one to take over a place and, for example, bring names from their former home country to the new place of residence. Place names are also marked on maps, allowing people to find different places and routes and making it easier for them to move outside of their local area. Before printed maps, people mainly knew the routes and signs in their local environment through experience. Printed maps became more common through the spread of printing presses.

In February 2020, I worked in Olhava, Ii, and explored the place by following five different routes. I used a map of Volkhov while walking there. I wrote down the routes as I walked and used a pencil rubbing technique at the starting and end point to reproduce elements in the environment on paper. I have drawn a reproduction of the crossroads of the starting and end points on a block of wood and written the route directions on a block of wood, carved and again rubbed them on paper with a pencil. I have named the things I saw in the places at the starting and end points of the routes. By reproducing, rubbing, printing, drawing and folding, I created an installation, a new place.

With the wrong map, I am able to bring the places closer to each other and find a new perspective on a place that I am already familiar with. I spent most of my childhood in Ii as it is where my roots are from my mother’s side, so I have a personal connection to the place. Even though I have lived in Ii and I am familiar with Olhava, I have never lived in the Olhava village. Furthermore, I have lived my entire adult life, the past 19 years, in the Helsinki region. In other words, I have lived half of my life elsewhere and, due to the distance created by all these years, I examined the place from the perspective of a more or less an outsider. However, my personal relationship with the area made me notice the connection between the place names.

When walking in Olhava, it felt as unfamiliar as Volkhov, a place I have never visited, and at the same time I felt that something was very familiar and recognizable in a strange, distant way. The Situationist International used wrong maps to observe a place when experimenting with various psychogeographical methods to explore a space. They were interested in the relationship between maps and reality and wanted to turn experiences of an environment into stories of a space. The practical significance of a map ignores some perspectives on a space, so their aim was to misuse maps and create their own maps.

This exhibition is the first artistic part of my doctoral dissertation. My work will continue in Volkhov, Russia, where I will explore the place and navigate with the help of a map of Olhava. My work has been supported by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Finnish Cultural Foundation, Centre for the Promotion of Visual Art (VISEK) and KulttuuriKauppila.

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