Top image: Line of Height (Mayor’s Office)
Minna Kantonen successfully applied through open submission to Art Gene’s Residency Programme in 2005. The selection panel were particularly interested in her Line of Height series of photographs which directly engage subjects as participants in the creation of the work and pose many questions around the hierarchies of the workplace an more generally within society. The viewer becomes voyeur – gaining a rare behind-the-scenes look at working environments which are rarely seen and almost never documented. We were fortunate that Minna decided to extend the series whilst in Barrow and Art Gene helped her in coordinate the project through making introductions.
The personalisation of workspace, within a bland workplace is always fascinating. Particularly enjoyable is the Mel Gibson portrait bringing up the rear of the queue (above) along with his monkey friend… The viewer cannot help but compare the similarities and differences in pictures taken in different offices, cities or countries. This is perhaps evidence of our an innate need to categorise, to ‘own’ assimilate or understand ‘difference’ – to feel comfortable in a new environment. The viewer to some extend becomes the new-boy or girl in the workplace; on the outside looking for a way in – their place in the line of hierarchy or outside of it? We reassure ourselves with imaginings which seem to provide some kind of insight into to what it might be to live and work somewhere else.
Then there are spaces designed to impress. Minna’s large format camera produces high resolution images revealing many details not evident in the low resolution pictures shown here. The Mayor’s office above uses the ‘language’ of personalisation; pictures, paintings, ornaments and gifts from ‘loved ones’. It has ‘family’ portraits of former mayors and shields representing ships and submarines built in the town alongside gifts from grateful and powerful clients including Admiral Togo. This room is designed to situate one in an impressive historical context and exhibits the paraphernalia of a particularly British take on ‘public office’: the mace and mayoral chain of office being amongst the most prominent.
Minna returned to Art Gene following her residency to join the Ormsgill Eco School project team, a Creative Partnerships Project, led by Maddi Nicholson and has more recently been creating photograph works around ‘Gorilla Gardening’ in London.