Ilja Karilampi — Jag Är
Once the English colonists had conquered a high altitude mountain country, it turned out the air was so thin that they could not reproduce themselves. Over time, it became necessary to marry persons from the indigenous population. Perhaps that was a setback in the conqueror’s I AM-leap, but a setback way more interesting than a successful leap would have been. Disturbances in the replication processes, cracks in the mirror, that is what makes it possible to regard any species as a mistake that has become more or less permanent. I am: a mistake; astray. My image reflected on the surface of the object of desire(the mirror stage), hides the materiality of it, a layer of cracks in the surface, distortions, communication interferences, slag, noise and what not, in any case a more interesting aspect of the image in its materiality. The Englishmen thought that they invaded a piece of land while what actually happened, the real event, was that their bodies encountered with an oxygen level that affected the most intimate functions in them. That were more lost than they thought.
The problem is actually restricted to the ordinary way of using mirrors to confirm identity. And something similar applies to the stickers: it is only when they are considered as parts of a population within which competition and the most adapted reproduced and survived ( in short, a market) that they can be mistaken for postmodern appropriations. Ilja Karilampi’s art is elsewhere, even if it could lend itself to a postmodern/mirror stag-understanding (nothing’s wrong with making mistakes). When I saw some of the mirrors in an exhibition, it was clear that the installation was designed to thwart the mirroring effect. They got a transparent, almost invisible character. Rather than to reproduce what was in front of them, next to me, and project it into a utopian space behind them, they were unobtrusive, they blended with the environment to the point of disappearing. Rather than to reflect, they seemed to absorb the environment. That was one of the strategies to counteract the narcissism of mirrors. And by putting stickers on the mirrors, the important function of their surfaces was no longer to reflect, but to support. In this installation, the stickers did not really function as brands on a market, but as parts of someone’s environment: not by competing , but by being selected and provided with features. While the Swedish Embassy’s logotype may be a sign of the presence of the place of departure, or its projection in this new place, others may work as a joke in the same environment. All their properties are not given, some of them are there because a living being has charged them with a certain value for a special way to create an environment. Maybe that is the kind of things that affects the way a surface reflects. This environment of course ” mirrors” the one who made it, but it is not made as and by an ordinaryreflection. It is more of a reconfiguration . It is still I Am, but different.
It seems we can’t get rid of I Am, the thought arises as a perverse counterpart to everything we are going through – like Kant’s “I am” that is a correlative of every thought . But you can live with it without taking it too seriously. Obviously, that is what is happening in social media. Some still do use them according to old standards, i.e. to promote themselves and show who they ideally are (“not”) (a postmodern use, one might say). But many people behave like gentle trolls, but in their own name. It does not matter who hides behind the name because whatever you say or do there will be obvious enough anyway. Your own name or an alias – the difference is neutralized. People are as serious, or as little serious, speaking in their own name as they are using a pseudonym. By the way, I saw that the name DJ Säkerhetskontroll uses at Instagram, nigerian__queen, figures on one of the mirrors. The names get a character attached to them by presenting something in a certain way, and they change character pretty swiftly. It is a performative identity, not a product of some mirroring: a gesture, a tempo, a way to accelerate and swerve, an idea, a down to earth acceptance that I am here now. One might as well have called oneself I Am, I Am That I Am. What more can be said, it’s already empty as it is! A name for the nameless mutation experiments that, at best, appears as small distortions of what you expected. That’s me, in a hallucination.
Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen