KATRI NAUKKARINEN ON HER EXPERIENCE AT MÉDUSE, QUEBEC CITY
Interview: Ida Taavitsainen
Images: Katri Naukkarinen
Katri Naukkarinen is a Finnish photographic artist, who works with photography, moving image and installation. In her works she is interested in experiencing the everyday in a broader sense and is looking at what is interesting in her immediate surroundings. Lately she’s been making photographic experiments with ultraviolet, infrared and ionising radiation. From September to December 2017 Naukkarinen was artist-in-residence at Méduse in Quebec City in Canada.
Méduse is a cooperative of producers and presenters dedicated to the arts, culture, and community outreach. It’s located in the centre of Quebec City, in the vibrant neighbourhood of Saint Roch, and it houses ten nonprofit arts and cultural organisations. In collaboration with Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, The Finnish Artists’ Studio Foundation has had a residency exchange program in Canada since 1997. Each year one Finnish artist gets the opportunity to live and work at Méduse while one Canadian artist comes to Finland to live and work at the Guest Studio in Tapiola, Espoo.
Katri Naukkarinen, why did you apply for the residency program in Canada?
Initially I was interested in Méduse, because it sounded like an interesting place. It sounded like a good environment to create work and broaden your perspective in. Each resident artist is hosted by at least one of the local arts organisations housed at Méduse. You apply for the residency with a work plan, but at the same time there is a freedom there. It was very liberating to get the chance to work at my own pace. The residency really is incredible in how it gives time and space for an artist to work.
Has the time spent at the residency influenced your career or life in any way?
During my residency I was supported by two local organisations, VU and Avatar. VU is an artist-run centre dedicated to the development of the photographic image. They had a darkroom, scanners and a print lab that I could use during my stay. With Avatar, an organisation dedicated to audio and electronic artworks and artists, I was learning how to use Max MSP, a visual programming language for music and multimedia. I developed new skills there and it really felt like everyone at VU and Avatar were very supportive. As an artist building my own career, without a curator or gallery behind, it was nice to become part of a new community, to see my own work in a new light and even take steps to new directions.
And did the residency generate any collaborations or opportunities?
Yes, it did. During my residency I was working on YYY, an experimental photography zine. Each issue features two photographic thinkers besides myself. I invite them to a photographic conversation of sorts, within the pages of a tabloid magazine. The starting point for each issue’s curation lies not in the participants’ existing photographs, but in their photography. With the help of VU I was looking for two local snapshooters to collaborate with and was lucky to find them quite quickly. The chosen artists were Katia Gosselin and Louis Perreault. At the end of my residency I had an exhibition-launch party for the zine at VU Gallery.
I understand that during your stay you also created another publication, a postcard book to celebrate the 20 years of artist exchange between Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and The Finnish Artists’ Studio Foundation. Want to tell us something about that?
I found out that the residency exchange between Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and The Finnish Artists’ Studio Foundation had its 20th anniversary and that this kind of anniversaries are often celebrated with a publication of some sort. I was hired by the organisers of the exchange program to create something to celebrate the event. I put together a souvenir box of artists’ postcards by almost every Finnish and Canadian artist that has taken part of the program. The box of postcards was designed by Mikko Varakas and it was unveiled at Méduse during my residency.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time at Méduse?
I was genuinely impressed by the rich cultural life in both Quebec City and Montreal and I can warmly recommend applying for the residency. The residency is very flexible. If you need peace and quiet to concentrate on your work you will get that, but if you need help or just want company over lunch or have a chat over cultural policies, then that is possible too. You don’t have to stay at the residency the whole period, you can travel around and explore your surroundings. I travelled to Canada via New York City. I’ve lived there, so I wanted to go back, but I also went that way because there’s no straight flight to Quebec from Helsinki and taking the train from New York to Quebec is a more sustainable option than taking a connecting flight. The train ride along the Hudson from New York to Quebec also happens to be very beautiful. Because there’s no strict working hours and no obligation to present a finished project during the residency, you can really focus on finding your own working methods and take liberties that suit your own practice best. The freedom offered by the residency also allowed me to take time to get to know people, and I left having made new friends that I still keep in touch with.