b. 1975, Turku, FI
Lives and works in Turku, FI
Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja is known for her still and moving image portraits, which capture the artist in her own home or her parents’ home, interacting with items such as housekeeping tools and pantry staples with prurient, deadpan humor. Her photographs and videos share what Hal Foster calls an anti-aesthetic, or the denial of an essentialist understanding of classical beauty and its delectation. Composition and light are not so precious to Susiraja, who favors photographs that surprise and disturb, rather than those that placate with their meticulous tableaux. Her work seeks to capture something felt, but is as yet inarticulable, about feminine performance and self-presentation. In an interview with Paula Korte, Susiraja noted “I don’t actually do much consciously at all, other than list objects on paper and go and fetch them. The end result is a momentary dash that ends up on the camera screen. I don’t deliberately think that I want to achieve a specific mood in any given picture: if the mood doesn’t come, then it doesn’t. Taking a picture is spontaneous, trusting in the moment.” This aesthetic of the haphazard—of the unrehearsed and unrestrained—saturates her images with an energetic impudence, amplified by Susiraja’s captured gestures.
Within her works, Susiraja dirties herself with food, lets her bare skin bulge and fold, and leaves her hair unkempt. She places some objects in and around her genitals—a turkey in front of her groin in Snooker, a buttered baguette sticking out from between her legs in Baguette—and others pressed against her breasts—plungers in Road Trip, a lollipop in Zoo. By approaching the habits and wears of domestic life so lewdly, she renders the actions and materials that make up daily rituals perverse. Amidst these gestures, Susiraja maintains a flat affect, as though bored by the demands placed upon her body, her habits, and her surroundings by the many cultural forces that push us to self-optimize. As critic Alex Jovanavich put it in Artforum’s February 2022 issue, “by seeming to humiliate herself, she pointedly calls out those who cling to cruel misperceptions about the obese—that they’re stupid, lethargic, gluttonous, etc.—by exaggerating such notions to preposterous degrees.” The artist is ultimately grappling with constrictions of having a body, overdetermined at all times by various cultural forces: how a body should look, and for whom; how a body should behave, and for whom; what—ultimately— a body is for, and for whom.
Iiu Susiraja (b. 1975, Turku, FI; lives and works in Turku, FI) earned an MFA from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. She was featured as the cover story for ArtForum’s February 2022 issue. Her recent solo exhibitions include MoMA PS1, Ramiken Gallery, SKMU Museum, KIASMA, Kadel Willborn Gallery, François Ghebaly Gallery, PS2 Gallery, VB Photographic Centre, Ramiken Crucible, and Fotogalleriet Format, among others. She is in public and private collections worldwide, including at the Adam Lindenmann Collection, the University of Chicago, the Rubell Family Collection, the Finnish Museum of Photography collection, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, the Finnish National Gallery, among many others.