Public Art, Urban Engagement and War Memorials
On January 1, 2019, Sanna Lehtinen has published an article entitled “New Public Monuments: Urban Art and Everyday Aesthetic Experience” in Open Philosophy.
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
In her paper, Sanna Lehtinen has inquired into “role and function of public art […] [by] [j]uxtaposing and comparing the aesthetic implications of different types of artworks” (30), while concentrating on public art works from the downtown area of Helsinki, Finland, by leading Finnish sculptors Pekka Kauhanen (1954-present) and Nestori Syrjala (1983-present) from different generations. Consequently, the questions this article has sought to answer are the following: “What space and what kind of position is subscribed to the perceiver by these very different types of yet equally established artworks? What kind of experiences and possibilities of participation do these works entail?” (30).
The works that stand in the epicenter of this research, “Running Man (2016–17) by Nestori Syrjälä and He who Brings the Light (Valontuoja, 2017) by Pekka Kauhanen” (30), are approached as representative of the “democratization of art within the public sphere” (31). In her comparison of these urban monumental art works, Lehtinen draws attention to their differences, since “Kauhanen’s war memorial […] is [perceived as] intentionally linked to its direct purpose of creating respect and reverence towards its subject matter. Syrjälä’s work does not imply power by its physical features but more through its relation to the defining power of the art world” (33).
In this respect, this author highlights that “[a]rtworks often carry the purpose of commemoration, yet urban monumental art might not be distinguishable for this reason alone” (35). This article also takes recourse to the “concept of aesthetic engagement, developed most notably by Arnold Berleant, [which] takes into consideration the multi-sensoral and reciprocal components of experiencing art […][, as] [t]his approach proves to be especially useful when faced with artworks on a daily basis rather than in dedicated gallery or museum spaces.” (36).
Therefore, this researcher has concluded that “the purpose of Running Man is even more overtly intended to extend and redefine the notion of public monumental art. Within the contemporary art scene this type of experimentation with newer forms is more easily accepted, whereas more conventional commissions such as He Who Brings the Light, which is a war memorial, tend to lean towards more traditional forms of monumental art” (37).
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: National Memorial to the Winter War 1939-1940, Helsinki, Finland, June 22, 2019 | © Courtesy of Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr.