Rajamailla – Poetic Peripheries exhibition at Kemi Art Museum

Meri silmissäsi
Mari Mäkiranta: Sea in Your Eyes (2019). Part of the photographic series where Mari Mäkiranta has photographed trans gender youth and youth that identify themselves as third gendered. Portraits were exhibited at Kemi Art Museum in January 2020.

A Series of Exhibitions that are informed by Climate Change, Unsafe Spaces and Changing Identities. The Poetic Peripheries exhibitions discusses meanings related to gender and space through art video, photography and fashion. The art work is about changing identities, the relationships between human and nature, and connotations and relationships with safe spaces. Poetic Peripheries – Rajamailla exhibition will be at the Kemi Art Museum (18.1.-8.3.2020).


Poetic Peripheries at the Port Pirie Vivienne Crisp Gallery, Australia

rajamailla_3Port Pirie Regional Gallery 21.12.2019-26.1.2020, Port Pirie Australia 

The Poetic Peripheries exhibition (Vivienne Crisp Gallery) includes artists Taina Kontio, Satu Miettinen, Mari Mäkiranta and Melanie Sarantou. This collective includes four researcher-artists who focus on the questions of social responsibility, arctic nature, global and local peripheries and cultural identities, which are visualised through images of arctic waters, landscapes and people.

The exhibition was set up by Port Pirie Regional Gallery and it represents the outcomes of artistic research that focuses on the development of artistic expression, methodologies and societal dialogue, thus interweaving the exhibitions, artistic work, research strategies and societal challenges that the researchers address. The Poetic Peripheries exhibitions discusses meanings related to gender and space through art video, photography and fashion. The art work is about changing identities, the relationships between human and nature, and connotations and relationships with safe spaces.


Smokes & Meditation


Smokes and meditation is series of self-portraits discussing the embodied presence and the balance between the body and mind. We tend to present ourselves in the “good light” or as “presentable selves”. This may create pressure to take role of the desired self. How to present womanhood is always under tension. Whether it’s nakedness or how the motherhood is presented in pictures? These images can become iconic or scrutinized and certainly they should fit the norms.

Smoking is unhealthy and dangerous. What kind of image one presents with smoking? Will this fit to the role one has given to oneself in the post-modernist discourse or maybe it is theater? Can one enjoy hedonist pleasures without being an outcast? What if your embodied self is not performed and doesn’t meet the competitive criteria? What if you don’t fit the healthy image and you are experienced as a thread to medicalized society? It may be that even your gaze doesn’t fit the perception of beauty?

One can see oneself also bit tongue in the cheek. The ways we see ourself can also be hilarious and not too serious.

Whom wore this?

Feature image photography by Satu Miettinen.

Vintage underwear was collected by or gifted to me at various occasions over the past fifteen months. The motivation for the gifts I believe was due to my interest in fashion design and my curiosity in the women who may have used and worn these garments. Sustainable fashion often involves the reuse and modification of existing apparel, yet my interest is in the untold stories tat may be connected to the vintage underwear that were gifted to me.

Whom wore this 2019 MS BW 1

Who were these women and what were their stories I have often pondered whilst embroidering and modifying the garments? Who saw, touched or caressed, and smelled these garments, and who didn’t? What were the life circumstances of these women? What is the name of distinct perfume that is captured in the fibres of the fabrics of some of them? Some garments appear to be luxurious and special, and others were repeatedly mended with hand stitching, while in others the obvious wear and tear of many years of wearing is evident.

Whom wore this 2019 MS 2BW

My reinterpretation of these garments is inspired by these questions. My embroidery traces the worn fabrics, holes, stains, hand stitches and other marks on the items. Some of my stitching and pinning celebrates the delicate and intimate nature of the garments, altering them from functional to decorative. Some of the garments are believed to date from the 1940s and the earliest items from the 1960s and 1970s. Stories known about the garments are that some were found in an old trunk in an abandoned estate in Sterling, South Australia, while others were purchased from vintage and opportunity shops around South Australia. A selection of vintage hats are also reinterpreted and will accessorise the underwear. ‘Whom wore this?’ will be displayed in an installation at the Kemi Art Museum in Finland as part of the Poetic Peripheries exhibition.

melanie_underwear_B&W cropped
Photography by Satu Miettinen

By Melanie Sarantou (2019 -2020)

Widow’s tears flowing into Broughton River and I will drink them from Kemi joki?

