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Anna Ruth (MFA 1998) is a visual artist and art event organiser who has worked in Jyväskylä producing, directing and curating the projects: Äkkigalleria (nomadic art gallery since 2009), House Games triennial (2005–2017), Laatikkomo (2013–2019), ti-la2016, 100 Finnish Photographers, 2017 (curated by Hanna-Kaisa Hämäläinen & Markko Hämäläinen), and Tuokaa Tuoli! (a nomadic cinema in collaboration with Juho Jäppinen, Hans-Peter Schütt and KSEK since 2018). She was the XXV Mänttä Art Festival curator in 2020/21.
ANNA: The history of your ancestry comes up in your work, but this does not look like a personal revelation or therapeutic catharsis for the viewer. Your images allude to a universal yet intimate past, as they remain connected to the more significant human experience within specific historical events. Previous paintings reference different forms of literature as the base of their stories, but more recently, you have focused on historical events. What inspired you to shift toward a more fact-based reference in constructing your narrative?
AISHE: Thinking about referencing historical events in my practice started in 2017 when we lived in a small town in Austria bordering Slovenia. I noticed that with people we met, our conversation would naturally flow around their memories of some historical events or re-telling their parents’ memories of those events, such as independence in Slovenia or events around former Yugoslavia. Within these conversations, I became aware of how much I didn’t know about my familial history concerning specific historical events, and I got curious about why that is. I am the second generation born in Iran, and while growing up, there wasn’t much talk about our ancestors. All I knew was that they were from Turkmenistan and were land owners, which was a problem for the government of their time; some family members were shot. I had no idea within what political or historical context these events took place. I came to a point where this ‘not knowing’ was blocking my thinking. Therefore I needed to know and own our familial history concerning events that have radically changed how our lives moved forward.
I later understood that the abovementioned events took place in 1920-1930 Turkmenistan. This decade was crucial for Turkmenistan to acquire a clearly defined territory under Soviet rule. Yet, as it was happening with a mad rush, it came at a huge cost to my ancestors: execution, confiscation of property, and displacement to Iran.
From 2017-2019 I engaged my practice with my familial history from the decade mentioned above and exhibited the final work in the exhibition Laughter to Cry (2019) at B-galleria Turku. The Turku show focused on studying the transmission of our familial history of that time through memory. The exhibition at Myymälä2 is the continuation of that show from a different angle. This time, my focus has been on building a connection between the many layers of history passed through memory, such as facts around that specific timeline, my familial memory, Turkmen rituals, imagination, and projection.
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