“Work and Contribution” – Exhibition of the Design Exploration and Experimentation course

Posted on May 2018

Exhibition “Work and Contribution” shares series of personal explorations and expressions of students about “labour”. During the past seven weeks they have observed and reflected on what supported their individual and collective labour, asked and been asked difficult questions, disrupted their patterns and redefined them. They have come together in classrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and saunas to have conversations about what they do, how and why they do it. The contributions offered by these moments of sharing, and the following reflection have resulted in a series of work(s): from textile to performance, drawing to installation which are traces of their labour.

“Work and Contribution” exhibition held in Beta Space between 12–23 April 2018, is a display of work executed in the course Design Exploration and Experimentation in Aalto ARTS, Department of Design. During the course students followed a working pattern based on weekly personal written reflection, group conversations and frequent sharing/feedback sessions.

Students: Lotfi El Salah, Nur Horsanali, Milja Kalliokoski, Liisa Kivimäe, Simona Kliuciute, Alves Ludovico, Mimi McPartlan, Hanna Niskanen, Riko Omata, Tom Schuster, Annika Silvennoinen, Aliisa Talja, Sanni Weckman

Teachers: Maarit Mäkelä, Bilge Aktaş


Notes of a Precarious Worker, or, What My Sketchbook Has to Say About How I Work (and Draw), Lotfi El Salah

Medium: Sketchbook pages and tape

“Precarious work alienates us from our bodies, our minds, our values, our skills, and the products of our labour. Atomized resentment. But there are the difficult alternatives of sharing, questioning, and imagining. How do we (want to) work? What are the implications? And the tactics of subversion? The sketchbook is a primary tool of design work. Product design drawing is bound by aesthetics and the signature sketch of a typical process. But design ideas are diverse and extend beyond the dimensions of an object. A sketchbook can gather dust on a desk or deliver a blow to a skull with unmindful working habits.”


City as a Material Library, Nur Horsanali

Medium: Printed map, photographs, collages, sketches; handmade drawings on tracing paper; threads, pins, tape

“To connect myself to Helsinki, I started walking in the city more. During my walks, I found myself zooming into the city. My eyes were catching all kinds of different details from the ordinary environment: patterns in architecture, texture of snow, colours of plants… I realised our everyday surroundings are so rich in terms of material, texture, colour, patterns. I consider the city as a huge material library and I started collecting these materials. In the end, I framed my exploration process -photographs, drawings, collages- as the final artefact itself. It is almost my big personal mind map, linking different materials, ideas and possibilities emerged within one research.”


Focus, Milja Kalliokoski

Medium: Wool yarn, rya fabric, steel 

“I was interested in what pleasant and focused labour can be, and how time and productivity correspond when working. I wanted to study and reflect on concentration and its limits in labour. The design for the rya rug came through physical labour, depending on the efficiency of each hour of work and other factors. I’ve grown up with textiles, but I’ve never felt I have expertise in it. Most of the yarns I’ve used are originally from my grandmother who worked as a textile teacher, or from my mom. Focus is a readable rya rug from bottom-to-top, left-to-right. The same colour continues through all the patches of each workday, and each patch of colour represents 60 minutes of work. The yellow yarn shows the distractions of the workflow.”


Pine (Working with Another), Liisa Kivimäe

Medium: Solid wood panel (Finnish pine), plywood, pine resin, stones, working diary

“This course gave me the opportunity to explore different ways we achieve closeness and connection with Another – trees, stones or people. Wood and stone are the oldest materials utilized for labour as tools and building resources. Their haptic qualities resonate with people and inspire an inherent urge to touch that which is so familiar. How can we work together and collaborate with trees and stone? As our knowledge is limited, I wonder what other value trees can provide beyond the traditional understanding, and what would be the alternatives to seeing their everyday presence merely as a background setting.”


