Eija-Liisa Ahtila

26 February - 25 April 2010

Parasol unit is delighted to present a major solo exhibition by the renowned Finnish film and video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila. It includes three important moving image installations never before seen in England.

Ahtila is best known for works that concentrate on narratives in human life together with the relationships and primal emotions that underlie them. She describes her films as ‘human dramas’ because they play on the central themes of our existence, such as love, death, sexuality, the difficulty of communication, and individual identity – both its formation and disintegration. Her fictional stories emerge from interviews and extensive research, her own observation and memory. As Ahtila’s films are often shown on multiple screens or within complex installations, her stories unfold simultaneously within time and space, thereby creating a multi-layered experience that engages the viewer both physically and emotionally. Her masterfully crafted narratives, striking portrayal of characters and highly individual mode of expression have captured public interest and won much critical acclaim.

The exhibition consists of three installations: on the ground floor Where is Where?, and on the first floor The Hour of Prayer and Fishermen/Études No. 1, and is accompanied by a new publication.

Where is Where? (2008) is a haunting and layered consideration of how the interpretation of history affects our perception of reality. It tells of a dramatic event that occurred during the Algerian War, when two young Algerian boys killed their French playmate in a colonialist conflict. Fifty years on, a European poet seeks to understand that act. Space and time fall away in the experiences and existentialist writings of the poet, as do notions of morality, religion, guilt and forgiveness. Please note that viewings of this film begin on the hour, and parental supervision is advised.

The Hour of Prayer (2005) is a short tale about human nature, renunciation and death, which marks a watershed in the artist’s production. Via the events surrounding the demise of a dog, it tells the story of death entering a house and the process of dealing with grief. The material is shown in four simultaneous projections, the intention being to explore the possibilities of disrupting the traditional causal logic, structure and space for perception in screen narrative, while still being able to follow the events.

Filmed in West Africa in an area where locals frequently attempt illegal immigration to Europe in the hope of a better future, Fishermen/Études No. 1 (2007) is the first work in a series of five one-channel video installations called Études. It recounts the tale of a group of men who repeatedly and frantically attempt to get out to sea in the face of strong winds and heavy seas, in a vain hope to earn their daily food.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Parasol unit with the support of FRAME (Finnish Fund for Art Exchange) will hold a one-off screening of Ahtila’s film Where is Where?. This UK première will be held at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, on Wednesday 14th April 2010 at 7pm.

This exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive publication.


This exhibition is kindly supported by The Finnish Institute in London, Embassy of Finland, London, and FRAME – Finnish Fund for Art Exchange.


Supported by: