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Searching for Aino - An intuitive and playful search for traces in relation to Aino Aalto
An Art project by Kirsten Kleie

A.I.R. Program Finland for Fine and Applied Arts
Residency, Nelimarkka-Museo, Alajärvi, Villa Nelimarkka, 1. bis 30. September 2023

Aino Aalto * 25.1.1894 in Helsinki + 13.1.1949 Helsinki
Finnish architect, designer, woman, mother, boss, friend, lover, role model


The idea
Since my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, my work has been concerned with the history of the male/female gaze.
How and through what do the culturally shaped "gender eyes"
influence our perception? And how have these imprints affected the perception of female artists? Which works and artworks have never been seen and have been lost to history? Which artistic approaches that did not conform to patriarchal patterns did not receive attention, were overlooked or deliberately suppressed? What has all been lost in Westernised cultural history?
But what does this have to do with Alajärvi and Finland?
Finnish architecture and design is inextricably linked to an equally legendary figure: Alvar Aalto. Aalto is known throughout the
world as the architect of poetic modernism. But who else knows Aino Aalto? From 1923 until her death in 1949, Aino and Alvar
Aalto worked as equal partners. Without Aino, the success story of Artek and Aalto would not have been possible.
Yet Aino Aalto remains in the shadow of history to this day.
Aino Aalto can be seen as a role model of her time. She was a successful architect, designer, company founder, mother, wife, lover and much more. She won design awards and her influence extended far beyond Europe to USA/New York. Her letters and photographs also speak about her role as a mother and wife. And how she was able to fulfil them. For the 1930s, a very unusual and remarkable woman‘s life.


The art projekt

The Aaltos‘ philosophy is based on the power of intuition and the creative and playful process. And this is exactly the approach I have taken in my artistic work on site. By combining historical images, found footage and the use of layers or double exposure, I have tried to find an intuitive and playful approach. It‘s not about documentation or architectural photography. My intention was to make visible a feeling, a mood, an aura of Aino. „In search of Aino“ - I want to contribute to bringing this important architect, designer and women out of the shadows and into the light. The documentary film „Aalto“ by Virpi Suutari from 2020 first made me aware of the significance of Aino Alto. In 1923, exactly 100 years ago, the collaboration between Aino and Alto began.

For one part of my work I converted screenshots with text passages from the documentary film „Aalto“ into transparent black and white layers. With these templates, I revisited the places described there and photographed them through the layers: the Aalto House in Helsinki, Villa Mairea and Villa Flora, for instance.

For the other part, I used the analogue technique of double exposure. Photographs from the private collection of the Aalto family (Catalog, Aino Aalto, 2004, Alvar Aalto Foundation) merge on the exposed layer of silver salts with these places in the present time. The black and white film is inserted twice into the camera. So the results are playful and follow the intuitive search for traces. When the picture is taken, it is not obvious which result will emerge in the end.

supportet by:
GEDOK München, Nelimarkka-Museo Alajärvi,
Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München