Mari Hokkanen is a photographer based in Helsinki and is currently exhibiting her latest project 'Set & Setting' at Street Level Photoworks, part of of this years Glasgow International.
"Set & Setting is a series of staged self-portraits. Each set reveals its own scene, dealing with worldly phenomenon, often by tragicomic means. These scenes or stories portray serious issues but the naivistic execution, colorful and cartoon-like visuals, leave room for humour to soften the chosen thematics. Every scene has a protagonist, through whom we can start exploring the world, interpret it subjectively if you will. However, closer inspection will possibly lead to multiple interpretations of the scene."
"As the audience, we project part of our inner world to the scenes we see. In Set & setting I’m not forcing my view upon the audience but invite the viewer to participate creating the story he/she wants to see. Hence the name, Set & setting."
"All the sets are handcrafted by me. I often use organic materials that I’ve collected or found; dirt, flowers, braches, dead animals etc. I build the sets with recyclables like cardboard and wood, anything I find useful for the set will be cut, painted and crafted to fit each scene. Wall- and floor elements are also painted to the theme of the set. I find the set building process to be playful and explorative experience that is not dominated by the conventional setting-up of a studio shot for the camera. I get the inspiration for the scenes from the world around me. My personal memories, identifying with the other, collective symbolism, opinions and the scenery to be interpreted are all present. There are stories within stories to be found and some of them even remain hidden. The finalized set is a result of a long process with many ways to look at it. It’s typical that the protagonist is anonymous, with her face covered. This leads the audience to distance themselves from her ordeal and find alternate routes to interpret the scene."
"I mostly play the protagonist myself. This way I get to keep the performance aspect in my work and have the opportunity to experience the moment of the shot. This is often the time to create and improvise unsuspected suspense for the scene. I’m interested in the ambiguity of the image and the process of believing the set. I find this very close to the idea of theater, where the audience accepts the set as a part of the world created in front of them. In Set & setting the audience reaction to the colorful sets and the scene in general is based on whether they accept the reality it portrays as part of their experience."