Jenny Kalliokulju

Exhibition text for Other Places

at Anat Ebgi  — 2016

The first mirrors used by people were most likely pools of dark, still water, or water collected in a primitive vessel of some sort. The earliest manufactured mirrors were pieces of polished stone such as obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass. In his work Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder says a few sentences on the subject of a volcanic glass called Obsian, so named from its resemblance to a stone found in Ethiopia by Obsius, a Roman explorer. To mirror yourself in such darkness like the obsidian does something to you, Pliny notes; doubtless all marvels will be surpassed by the fact that there has ever been a single day on which they have not been a universal conflagration, when also hollow mirrors facing the sun’s rays, set thing alight more easily than any other fire. But to look into the depth of darkness of a mirror, to which you can descend and still be alive is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.

When the sun gives up the day for a couple of hours sleep and dreaming, I lay awake and try to grasp the moment when all nuances of darkness fades and mixes with the light into colours, and some say one is able to see the souls of the night walking back from wherever they came from in the eerie morning light. Eyelids feels heavy and I tend be asleep during the blue colour of distance, when wild foxes are lurking. Waking up at 05:00 AM, observing not blue – but similar to violet, though unlike violet; the sky is purple mystery and piety. It reminds me of the obsidian colours, the glass is usually dark in appearance, though the colour varies depending on the presence of impurities and light. Iron and magnesium typically give the obsidian a dark brown to black, or even purple-oil colour. In Naturalis Historia Pliny explains about Thynian Purpura, also known as royal purple, which is extracted from sea snails, and which was first produced by the ancient Phoenicians. Just like obsidian, this dye was greatly prized in antiquity because it did not fade, rather it became brighter and more intense with weathering and sunlight.

Between the darkness and sunlight the colours are all there to perceive, for those who want to see. Perhaps my intention is to portray my observing’s’ rather than explain. Possibly intelligence is characterized by willingness to stretch ideas, places and colours of this kind outside of all spaces, even though it may be impossible to indicate their location in reality. Including imaginary self: receding boundaries, the horseman on the night’s street, the breathing, the loved, the drunk, the words, the turnstile, the endless destructive projections people force and the rendering of that listening into irreducible depths of tone, wit, and perception. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about. In the conformation of self you will lose the world as you have it – and you know you don’t have the fortitude for another.

The colour of Purple is a moving place to observe myself in, like a movie or a mirror; a change takes place, a metamorphosis, and just like in dreams, or in the bluest of hours; the elevation of morning-yellow and nights’-blue takes place through all of the variations of yellow-red, orange, and cinnabar on one side and blue-red, violet, red violet on the other side. Thinking about it, words can barely describe purple, but reminded me of the colour of peach blossoms. The question is whether purple is realized in nature and as a pigment colour, or whether it is a theme that nature plays upon, a goal for which it strives. Purple is like love, the zenith of colours, and like both Goethe and Pliny thought, the most mystical of hues.

What matter am I made of, in which elements and foundations for a thousand other lives mingle but never merge? There was Pliny the Elder – retold by Pliny the Younger (his nephew), there was Goethe – sipping expensive Purpura wine. Every day I swim down every stream and still none is mine, but purple might be a certain journey, like postcards instead of emails. But then again, maybe not – to stay true to the perception without resort to explanation is the essence of it all, search nothing beyond the phenomena, they themselves are the road to follow…

Surging for the right kind of colour is like waiting for the rain to start. The gravity is less then force of air that sustains the clouds. Sooner or later everything will fall like rain. Dreams work like an extended meditation. I see you where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space and light that opens up the void of nothing. A sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself in absentia: such is the utopia of the mirror.

As the bottom of the hourglass fills, so did the house close to Pompeii Pliny was visiting while investigating the strange cloud – “shaped like an umbrella pine” rising from the mountain Vesuvius.

The Naturalis Historia is divided into 37 books, organised into ten volumes. It became a model for later encyclopaedias and scholarly works as a result of its breadth of subject matter, its referencing of original authors, and its index. The work is dedicated to the emperor Titus, son of Pliny’s close friend, the emperor Vespasian, in the first year of Titus’s reign. It is the only work by Pliny to have survived and the last that he published. He began it in 77, and had not made a final revision at the time of his death in 79 AD. The last letter to his nephew ended with an intense smell of sulphur. And from the darkness of the ash clouds spired a weird light. Some say that purple is what’s remaining of things that have not yet occurred, what failed to disappear. The spot where Pliny died in his sleep, just closing his tired eyes while observing the natural phenomena of a mountain. According to Pliny the Younger, (after the eruption) the whole city of Pompeii turned or a void of darkness, and no humans or foxes, no snails or other living thing was ever to be found there again. Only a black, shimmering valley of obsidian. And then the still ocean mirroring it all, in its purple water.