Sanna Kannisto – fieldwork

Sanna Kannisto (b. 1974 in Finland) belongs to a younger generation of Finish artists who focus on photography as an artistic medium. On her research trips to biological field-stations in Brazil, French Guyana and Costa Rica, however, she augments photography with video. In the rainforest settings, she thinks of herself as a visual researcher, combining work methods from natural science, anthropology, archaeology and still-life painting. A key theme for her work is the relationship between chaotic, untamed nature and how human beings try to map, systematize, understand and explain it.

Part of Kannisto’s project consists of documenting her work processes and methods. In some photos she also includes herself, often showing subtle and humorous situations that emphasize the fascinating setting she is in. The staged and artistic aspects are obvious, sometimes on account of Kannisto’s facial expression or through the situation depicted. One such example is when she portrays herself with a glass in hand, standing under some gigantic plants. Here we are in doubt as to whether it is the plants that are large, or whether Kannisto is unusually small.

In the rainforests, Kannisto works with small interventions and explores a range of visual compositions. For example, she marks out part of a forest with red flags and ribbons that make no difference whatsoever in the large scheme of things. It seems hopeless to create a system in an indomitable rainforest.

Kannisto’s method involves isolating specific plants and animals by placing them in a white-light box that looks like a small theatre stage. Here she does close-up studies, balancing between probing nature, as a natural scientist would, and reflecting, as an artist would, on how we represent the world. Thus she presents nature as an inexhaustible source for fascinating motifs and study objects. At the same time, through a natural-scientific approach to the same nature, she questions photography’s role as a truthful witness.

As Sanna Kannisto’s first solo exhibition in Norway, Fieldwork is produced through collaboration between SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum and Agder Naturmuseum & Botanical Garden. The exhibition is at both venues.

Supported by FRAME.

Karl Olav Segrov Mortensen, curator