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semipermeable & sensitive

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Alma Heikkilä
semipermeable & sensitive

Kunstinstituut Melly

Friday 6 May — Saturday 31 December 2022


Finnish artist Alma Heikkilä is fascinated by the collective activities of the forest ecosystem, its connection to her body as well as the creatures that live upon and within the human body. For 84 STEPS, Heikkilä presents a newly commissioned installation comprising two large-scale canvases. Together, they parallel the average volume of a human being’s gut lining; a total of 30 square meters. On the first canvas, the artist approaches the work as a forest bed on the microbial level. On the second canvas, hanging behind the first one, she portrays a close-up of a human forehead. As the light shines through the second canvas, the skin becomes visible highlighting the blending between the human body and its environments. 

In creating this work, Heikkilä invites us to acquaint ourselves with the many symbiotic relationships we participate in — with or without our knowledge — and the essential role they play in constantly making us who we are. In doing so, she encourages us to contemplate how access to embodied knowledge may challenge our understanding of what it means to be a human. She is also interested in questioning the mechanisms of our decision-making- subjective experience, conscious thought and how decisions are explained in the light of current biological findings. 

At the frontal part of the forehead locates the prefrontal cortex, this brain region has been implicated in executive functions, such as planning and decision making. 

Recent data suggest that the human body is a super-complex ecosystem containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit all our surfaces like skin and especially the intestines. Microbiota, specifically within the gut, can greatly influence many physiological parameters, including cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and decision making processes.

 Creating sculptures and large-scale paintings, she approaches artmaking as a space to spend time with these ideas, as well as with the minute and invisible processes beyond the realm of human bodily senses. In portraying these invisible biological environments, Heikkilä seeks to foreground the countless interconnections between the human body, its material surroundings, and other species.

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