Love-struck couples furious after hearing that their love padlocks had been melted down
Artists secretly picked the padlocks off bridges, melting them down into a lump of steel
By Jukka Harju
The mystery surrounding the disappearing love padlocks in Tampere (see link) has been resolved, and it certainly has not added to the love.
In fact, their fate has raised a loud hue and cry in the city.
The hundreds of locks were... wait for it... melted down and formed into a heavy block of steel, which is now on display at Pirkanmaa Triennale, an exhibition of contemporary art from artists in the Pirkanmaa region.
The exhibition is being held at the old Finlayson factory area in Tampere from June 16th to August 14th.
There it will - at the very least - stimulate discussion about pushing the envelope in the arts.
First a short summary, by way of background.
In recent years, people have affixed hundreds of so-called love padlocks for example to the bridge crossing the Tammerkoski river dam in Tampere.
The padlocks have been engraved with the names of sweethearts, and they were originally supposed to remain affixed to the bridge forever, a little bit like carving names (and a heart) in the trunk of an oak tree.
Last week, however, it turned out that literally hundreds of these padlocks had suddenly disappeared.
Now the astonishment has turned into regret and no little resentment.
It came to light that people’s symbolic signs of love had been coldly melted down into a block of steel, ending up in an exhibition at TR1 at Finlayson, where they are now on display.
The commentary forum in the Aamulehti online newspaper, which first reported the locks' re-appearance, has been inundated, with threads filling up fast, mainly with angry and very bitter messages for the perpetrators.
The culprit behind the great love-lock heist is a group of artists in the Pirkanmaa region, known collectively as ”One Love”.
At least for the time being, the group of artists is not willing to come forward and tell the world about the motives of their work.
”There have been three kinds of feedback: totally crushing, neutral and contemplative, and completely captivated. It has brought out the entire spectrum of emotions. If one reads those discussion forum posts, one can pick out direct death threats in there”, sighs Veikko Halmetoja, the curator of the exhibition.
”People have been genuinely offended, and I can appreciate that very well. I think that it is an understandable reaction if people perceive the work in an unpleasant way”, Halmetoja notes.
Halmetoja does not divulge the names of those artists who actually created the work.
”The artists contacted me, asking whether their work would be suitable for the theme of the exhibition. I thought that it was quite heavy, but it is appropriate for the theme. I find it interesting, while the strength of reactions came as a surprise to me. I know that the purpose of the artists has not been to deliberately hurt people’s sensibilities”, Halmetoja argues.
Halmetoja hopes that people would understand that the purpose was not to offend anyone.
”The purpose has been to further refine the symbols of love, which were fastened to the bridge”, Halmetoja explains.
It must be said that few of those writing to the newspaper seem to see eye-to-eye with this aspiration.
Halmetoja notes further that he consulted some lawyers in advance about the matter, asking whether removing the locks could be regarded for example as petty larceny.
He says he was informed that it could not be.
”Frankly, I think it was a pretty gross stunt”, says Taina Myllyharju, Director of the Tampere Art Museum.
”I can understand the deed from the artists’ perspective. They have thought that this is a funny collective thing. If I had been consulted in advance, I would not have allowed them to put it on show in our premises”, Myllyharju notes.
Myllyharju says that she has contacted one of the lawyers from the City of Tampere.
The slightly surprising outcome was that the locks are "lost property", which does not belong to anyone.
”But even so, there are sentimental values involved, which makes this a rather distasteful matter”, Myllyharju says.
According to Myllyharju, the work can remain on display for now, but at the same time, the artists should step forward from the shadows.
”If this causes direct danger to our personnel, we will reconsider the situation. We have received hundreds of messages, some of them with the sender’s own name attached, and a part of them have met the criteria of a direct threat”, Myllyharju concludes.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 19.6.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
Mystery of disappearing love padlocks in Tampere remains unsolved (14.6.2012)
Love Padlocks (Wikipedia)
JUKKA HARJU / Helsingin Sanomat