On Being Pregnant
By Henna Hyvärinen
When I was in my late teens and early twenties I worked at a brewery and a soft drink factory in a small town in Eastern Finland. When I got tired of the (monotonous) labour I made a decision to move to London and search for a new job. A few days after I settled down in a suburb close to Heathrow Airport I got myself a post from a multinational coffeehouse chain as a virgin barista. With no formal education I changed from labour to service — labour with less money. When introducing myself and asked about my profession I was often mistaken as working as a barrister for the multinational coffee chain, the second largest coffeehouse company in the world after Starbucks. I lifted my index finger over the spot where my skin had slowly turned yellow from wiping off the extra coffee from the portafilter.
Instead of working with papers or electronic documents I had returned to working with liquids and their variable containers; with the only matter that has a definite volume but no fixed shape.
Trip-le-to-the-left-and-back-rock-to-the-front. No fixed shape before it is spilled.
Weirdly, amongst all the thousands of cups of coffee I must have served, I never did actually spill any. I knew if I did I would be fucked. A wet spot on a customer’s clothing was a conflict, a clash of two worlds that were to be kept apart by the act of buying a service: the gesture and motorics of the ‘bought’ body.
I worked hard to keep the product in its paid element and somehow managed not to get external. I worked hard not to cause any grey hair in a non-grey economy by keeping others dry. I worked hard on looking both jolly and clean and not hungover. I worked hard to not sound foreign or vulnerable especially in front of your colleagues who are also foreign. I worked hard on my wet spot by embracing my physical (and mental?) endurance – a talent for not investing too much in responding to the requirements of my surroundings in order to survive. I concentrated in growing bigger and serving better. Keeping up with the tempo and breathing regularly, just like in sports. The lady in a fur needs extra service, especially if it is not that cold. The dirty nappies need a special yellow bag.
The Beauty of Women
By Hannah Black
On the beauty of Miley Cyrus (1)
I only recently realized that her father is Billy Ray Cyrus, the country star whose global hit Achy Breaky Heart lodged in my head somewhere in childhood and never quite left. The protagonist of the song, who has an unusually disconnected conception of his own body, implores a beloved person not to tell his heart that they are leaving. The rest of the body can take it – the lips can grasp the future absence of kisses, the fingers the absence of the beloved skin. But the heart is childlike and vulnerable, happily ignorant of the body it finds itself in. If the man as a whole is disappointing, if someone can’t love him, the heart remains blameless. Does the heart even know he is a man? He is a spokesperson for all his organs, all his parts, but the heart above all.
On my own beauty (1)
A few years ago, one of the remote men who I periodically fall in love with, an avatar of the general principle of loss which I am always loving in one form or another and always trying to heal, made me so unhappy by not being able to love me that I left the country and went to stay with my cousins. I spent a lot of time alone, walking around the unfamiliar city, visiting the lake, my thoughts almost entirely occupied with the task of making myself understand that he didn’t want me. One of my cousins, a shiatsu practitioner, gave me a massage. When she asked how my body felt, I described a strange pain in my arm, an ache along the forearm that appeared whenever I thought of the man who I wanted to love me. That’s the heart protector, she said. It hurts when the heart is trying not to hear bad news. If I wanted someone to love me, my friends wondered, why didn’t I pick someone who wanted to love me? The question was too rational for me to understand.
On the beauty of Miley Cyrus (2)
During her tenure as a Disney star, Miley Cyrus played the character of Hannah Montana, so was briefly possessed of my name, which you also almost share. I am aware of the theory that Miley’s exuberant performance of sexuality is connected to the asexual discipline of Disney stardom. According to this theory, Miley wants to distinguish herself from her stifling childhood, and so she identifies herself with the figure of the Slut, who is the opposite of the Child Star. But I’m not sure: don’t they have a lot in common, those two archetypes, who are both predicated on the mysterious desire of the Father, who seems to both invite and repudiate sexuality, to beckon with one hand and block with the other?
On my own beauty (2)
I could not have fully known the first time I saw dark stains on my underwear what was awaiting me: the shame, the gender disciplining, the departure of the old body and acclimatization to the new body, etc. I was too young. My heart refused to recognize the incontrovertible evidence of my fate. At the time I registered only two things: firstly, the shock of learning that I was apparently, definitely “a woman”; and secondly, my father’s sudden antipathy towards my naked body. No longer would he sit beside me as I bathed. No longer would he embrace me while swimming at the municipal pool, my wet brown skin warm against his warm wet brown skin. Men receded, becoming, if not strangers, if not enemies, then no longer my brothers – even my brother.
