Critics’ Picks

Iiu Susiraja, Flirttiä vessan istuimen kannen kanssa (Flirting with the Toilet Seat Cover), 2018, color print, 26 x 18".

Helsinki

Iiu Susiraja

Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art
Mannerheiminaukio 2
March 15–July 28

The photographs and short videos in “Dry Joy,” the first retrospective of Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja, are all self-portraits—though the press release rejects this term, favoring “performances for the lens”—which incorporate commonplace domestic objects: brooms, flowers, balloons, umbrellas. Various foods make an appearance, too, especially sausages and raw fish. “It all starts with the object,” Susiraja says. But she uses these props “wrong” or unexpectedly, touching herself with them in ambiguous sexual references or flaunting a plain naughtiness, turning the pictures into strange role games and banal fantasies. With the stuff of the everyday, Susiraja compels us to reimagine existing stereotypes and normative definitions of the contemporary woman. On top of that, she provides copious material for anyone eager to view her work through a Freudian lens.

Susiraja always works alone, often at home or in kitschy hotel rooms. Until this year, when she began making use of studio equipment, her shots relied on whatever light was available. In every photograph, her face is grave, her gaze actively returning the viewer’s in a manner that often unnerves. Bold, honest, and liberating, the images, all made within the past twelve years, possess an effortlessness that makes them self-evident. Many artists have used themselves as models, for as many reasons. What makes Susiraja’s self-portraiture so special is her original, down-to-earth brand of surrealism and her self-ironic humor, which is, yes, both dry and mysteriously joyous. René Magritte once said, “No object is so tied to its name that we cannot find another one that suits it better.” Susiraja shows that there is no object that she cannot use in another, more disturbing way.