Review on Action in Hämeenkyrö, Finland

The first action consisted of a Delivery Menu offering a variety of site-specific artistic experiences and/or tangible custom-made items to the Finnish public.  Six deliveries were made that day in a spread out, remote community.   This action was successful because it expanded notions of what art is and can be by pushing it outside the usual constructs.  On a basic level, artists connected with clients who were non-artists and culturally different than themselves.  Language was not an issue as communication was carried out through the artistic menu items.  Artists took their work and skills out of the gallery and concert hall context and into private spaces, allowing for trust, intimacy and custom-made works.  Customers were invited to participate in the art works produced by making choices and changes as they saw fit – an experiential and immersive practice for both audience and artist.  The result was a type of symbiosis between artist and client, whereby, the art could only exist in this space under these constraints, with these certain parameters defined in this context.  Art, artist and client blended together in a richly unique and boldly defiant contemporary art experience.  The implications of the AOD actions pose many complex questions around art economies, art in private spaces, functionality of art, and hierarchies of art, among others.

In Hämeenkyrö, the idea of offering a service for free seemed unnatural to the local people.  One man stated that if it is free, people will think it is bad quality.  He suggested pricing each menu item at 50 EUR.  This is very telling in that if services are offered, then a price is expected in order for the product to be considered “valuable”.  This is not unlike the art market in general, where museums, collectors, and auction houses drive prices up to make certain works more valuable, consequently de-valuing many other forms of art in the process.  So pricing is indeed a worthwhile experiment and may also be culturally specific.  It would be especially interesting to collect more data on pricing and value over the course of the next five actions in different countries to see if a pattern emerges.  We believe there would be a limit on the highest price per item and it would depend upon the socio-economic make-up of the community and the popularity of the AOD actions in general.  While high prices are not necessarily a goal of AOD, they do serve as an illustrator of how art is valued and what it means to generate an economy around an art service.

Another implication of AOD is bringing art to private spaces and giving it functionality.  This could be seen clearly in the example of a customer who ordered her “sorrow” to be photographed.  She was an art lover who lived very far from any arts venues to be a regular visitor but had an obvious understanding of the AOD conceptual framework.  Capturing sorrow, an unorthodox task and a precise need, would not be possible for this woman in her small remote community or any gallery.  She would have had to hire a professional photographer/artist and develop a level of comfort with them while still keeping the price manageable and affordable. In this sense AOD was perfect for her because it allowed her an ability to be involved with artists (who would understand her need and handle it with care) and develop a rapport with them in a controlled, comfortable environment (her home) at no monetary cost to her.  She was very thankful to have artists come to her house and work with her privately on a delicate topic and she fully understood the service and made it work for her as she saw fit.  AOD fulfilled a need that had not been addressed in this community before.

Lastly, AOD challenged hierarchies of art because it removed the middle management between artist and audience.  Artists were coming directly to their audience and performing a work especially for them.  In Hämeenkyrö, a factory known as Frantsila ordered a laughing choir during their coffee break.  A large group gathered around while the artists performed live in their space and recorded and burned a CD on the spot.  People were pleasantly surprised and entertained by this show in their workplace.  They didn’t need to go anywhere, speak to dealers, gallery owners, collectors or curators to enjoy this performance art.  They called and it was simply delivered.  AOD cut out the usual stepladder of art and made work directly and immediately for the audience.

In general, Finnish people are considered shy and reserved.  The community AOD targeted was sparse and not usually exposed to contemporary art.  However, even with these factors the first AOD action was able to penetrate into this community and have meaningful exchanges and a positive experience.  One family shared their photos on Facebook, another customer thanked us for giving them joy.  The artists learned never to underestimate their audience and gained insight into an otherwise closed community.  There are many exciting directions AOD can go from here and it will depend on accomplished artists to carry out further actions in other countries.  We hypothesize that these characteristics are not native to Finland alone.  While aspect of the conceptual framework may differ between actions, we think AOD will continue to produce accessible, positive and immersive experiences for both client and artist regardless of the nation they are in.