Interview (or a casual roommate conversation) with Kristoffer Ala-Ketola
An MFA candidate at Yale School of Art, sculpture department
It is a work that is referencing my diary, like my actual personal diary.. It is based on ideas of the gesture of being subjective and being the maker of your work, so there is always some extents level of personality or personal contents. And these make you decide to do something so eventually it becomes about you, the artist. Then, not hiding it at all made sense to me. Attitudes such as ‘Okay, let’s then merge the personal life and the art process.’.. Maybe that was something that I was more interested in when I was a bit younger, and also for now I think that’s still there. I’m really interested in the experiences being shared and even it become political. But maybe now, I try to also approach the process from more objective viewpoints because working very explicitly from your own life it’s really heavy too. It’s really a vulnerable state to put your work in, I think. So where the line between shooting gayness be addressed in your work or should it not be is an interesting question. Because I think it’s a balance. I guess the only way to navigate it is through your emotions whatever feels right.
Is this ongoing work in front of us also somehow related to queer?
Yeah, definitely. I think this project is also echoing the same themes that I had in the adapting video or maybe more on personal way in gesture, and more emotional way mostly. Um, I’ve been thinking about gay dating and also dating apps and.. my personal experience with them is that I feel mostly skeptical towards them. So it expresses my thinking through these process and how I feel about them in general. I think there’s always weird anticipation and then disappointment and it goes through cycles. I’m really interested in emotional cycles that keep repeating in general. I think you can also see in the trilogy video that it’s reflecting on the process, but also with the adapting video where the snakes going round and round and round and round and it’s looping and looping.
Yeah, it is all there.
Actually, I’m glad you brought up the trilogy video because that’s the video that I always show when I have a studio visit with someone I never met before. Even though it’s an old work, it combines all these elements that I like being in my work, such as the repetition and cyclicality. I actually wrote them down a while ago: there’s cyclicality, loneliness or solitude, gay romanticism and then the process itself, melancholy, but then also like humor in it, then pop culture references, diary, kind of highlighting emotional experiences and then selfhood and self portraiture.. There are more things, of course, that I’m interested in but those are in the core of my working.
Yeah. There was also very interesting point in terms of the frame of the each video. They are taking very similar and consistent forms, but also implying different meanings and contexts. The background music is all same and the typeface is the same but then the narratives are different. I actually have some sculptor friends in Korea and the way they execute their ideas is through the form of installations. With my stereotype of traditional sculpture as an installation, it was quite impressive to watch your student presentation at the start of our school last year. I thought of your work to be somehow traditional but it was totally different. Most of them are photos and videos. I mean it was very fresh sensation to me because I’ve never experienced those before. It might be borrowing or referencing the system of other fields of arts. So, I have always been interested in what is like making the video or taking a photograph as a sculptor? And what makes you make such a decision?
Yeah. I did my undergrad at department of time and space art. It combines video, photo, site and situation specific arts like performance and installation. When I started my art studies I didn’t really have art experience so, during my undergrad, I felt that I’m coming from another place like theater and dancing.. stuff like that. So I didn’t have this idea of that I should only do one media and also I didn’t feel the need to do it. I concentrated on land space media which include video and photo because they are fast and it was new to me. I really wanted to learn them technically too. Also I think, still, it’s a part of my working so that I really like to execute my ideas fast. Like it might take a long time to process ideas what I should do next. But when I want to do actualize them in a physical form or whatever, then I want to do it fast. So I think video and photo have been important for me because of that. Also it was an interest for the documentative value that I can just represent something from the actual reality and do it so easy.
(laugh out loud)
Haha I somehow agree.
I think that’s what got me started. But the more that I’ve been doing art, I have been more actually going back to my background in theater. Being more spatial, like whenever I was taking a photo, I wasn’t satisfied with having a photo or an image because we see images all the time everywhere. So I personally don’t trust an image that much to have a huge power, at least in my work. I have been more and more interested in whenever I print the photo. So how can I use the print as an object because then it’s sculpture, right? Because it’s occupying space in space and it became more about having fast made different stuff and then connecting them with others. And what became more interesting for me is thinking about the image of one thing. It was the connection between two, so I think we go back to the mindmapping thing again. I guess like that’s definitely what interests me. Like the connection, the lines that you have on the paper that are connected with the bubbles. I do like the bubbles and individual sculptures, videos and photos but definitely that connection is more for me.
