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Outi Sunila

THIS IS ART! Recipes for contemporary art

Viiskulma 8.8.-19.8.2007

As an artist, I have often wondered what other people think about art. The works of old masters are universally acknowledged – contemporary art, however, is often considered much too extraordinary and difficult to understand.

In a way, the “Recipes for contemporary art” project came into existence accidentally. I was substituting for art teachers in compulsory and high schools. Being curious, I made my students write texts – recipes for contemporary art. I asked them to write a recipe for a work of art; just like any baking recipe with its ingredients and instructions. I had gathered a rather thick stack of recipes when I realized the possibilities they offered as for a new work. The recipes comment on art itself, views on art, and the relationship between a work of art and its idea. The project became even more interesting when I started to notice that the recipes had some features in common. In recipes for photographs, the themes were the sea, the sunset and nature – again and again. Performances often seemed to be about humiliating oneself in public. As for contemporary painting, many recipes merely regarded it as haphazard splashing of paint.

In an artistic process, “Recipes for contemporary art” separates the artist and the idea. Artists often discuss how, today, everything in art has already been done, and every idea has been used. But could it be so that ideas are not unique? Could ideas be handed over to somebody else? In the exhibition, an idea for a work of art has been promoted into the position of one – just as in conceptual art. However, the mere collecting of ideas doesn’t seem interesting enough. I also want to see what they look like as finished works, which leads us to the next phase of the project: making the recipes come true. For an artist, a working method like this is new and different. Then again, I have 250 ideas to work with, which is new, too. Nevertheless, I am not going keep them as my own – I am going to circulate them. Anyone visiting the exhibition will be able to claim an idea as well as write down their own, then leave it for anyone else to use. This can also be done at www.outisunila.fi, which is the official webpage of the project.

Thanks to the students of Helsingin yhteislyseo, Kulosaaren yhteiskoulu, and Töölön yhteiskoulu, Pirjo Houtsonen, Heta Kuchka, Riitta Räsänen, Erika and Ilkka Kallasmaa, Johanna Lecklin, Terhi Heino, Matias Teittinen, Thomas Henry, mom and dad.