Police confiscate art exhibit as child pornography
Police in Helsinki have confiscated a work on display at the show in the Kluuvi Gallery by Ulla Karttunen. The item in question was the material in one particular artwork, which criticised child pornography and which had images of young girls and boys.
According to artist Karttunen, what has happened is "a police stand against the potential of critical art. It is shocking that a work directly critical of a fault in our society should be removed from the exhibition in this way."
Apparently police had been informed by a visitor to the Thursday opening of the show, entitled variously Pyhiä naisia ja teinibeibejä (“Saintly Women and Teen Babes”) or Ekstaattisia naisia ("Ecstatic Women").
The artist herself believes the visitor who made the complaint had signally failed to understand the idea behind the work.
The images in the piece are drawn from the Internet. Karttunen points out that the accompanying texts indicate quite explicitly that it is critical of child pornography and of the eroticising of children.
"I have wanted to criticise the increasingly child-driven nature of mainstream pornography on the Net. Anyone can find images such as those with no difficulty at all."
The Kluuvi Gallery is one of the exhibition venues administered by the Helsinki City Art Museum. Karttunen is now somewhat puzzled by the Art Museum management’s response to the affair.
The Art Museum also decided to remove from the exhibition space the garage structure in which the images had been put on display, thereby destroying the installation.
In this respect, the Art Museum went a good deal further than in the case last year of a photographic exhibition by the American Sally Mann.
In that instance police were also asked to investigate the possible implications of certain works as an offence against human dignity, but they remained on the walls of the Tennis Palace Gallery the entire time.
Helsingin Sanomat was unable to contact the City Art Museum’s director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén for comment on Friday.
Aside from her work as an artist, Karttunen is an art scholar and is currently completing a doctoral thesis at the University of Helsinki.
"I would not say I am researching into pornography as such, although the images in my work are linked to the material of my dissertation. In my investigations into the way culture responds to the sensual and the erotic I have also been exposed to Internet porn."
"I’m on the same side as the police in this matter. This sort of material should not exist. But simply outing people is not going to help. There should be a broad discussion on why it is possible to publish criminal material [on the Internet] for all to see", said Karttunen, who is exasperated that people would ignore the phenomenon and yet attack a work of art that criticises it. .
Ulla Karttunen, who was questioned by police on Friday on suspicion of being in possession of illegal images relating to the immoral depiction of a minor, has divided her time between Finland and Paris, where she also has a home.
The 52-year-old artist has shown her work extensively in Finland and abroad since 1989.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Sally Mann´s photographs lead to request for police investigation (29.11.2007)
Anti-Internet censorship website placed on police filter list over links to child porn sites (14.2.2008)
Helsinki City Art Museum