Surrounding yourself with opposing values and opinions is integral to personal growth, not only as an artist but also as a human being. Existing in an echo chamber - despite often feeling like such spaces provide introspection and comfort at times - never helps anyone, least of all the audience. However, when we do happen to engage in active debates, there's something to be said about the language of our environment and its potentially negative impact. Hostility doesn't just come from the words you hear but the context and environment they're encased within, which is why multidisciplinary Finnish artist Anna Pesonen's new sculpture series DISCOURSE couldn't be more relevant in an age where increasingly divisive politics plague countries worldwide, causing a mass spread of misinformation and growing separation.
Carving out a space for introspection and dialogue through the medium of sculpture, Pesonen's new DISCOURSE series fosters and nurtures conversation in an age where people shy away from debate for fear of being misinterpreted or 'cancelled'. Describing the work as a 'site and vehicle for introspection and dialogue, even when views are opposed', Pesonen advocates for a society where exchanging ideas isn't just accepted but considered integral to human existence. 'My vision is to create sculptures which are not merely passive objects but instead embody a transformative metaphysical function.'
Each chair has a slightly different design depending on its intended use. The first, 'INTROSPECTION SEAT 001', facilitates a setting for individual contemplation and is solely designed for solitary use. Representing a true example of how form follows function, the object's minimal design language, coupled with the material's hardness, is purposefully designed to enable deep, reflection. The second design, 'DIALOGUE SEAT 002', is where things get really interesting. Viewed as a 21st-century take on the Victorian-era loveseat, this design turns a 160-year-old premise into radical design, forcing its occupiers to communicate while in close proximity to one another (a habit that's fallen by the wayside due to the isolation our phones enable). The mirroring form also helps to separate while continuing to bind those in deep dialogue together.
As a stylist and former editor of SSAW Magazine, Pesonen is used to communicating with visuals. Speaking to SHOWstudio in an exclusive statement about her work, Pesonen says:
'From a young age, I've been fascinated by human behaviour, existential themes, different ways of thinking and the consequential societal changes that result. I was also drawn to fashion because of its ability to transform and empower, relating to unique identities and belonging. To a certain extent, I was able to channel these interests in my work in fashion, but these themes don't always align with the preferences of magazines and advertisers, particularly in the current era of the influencer. For me, creating art offers a freedom of expression and provides a vast playground and grants the space and vocabulary for exploring different ways of creating work that is authentic and meaningful.'
To call fashion sculptural enters muddied waters; is it the silhouette or the act itself that critics, describe, lazily perhaps. Yet Pesonen isn't new to the notion of using creativity to push an agenda. Pesonen elaborates that she has been 'able to connect with people through the [sculpture] work in a beautiful, deeper way. Art isn't rooted in peoples insecurities, the same way as fashion is; it's been fulfilling to find those connections. The body is still very present in my sculptural work and links back to the work in fashion. Vice versa, this project has actually influenced my fashion work as nowadays, I work more behind the scenes, focusing on consulting on the designs and leading the image direction instead.'