ABOUT THE ARTIST AND HER WORK
Meri Linna works predominantly as part of the collaborative duo Harrie Liveart, but she also makes works on her own. Her personal work comes out of much slower paced practice somewhat different to Harrie Liveart but no less important. With Harrie Liveart there is a certain ease to the way the work emerges from two minds that encourage, argue and push each other. Whereas, in Linna’s own art, you can feel a dedication to self-examination and enlightenment through practice. It is slow and introspective. It develops through a certain kind of self-examination that cannot come quickly. Introspection in art is often equated with self-indulgence but you cannot apply this term to Linna’s work. Her desire to constantly involve others, which is also seen with her collaborative practice, drives the work into personal experiences for the viewer themselves. She uses her own long process of self-examination as a mirror for us to look at ourselves
Linna has been developing ‘Retreat’ for many years. The early idea came before 2006 and emerged out of her personal experiences with silent meditation. She had a profound visual experience during a deep rest retreat that lasted for a full 35 days of silence. This lead to her interest in sense depravation and its affect on us physically and mentally.
‘Retreat’ is an uncompromising work, stripped back of content to leave us with what could be described as nothing: A room without any light. It is precisely this stripping back that is important. She pulls the rug out from under us. In an art context we are used to viewing, observing and being a spectator. How can we do this when we cannot see anything? ‘Retreat’ is the first time I can recall ever experiencing total darkness. The denial of light is absolute. We stumble and try to figure things out. Have I contracted a strange disease and gone blind all of a sudden like a character from José Saramago’s novel ‘Blindness’? Time seems to slip and we are left grasping for any kind of sense. We stare into the void and get nothing back. The absence leaves us only with ourselves – an un-nerving experience for most of us, but also a beautiful one. And this is exactly what it is. A powerful experience that leaves us exploring our own physicality, spirituality and ultimately humanity.
Text: James Prevett
Meri Linna: Retreat, 2014, participatory installation (picture: Meri Linna)