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A Choreography of Violence

Photographer Harri Pälviranta collected pictures of violence for two decades and didn't know what to do with them. Get to know how he chose to dissect violence and combine old pictures with new ones.
Black and white image of two men carrying an unconscious man
Harri Pälviranta: Choreography # 4 Archival ink print, mounted on composite aluminium, 2020

Harri Pälviranta, an Aalto alumnus, exhibited his work "Choreography of Violence" in Latvian Museum of Photography in Riga in October. In this exhibition he has been working with old news pictures depicting violence in demonstrations, racist assaults and fights. 

How did you choose this particular theme for your photos and exhibition?

For a long time I’ve worked on the relationship between violence and pictoriality, and approached the connection and intertwined nature between photography and violence from various points of view. In my new exhibition Choreography of Violence (Väkivallan koreografia), I work on a time scale of almost ninety years: I combine news images filmed in 1936 into post-documentary images made in 2019.

My reflection on photography is linked in particular to form: how the movements of the body are drawn into the images, how a violent touch is and has been portrayed both in the past and in the present. This project is based on a set of images that I have bought over the years. Thus, the project has not started with conceptual reflections, but as if suggested by the pictures themselves. Since the pictures lay on my desk year after yearand bothered me, it was best to do something with them.

The project has been challenging for me, because I have never really understood what I'm doing. Rather, it has been a process of surrendering: I am interested in historical images of violence, so it has been logical to surrender to them. Personally, I think my uncertainty is necessary in this situation. It’s good to be encouraged to express something that I do not fully control.

How did you end up in Latvia to present the project?

I have collaborated with the Latvian Museum of Photography in the past, once in a group exhibition and once leading a workshop. This is how part of the art world works: it is based on social relations. Riga is not a center of contemporary art and the project is not financially enriching, but the museum employs great people and is also extraordinary as a space. It’s great to work with people who want to present this kind of Contemporary Photography that portrays the difficult. I feel like I’m one of those slightly marginalized doers. I'm always happy if my work sparks an interest.

What interests you as a photographer the most and what do you want especially to highlight in your photos?

I see contemporary art as an arena with space and opportunity to reflect the world and human activity in a self-respecting way without having to come to some clear conclusion. Through visual art one can express impure remarks and thoughts. With regard to some specific themes, many varying things interest me, but visually, I have focused particularly on the examination of violence. Violence can be thought of as multifaceted: it is, for example, an area of ​​human activity, conceptualization and contemplation. As such a multifaceted thing, it manifests itself everywhere. Diving into the worlds of violence feeds itself: when you get a little insight, you want to know more. And the deeper you go, the more new things open up. I am like in a vicious circle of violence... The photos are a way to exist with violence. A way to understand it.

Latvian Museum of Photography

Harri Pälviranta's website

Picture of Latvian Museum of Photography from the inside of Harri Palviranta's exhibition.
Latvian Museum of Photography, Riga, Latvia 8.10.–8.11.2020. Photo: Linda Muižniece
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