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Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Ecologies of Drama

Saturday, October 10, 2015Sunday, January 3, 2016

Installation view of Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Ecologies of Drama. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

1905 Building

This was the first United States career survey of the pioneering artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finnish, born 1959). Ahtila’s provocative, intensely mesmerizing moving-image installations picture what it means to be human, to experience transcendence as well as frailty, to be awed by nature, and to reason with loss. This selected survey of the past 20 years of Ahtila’s multichannel installations included works from every period of her career, and it featured the North American premiere of her newest work, the four-channel installation Studies on the Ecology of Drama 1, 2014.

The installations included in Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Ecologies of Drama traced a central question posed throughout her work: how have drama and narrative historically been constructed, and how might we envision their new forms? The root of the word “ecology” lies in the Greek “oikos,” or “house,” which directly suggests the interdependence between our personal, domestic concerns and larger ecosystems. For example, many of Ahtila’s most recent works, including Studies on the Ecology of Drama 1, directly investigate how humans could move away from an anthropocentric perspective and suggest that our narratives about the world around us may be powerful tools in that effort. 

Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finnish, born 1959). Detail of Studies on the Ecology of Drama 1—Tutkimuksia Draaman Ekologiasta 1, 2014. Four-channel projected HD installation with five-channel sound. © Kristallisilmä Oy, Crystal Eye Ltd., Helsinki. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London. Photograph by Marja-Leena Hukkanen.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finnish, born 1959). Detail of The Annunciation (Marian Ilmestys), 2010. Three-channel high definition projection, edition 4/5. Running time: 28 minutes, 25 seconds. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Charles Clifton Fund, by exchange, 2015 (2015:20a-c). © 2016 Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris. Image copyright Crystal Eye Ltd, Helsinki; photograph by Antti Ruusuvuori.

This special exhibition was accompanied by the first reader to be published on Eija-Liisa Ahtila. This publication was the first to assemble the English-language scripts from all of her multichannel installations, as well as key works of scholarship and numerous interviews with the artist. The book was an invaluable resource for future inquiry into the writing and context of Ahtila’s groundbreaking work.

This exhibition was organized by Senior Curator Cathleen Chaffee.

Museum admission is required to view this special exhibition during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY.

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Curbell, Inc., and the Finnish Cultural Foundation with additional support from The American Scandinavian Foundation and the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London.

Technical support provided by Advantage TI.