The garment collection signifies the black veiled garments that are worn by widows by various cultural groups. The work comprises of two black cocktail dresses that also signify celebration. One dress is created from sequins, lace and chiffon, and is accessorised with a black embroidered vintage veil (found object). The other dress is a reused vintage satin dress (found and modified object) that is accessorised with a hooded lace jacket. The garments address the failure of social systems to protect vulnerable members in our societies. In Australia for example, many elderly people are abused by their carers or close family members as the social system offers attractive incentives to full time carers, yet on occasion the elderly are abused, be it socially, physically, financially and sexually, but it is often hidden and goes unnoticed.

I seek to create awareness of this form of abuse by juxtaposing symbolisms of mourning against those of celebration. The final stage of life should be joyful and free of responsibility if the elderly would receive the care that the system intends, which is not the case in situations of abuse.

The sustainable fashion is showcased during the moths of December 2019 and January 2020 in the Poetic Peripheries exhibition at the Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery. The exhibition seeks to claim back spaces and safe places for women through symbolic representations that explore relationships with physical and social environments and identity processes.

By Melanie Sarantou (2019)

Water Waste(d)

The collection of sustainable fashion addresses my relationship to the changing environments through which I travel to work and live, such as water rich Finnish Lapland and the hot and dry South Australia. Water sustains life, yet my water consumption in these two contrasting environments differ significantly. In Lapland I open the tap to enjoy rather pure and quality water. In South Australia I have to rely on packaged water for drinking, resulting in unused waste, such as foils and plastics.

The collection thus draws awareness to the questions of the unsustainable use of water pertinent to the Murray River, the main water source in South Australia. It also draws awareness to the waste of one our most precious resources, which I have witnessed around the world including the Arctic. Foils, plastics and reused industrial felt used in gardening and building are the materials that inspired the collection. The felt was found at a garbage dump in South Australia and the foils and plastics were collected from my own household waste caused by drinking water over three months.

By Melanie Sarantou

Relate North Tradition and Innovation Exhibition. Syktyvkar, Russia.

Tiina's mother_1Tiina's mother_2Tiina's mother_3Tiina's mother


Tiina’s mother 1-4 30x 40 cm fine art print on aluminium board

Poetic Peripheries goes to Relate North Tradition and Innovation  Exhibition. Syktyvkar, Russia. November 11.-19.11. 2019


Tiina’s mother photographic series is about discovering the lives of the women and their families living in the arctic. There are some remote communities like Peltovuoma in trhe Finnish Lapland that welcome family for visits and carry out the memories of childhood winters. These communities bloom in the summer time when white nights prevail and one can see the silent growth and buzz of nature. These moments are needed to recuperate for the forthcoming winter and darkness. It is so difficult to go to sleep when you want to restore the light in your skin and remember this for the forthcoming darkeness. Summer includes the visits of more far away family to revitalize your relationships and origins in the north. Visits of more remote family member bring the familiarity of the locations, names and geographies that you learnt as a child in our focus and attention. These pictures are about connecting with Tiina’s mother and family history in far north. It’s important to keep the collective memory and even cherish some locations where the families come together.


Poetic Peripheries featured in National Geographic

Photo by Taina Kontio “Two women travellers to reclaim their heritage at Saami and Suomi, Arctic borders, Finland and Norway,” writes Your Shot photographer Taina K. ”Rivers and waters somehow acted as catalysts of memories, to these feminine explorers, to all that was lost and all that could be reclaimed


Walk with Women – Walk in Your own Space

In Scandinavia many women share their ‘business’ while walking as a caring act for body and mind. Walking together creates an intimate space for sharing and caring amongst women, men, couples, boys and girls. Here a culture of walking exists. Walking in or through landscapes has been a nurturing and aesthetic activity for centuries due to the empowering and fulfilling feelings people experience through the physical in extreme Arctic environments.

Walking is also an act of freedom. Here in the arctic you are safe to walk alone in many spaces, also those that are shared with reindeer. The pleasant physical act of walking together during polar night, enveloped in extreme coldness, kept us warm through shared feelings of togetherness. Yet, it is not always safe to walk in all the spaces and landscapes. Sometimes, someone can invade your personal space. Sometimes you need to be alert, stripped from the comfort of enjoying a walk.

Walking and gazing in landscapes has become a self-documented and shared act in digital spaces like @instragram or @facebook. We invite women to perform the act of walking either alone in solitude, or together as an everyday act. We ask women to document and share their walking for the project through different means, including selfies, videos, photography or blogs. A performative walk, with the aim to empower and reclaim the right to enjoy safety and freedom while walking, will shape an additional process of the exhibition.

Her House

This project is about women, their houses and life stories. It will create a dialogue between women located in margins through their  geographic, physical or personal life choice or position. It will be composed of an installation of photographs to create a dialogue between  women’s homes and houses in the arctic region of northern Finland, that illustrate both the beauty of everyday life, safety and festivity that women construct and create in their safe spaces as well as the extreme of the positioning in the margins. This safe space allows them not only to extend their care to others, but also to celebrate their strength and ability to discover new resources.

Installation will illustrate the space where the women share their stories around coping with life and the continuity of what often seems to be mundane, everyday tasks. The narratives will reveal that these spaces women create to function as ‘home’ are rather power houses that generate new innovation, entrepreneurship and heroism also outside the family sphere. Women’s houses illustrate the structures that enable these achievements and everyday coping.

Satu Miettinen

Satu Miettinen is the Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland where she also works as Professor of Service Design.

Looking Into: The Second Skin Goes Deeper

This project is based on the premise that fashion is art. Fashion is a powerful medium for expressing identities. One of the strongest identity connections are fashion and gender through meanings that are attached to femininity and masculinity. Fashion, also known as the second skin, is intimately connected to bodies to which we belong. This work will look into the meanings that are deeply embedded into fashion as second skins to provide shelter and protect our vulnerabilities. This project will also explore what lies beneath the second layer once the vulnerabilities, especially as women, are revealed.

I will work with women from Australia, Namibia and Finnish Lapland, who have experienced different margins, to co-design and create garments that resemble their strength, accomplishments, capabilities and vividness, or other identities they wish to celebrate. The fashion art will materialise into coats, although the participants will identify their garments of choice. In a photographic series these women will discard their second skin to deal with their vulnerabilities that also belong to their bodies just as they do. Themes such as sensitivities, belonging, eroticizing women for male gaze, apart from fluid identities will be explored through storytelling and fashion art.

This project will follow on, yet depart from a series of fashion art collections I have produced between 2003 and 2009. These photos represent the fashion art project Five Seasons in which I used a variety of coats and garments to express the seasons of a woman’s life as it unfolds from youth into womanhood and, finally, death. The photos show the colourful youthfulness of Spring through to the warm maturity of Autumn, to finally step into the irrevocable, perhaps dark Hereafter.

Melanie Sarantou

Dr Melanie Sarantou is a Post-Doctorate Researcher at the University of Lapland and a fashion, textile, community and environmental artist.

Fashion modelled by Anneke.


Foreign Grounds, Familiar Gaze

Far away from home I plait my dreams in your hair
Mine, my mother’s
I purl fly and say
please go, learn the language, open the gate
Make the revolution

In the video and photography installation Foreign grounds, familiar gaze I explore a mother’s gaze on her daughters, while pondering the cultural and geographical boundaries and possibilities of girlhood. I will extend this work by photographing and filming girls and mothers with different cultural and ethnical backgrounds with the intention to visualise the combination of weird endearingness, hope and resistance between them. The productive concept of power, in my project, enables ideas in which the hegemonic visual representations of mothers and daughters offer us the models to identify, but they also provide the space for resistance. Identities are, thus, not stable or static, but constantly reshaped in relation to the communities in which they take part, as well as by the cultural representations they see and the locality they inhabit. I will exhibit my work in a gallery in addition to involving different groups and community members to take part in the photography and video workshops. The artworks will be exhibited in life size dimensions of girls and mothers in order to emphasize the possibility to identify mothers’ gazes on their daughters. I will add collectively written stories in my visualisations and explore the tensions between still and moving images.

Mari Mäkiranta

Dr Mari Mäkiranta is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lapland, Faculty of Art and Design, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Jyväskylä, Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies.