24 lausetta selityksineen ja kommentteineen = 24 rader med förklaringar och kommentarer = 24 lines with explanations and comments

A booklet in a case, related to the project AIMO VOITTO - REJÄL VINST.

Jarno Jokinen & Katja Valanne

24 lausetta – 24 rader – 24 lines, 1993, one month happening in a former shop / the book, Helsinki.


From the very beginning, language, or rather written text, has been at the centre of your work. You have dealt with text and with the ways in which texts are understood and misunderstood, as well as with the analysis of all of these three aspects. What do they mean and on what conditions do they exist? Why are you interested in these issues?


A lot of our early work was carried out in commercial premises. We were always present on these occasions and communicating with the visitors became part of our work. The way in which people behaved, especially their frequently expressed need to understand, influenced our understanding of the communicative language of art.

We doubted the viability of pictures, since they seemed to allow an endless number of interpretations. Using text, we wanted to produce more precise and viable pictures. Integrating text with the exhibition or the event, made it possible to narrow down the ways in which the work was seen and interpreted. Neither was the work any longer necessarily entertaining and pleasant, since we aimed at depriving the spectator of the possibility of resorting to familiar images of interpretation. We were not only using a common language, we were abusing it. The intention is not to entertain the spectators by giving them what they want or by providing them with pleasurable experiences, but to create a direct contact and this is something that will never happen if you only use art clichés and endless self-satisfying models of interpretation. The impressions caused by the text are not what is most important, but regarded in terms of a tool, the text is an important part of our work.


What is text? What is the relationship between language and text in your work?

When children learn to speak, they do not only acquire the ability to name things, but also the possibility of influencing others. Common language gives access to events that coincide with reality, simultaneously, but transparently as meanings and plans. The mind is not formed according to common language, instead meanings conceal the environment like a glove, turning it into a landscape of images. Meanings are not inventions or creations of the mind, they are the mind’s sensation of its environment and the mind personified in the environment of sensations and mental images. Even if a child has not yet learnt to speak, he/she has mental images with which to frame the environment and his/her relation to it. Although wordless, mental images are the language of the mind, language belongs to the mind. The very existence of the mind, presupposes the existence of language. When children learn to speak, they do not enter into the field of common language out of the blue, or out of a void. Neither does an adult cease to exist or disappear into emptiness, whenever he/she stops to think in words. Thinking is a sensation of the mind, it is the sense of time.

Language involves a working of the mind. Our definition of the word text includes, not only written language and common language, but also the landscape perceived as an answer when one looks at an object. Language is the mind’s ability to sense and grasp existence, text implies meaning, cause and effect, plot, culture and games. Language is a living moment, whereas a text can only refer to an actual existence located elsewhere. Text is a tool that enables us to frame never-ending, transient reality, which constantly is subjected to change and instability.

Contextual sources of the text

Your texts are often short and simple in form referring to various conventional uses of text, such as advertising, stock phrases, and fairy tales. What is the meaning of your texts, as well as in relation to these conventions? Your latest work is available in the form of an audible dictionary, why?

We have wanted to use simple and familiar forms in order to make our work easier to access. A well-known convention lowers the threshold when approaching a work of art. It establishes contact with the spectators and makes the work at once visible. The spectators can identify it as part of their world. Worn-down stock phrases or fairy tales do not carry information in the usual sense of the word, instead they are used as “props” serving other purposes. We do not read new meanings into them or think them through. Looking at wood or other patterned surfaces, we soon start to see faces and other familiar images. On the other hand, when we stare at a plain and clear picture, it will soon cease to be informative or to suggest possible interpretations. In our work, we use these phenomena for other purposes than the identification of what is seen: in images of verbal perception, i. e. understanding and misunderstanding, and in being aware of the moment of existing. The dictionary consists of a list of words used by a one-and-a-half-year-old child. The child learning the language is not yet governed by the structure of language and, therefore, uses the words freely for his/her own purposes. The child uses his/her words hesitantly, trying out various ways of using them, different possibilities. At the same time, the child is well aware of the instrumental nature of the words and he/she is far from using language automatically. For an adult the situation might be quite the opposite. The starting point and the original meaning of language, as well as the original subjects of the words, have been forgotten and instead the abstractions have acquired a life of their own. A child and an adult approach the use of common language from different directions, the child from the point of view of subject and reality, the adult from an angle of estrangement and abstraction. The child is one with that which is described, whereas the adult looks at reality as if it were a describing text. The dictionary substantiates language, which is involved in a living relationship with the subject and its transmission.

Contents of the text

The contents of your works of art are ambivalent. They are multiple in the sense that they always raise the question whether they are what they look like or not. They are simple, yet, at the same time, anything but unambiguous. What awaits the spectator?

Ambiguity rises from the fact that we always try to find a purpose in what we see, and we always try to relate it to other issues. If you look at something for a long time, you will end up creating endless amounts of theories, even if the object of your study is something quite simple and without a purpose. Therefore, simplicity or ambiguity are not characteristics of the object, they are located in the eye of the beholder. Our work is not driving at experiences and matters continuously met with by the one who has identified with the interpreting eye. If we no longer realise our history, culture, environment, as well as all objects including time and this very moment, as text or words, do they all disappear? All alone, not being able to resort to borrowed ideas or ready-made answers, what awaits us? Who is the one waiting?

Order and story

What is your attitude towards order, story and the bestowal of meaning?

Life is generally thought of as a story gradually unfolding itself, but, at the same time, we relate to everyday life and each moment as if they were a text we read and receive. In our memories, we shape our experiences into history, where each event acquires a meaning of its own. We play our own parts within the plot of culture, where the truth, the moment and the experience only exist when read as text. Everything is text, time is text. And if life is text, you need a writer providing meaning. Life is prevailed by a feeling of imperfection and we try to satisfy and cover up this void with the aid of deeds and verbal constructs. We look for verbal answers to, and phenomenal satisfaction for, this feeling of imperfection, but it is characteristic of the question always to expect an answer. Since we want to understand life and our own existence and since we want to find meaning, all events and things, all the objects we perceive and think of, acquire meaning as if they were part of a text and a plot. It is a question of placing oneself at the centre of experience and thought, but who is the one finally placed there in order to experience everything? For instance, does one identify with thoughts and structures of language, or with experiences and feelings, or does identification change according to the strongest experience? Our work does not deal with meanings, instead it plays on the expense of the identifier.

Questions: Paula Toppila

48 p.