On the beauty of Miley Cyrus (3)
Miley Cyrus is white, as white as a Word document, recently opened, with nothing written, therefore nothing yet to be ashamed of. She confesses nothing, she has nothing to confess; she is clean of any past, she anticipates the future. Her features are menu options, her arms are grey margins, and the thought of her pussy remains astonishing, a bud on the verge of flowering.
On my own beauty (3)
As I lay bedridden by my first serious period pains, I cried out to my mother over and over, in an agony that was also anger and disappointment at the rebellion of my dissonant parts, It’s not fair, it’s not fair. Trying to soothe me, she asked her boyfriend to think of something similar that boys have to endure. Wet dreams? he offered, stupidly. A wave of nausea cut off my contempt. I remember through a haze of pain the house we were staying in that summer, the daytime heat, the cicadas in the evening, the spiders living in the panes of the windows, my fear in the night-time country darkness that the world had ended, my fear that I would never regain my freedom. Only briefly since, now and then, in moments of love or solitude, of watching or moving freely, has the ugliness my body was condemned to then been lifted. But now I imagine a pool of either blood or semen spreading – I imagine, in black and white, an indistinct wetness, like the spreading shadow of an oncoming wrecking ball aimed at the walls of that remembered house, to free the still-ungendered heart from its protectors.
Massaging an Image
By Vappu Jalonen
As a curator for the 2014 Paulo Foundation exhibition, I had to select an artist within some limitations – age, graduation year, for instance – given by the Foundation. My method to do this was simple: I went to the graduate shows and looked at the catalogues, some blogs and websites. I saw Henna Hyvärinen’s work On the Seductive in the 2013 graduate show of the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and, later, her older work On Elegance in Vimeo. I wasn’t completely in love with her work. I thought that the talking heads of the video works looked too cool and took up too much space. But I was intrigued by Henna’s use of text and her treatment of the seductive and of elegance: those weirdly old-fashioned-but-still-shiny mystified concepts in use that Henna took apart in her work. As time passed, I found that I kept thinking of Henna’s work and eventually asked if she would like to do this show. She said yes (and with this, of course, my selection of her as an artist also involved a selection by her). And yes, my selection has to do with gender also. These things always have.
In the beginning of her work process, Henna Hyvärinen writes and collects material: images, sounds and words. Collecting is also always an immediate form of editing, in terms of both taking things from somewhere and placing them in a new proximity to each other, and also of modifying them. Henna’s writing is often also collecting: copy-pasting with editing and translation. Her authorship weaves into itself various authorships, mixes with them, and gives space for them. This doesn’t only happen in the level of the script or in her final video essays but also in the practice of making a show. Smallbabe.com is a website by Vela Arbutina which incorporates the video work On the Wet Spot by Henna. This site also includes a work by Hannah Black. Additionally, a collaborative work by Vela and Henna is included in the gallery part of the show.
“There is a space in the system where everyone is welcome and that is the one there at the bottom.”
Is the space at the bottom the place of a receiver? The wrecking ball of Miley Cyrus coming at you. That space at the bottom where Miley hits you, the specific you with your sexuality, race, class and gender and all those other things not easily called all those other things. And then you hit the ball back, both of you: Hannah and Henna.
“Juiciness is a precondition for being seductive but in order to stay elegant one has to stay dry. Between them there is a wet spot. Controlling your wet spot means to control yourself; inside we are all wet. It is only the skin, the mesh that separates us from each other – any hole leads into a tunnel.”
I’m not interested in Miley Cyrus, I say. Some years before I had said that I’m not interested in Paris Hilton. But I am interested when my friend tells me that she massaged Paris in the Berlin Hilton where my friend was working at the time. Then I say excitedly: “It’s like massaging an image”. But of course it is not.
I also once wrote: “She is firm, thin, hairless. Nothing leaks out from her. She has become an image.” This sets an image against a living body. The reward for the disciplined body is to become an image but, at the same time, to become less alive.
Henna’s work seems to enact something else in relation to images. Her images on top of images feel carefully picked and, at the same time, almost arbitrary. They come from the stream of images and they carry that stream in themselves – but maybe because of that they also feel fragile. They are raw like bodies are, all of them, and wet inside, as she writes. The wet spot of a .jpg is not the ripped leotard of a gymnast or an awkward family photo, or the actual wet spot of a prank gone wrong. The wet spot of an image is its circulation; the carefulness and intimacy that once perhaps was (or sometimes never was); the fragility of images; their low quality; their arbitrariness; their proximities to other images. It is not about looking at their weirdness from a distance but taking them seriously. In Henna’s case, it's taking the social and mainstream media seriously as a source. And taking them seriously means being close to them, letting them be close, and also, using them.
Henna Hyvärinen: On the Wet Spot
The Paulo Foundation Exhibition 2014
Curator Vappu Jalonen
With generous help from The Paulo Foundation and the University of the Arts Helsinki, Academy of Fine Arts