Ecce homo – bare thy flesh!
Seppo Salminen’s performance art combines the vigour of his
own body and flesh with the materiality of an object. Feminine flesh
meets masculine sculpture. The artist’s works can be taken in
as sculptural events, fusions of two complementary elements with surfaces
and shapes of different kinds: cold, lifeless iron and ice, and, on
the other hand, living human flesh appearing in contact with this material.
Salminen’s pieces reach out and touch the spectator’s subconscience,
for everyone has a personal relationship to materials akin to the fundamental
substances. Johannes S., the conceptual protagonist in Salminen’s
art, serves as a surrogate figure. His task is to experience and suffer – and
set images astir in the spectator’s subconscience.
Salminen’s works are bald, they are acts of taking off and laying
bare, not performing. He blends extremely private aspects and personal
confessionalism with minimal, even modernist sculpture, stripped to
the bone yet rich in implication. This may be seen as a comment on
the myth of the hero artist and the self-sufficient modernist tradition.
Flesh stands for communication and reciprocity, while minimalist sculptures
represent autism and muteness. Salminen makes use of both.
Fear is embedded in Salminen’s works. Upsetting and startling
to behold, their soul penetrates into the spectator’s subconscience,
its abhorrence/fear of flesh. The soul conveys primal messages, immediate
knowledge from beyond words and knowing. Art must smell – “the
nose is quicker than the eye”, as Seppo Salminen himself puts
it. The artist’s works draw on his personal history, yet the
tradition of western culture is also present.
Beauty always springs from the deep wound each human being bears deep
within. Just like the history of Europe, the history of western art
reads as a record of martyrs’ bodies. Salminen shows the male
body, the only body recognized by the state. “The purpose of
man’s body is to become mutilated. It is never private property,
it belongs to the state or anyone executing the sacrifice.” The
performance shows a man biting off his suit, gobbling down his father,
and discovering his own flesh, only to punish himself afterwards. Searching
for his own flesh underneath his clothes, Johannes S. gnaws through
cultural strata of time. He marks his body by biting, he leaves traces
of his presence, he makes new prints of himself. The sacrifice is offered
on an altar.
Seppo Salminen makes this male body his stage. It is the suffering
man’s body on which a punishment was inflicted. The mind, however,
retained its purity. Cosmetic slag from our culture has tainted people’s
minds, soiled them with endless confessions and judgements passed on
intellectual grounds. The body is forever subject to the exercise of
power it makes little difference, whether violence is done to body
or mind. Submission has been internalised by everybody. The art world
turns out similar explanatory doctrines. Throughout his life as an
artist, Salminen has kept himself detached from this (verbally) masterable
rational communication, and the dictatorship of various sets of codes.
For him, being an artist means spiritual kinship, acts carried out
by a small and dedicated friarly order. Seppo Salminen’s works
appeal to the spectators’ metaphysical sense perception from
an ethical angle. In them ethics is experienced as a bodily responsibility
for other people. The human body we see is vulnerable, often passive,
exposed to injury and pain, and open to erotic movement.