#softgraffiti, Simona Kliuciute

Medium: Photographs, fabric leftovers

Soft graffiti as a reflection of traditional weaving was brought into the contemporary shape of interventions in public space. Textile installations took place in brand new metro stations of Espoo: Matinkylä, Niittykumpu, Aalto-yliopisto. Every station has been beautifully designed in regards of the ceiling but one can barely see it through the window of the train. In contrast, Soft graffiti has brought more colours and domestic feeling into the waiting area and has created a playful experience for the passenger. The metal mesh of the furniture was used as a loom for fabrics.”


The Dream Job Workout, Alves Ludovico

Medium: Astronaut suit, metal structures, video

“Dream Job Workout is motivated by high expectations that young people receive from their parents and society. It questions the ambitious atmosphere and constant pressure feeling for getting a good job. The astronaut helmets are designed and produced in different sizes in a way that requires its users to work out as in fitness centres for their dream job already in their young ages in order to gain a socially accepted profession.

Our mission at The dream job workout is to develop the fitness solutions that turns kids’ dream job into a reality. Suddenly working out for a dream job is even more effective. (Actually we didn’t think it was possible.) Our new gym offers an ambitious sphere and constant pressure feeling. Last but not least, we have created a completely new parental control to facilitate the supervision of your child’s performance. Like it?”


Bodies, Mimi McPartlan

Medium: Looped video and sound. Curtains, stools, pedestal for viewing ease.

“The beginning was a single breath. My inspirations came from the idea of bodiless labour, spontaneous bouts of music making and sharing. From sauna harmonies to our mothers’ favourite songs, becoming comfortable within this group allowed me the space to make in an unusual way, experimenting with sound as material. This is a snapshot of new musings of my own capabilities as a maker coupled with the expanse of the sea. I’ve challenged myself to approach material as an amateur and to create an immersive experience versus an object for interaction.” The video work is available here.


Something I Cannot Touch, Riko Omato

Medium: Photographs, texts, clay, canvas

“Since I have got interested in trace on snow, I have tried to create objects which expresses my feelings about them. These small pieces are all connected to footprints, my thoughts, and experiences from excursion to Nuutajärvi. I learned that communication is necessary during glass blowing process, and it made me think about distance between people and materials, or people and objects. All of memories are combined in my mind, and gave me new opportunity to think about “invisible things.”


Finnish Industry, Tom Schuster

Medium: Wood in ice on metal display

“The cold white winter of Finland experienced in February combined with the oldest industries Finland has to offer. The forest industry dating back until the 17th century and the metal industry still one of the leading forces in the economy of this Scandinavian country. Those classic industries with their manual labour and the inspiration of the craftsmanship of Finnish glassblower led to this installation.”


Struggle, Annika Silvennoinen

Medium: Miscellaneous objects

“In my process, I examined the relationship between a Finnish man and his job. It is all about complaining about exhausting work, taxes and too low salary. The chat forums Vauva.fi and Kaleva.fi have been my source of inspiration. It is a scene of how does a man, who works five days a week, eight hours per day for 50 years, deal with his frustration. Why there is no possibility of getting rich by working?”


Sauna Bonds. I Dream of Unions., Aliisa Talja

Medium: A performance, a printout, pins

“Coming together with this group of people, discovering an openness to share things with one another, afforded me a base to start building this project on. I found out that collectivity, solidarity and professional creative practices were things I needed to examine. I gathered some thoughts from a conference in Basel, others from a reading, some more from a conversation concerning planning another exhibition. I relied on others: I asked my flatmate “What would you do if you were me?” and invited people over for sauna in the hope of discovering something from that time spent together.” The text is available from here.


Expand, Exhaust, Exclude, Exhale, Sanni Weckman

Medium: Porcelain

“The way we look at ourselves and each other is formed through the structures that surround us. How would it be to instead of just looking to actually see each other, see ourselves? How can you see anything when balancing only between something so close to you it has become invisible, and something so distant it is yet out of sight? Through changing my usual practice, I am attempting to get in the between, trying to see. To see the structures that me and my surroundings together have created, to see myself inside and outside these constructed rules.”