What I feel after I came to Yale, I don’t know if this is just for our department, I thought what teachers are telling us or teaching us is very conservative and also very traditional as a preliminary year student, but like what actually we are going to do is something very crossing over the line, you know, like beyond or outside of the traditional graphic design. For example some of them in the atrium are making the video all the time. And also in painting department, some people are concentrating on doing performance and like even also for you as a sculptor. I think you are also trying to cross over the boundary and enjoying that.
Yeah. Why I chose to apply for sculpture was because of the freedom or the idea of freedom. Like me not having to decide the medium or space as an idea is fleeting away for me to work. I guess you can approach it with so many different media. Even I’ve been feeling some sort of pressure to make objects, I think it’s coming from myself because actually the teachers were like, ‘You shouldn’t feel the need to make like objects.’.
That is really nice. I really appreciate it.
Yeah. But that’s also, for me, it feels important to try that too to have another tool to add to my world in mindmaps.
Yeah, also what I found last night was that there are a lot of ‘you’ as an actor or main character in your work. Is this something important in creating your pieces?
It is important for me, yes. I’ve been interested in self portraiture in art in general but also we go back to the fact that I just started thinking about art as a gesture that somebody makes. I sometimes feel that in our discussion whenever somebody is trying to be objective about their work, it feels somehow alienating. So it just made me think about if the gesture of making is already there, then why hide it? Why hide that it’s me who is making the gesture. But then again now, I try to fight back using my own images. It’s one way to do these things to highlight the personal aspect while it’s not always needed. I think that’s something that I want to work less with. Because it’s also feel safe. I know myself so well, so it’s easy for me to use myself in my videos because I don’t have to have somebody else to perform for me. I can just do this off and it’s fast and it’s easy and safe. Definitely that’s something that I’m thinking about, but also trying to avoid.. Actually yesterday I had a photo shoot and I used models and it felt weird.
It was weird because you’re so used to filming yourself?
Yeah, I’ve used models before too. But yeah, it’s just an easy thing to control.
What did you shoot?
It’s a part of this project that you see here in the studio. I’m gonna show you. It’s in a weird state because I’m not sure where it’s going. My computer is really slow.
Yeah, you said that last time. Are you gonna buy a new one?
I should, but then again there are free computers downstairs.
(looking photos together)
Where did you shoot them?
Here in the production studio.
Wow. Nice. Ooh, I like this. I like this too. Is it your phone?
Did you choose the background to be red?
Yeah. because I think that’s a one thing that is connecting the fragments that I’m doing. I am really interested in the power of the color red by now.
I thought the atmosphere given out from your body of work is somehow always poetic, sentimental and natural. Maybe because you like to use cold and pale, like less saturated colors in your works..? They are pretty much natural, very like gray, gray, gray, gray, very subtle blue sometimes. But what I see here is..
(laugh out loud)
Yeah, I agree. Yeah, definitely. I can see that in my older works. All my photos used white or gray background. I also mist the landscapes where the landscape becomes less saturated. And I think it’s about situations of my life and also how I just approached the world, I don’t know how to describe this.
So these are more about personal and emotional reasons.
It is definitely really emotional. Really emotional.
Because what we are learned to do is really carefully choosing the colors.
Yeah. I do that too. I am still into the color gray as a neutral color. It’s some sort of rather than being black or white, it’s in between. And that’s also something interesting for me. Like we tend to talk about things that it isn’t black and white. So the gray area is what’s really interesting as a subject in itself. But going away from that is also decision of wanting to reinvent the process a bit. Because, in these pictures too, the setting is really controlled and cold in that way that it only shows that I want to show.. the space there is hidden. But then the red color completely changes it. It becomes more emotional.
Also, you might not like the color to overpower your content by using very strong color.
I wanna be the one who is in control of it. I’m also specific about the kind of situations where I filmed stuff. Like if I would go to the nature I would want it to be not super sunny day. Usually I wouldn’t want it to be that way because then it would be more saturated and you would have stronger shadows. I have been more interested in the neutral image. I think that’s something that I could question.
Do you usually work on a lot on photoshop after you shoot the photo?
Uh, no. I don’t really use photoshop. I only use camera roll, so I only make the color corrections. Actually that’s something that I would like to use it more as a tool. Now I’ve been working with 3d tools and these things that you manipulate with the computer have been also becoming more interesting. But, in general, if I take a photo now I try not to use photoshop after unless if I need it as a tool.
I see. I think using photoshop for taken photos, sometimes it’s adding another layer from nowhere to make it more complicated to understand for audiences. So I was wondering how you think of it.
For example, this is just this shitty print but I actually combined this drawing. So it’s there. These subtle things that are very specific to photoshop, I’m willing to use more. But maybe now, like this photo, it’s not actually manipulated with photoshop. These elements are just added into it.