This film takes as its point of departure the memories and work of the controversial Finnish-Estonian writer, businesswoman and leftist politician Hella Wuolijoki (1886–1954), born as Ella Murrik. The artist writes: “In autumn 2016, I read a passage of Wuolijoki’s memoirs in which she describes, in 1906, the feelings she felt when, through reading Marxist literature, she discovered and was captivated by the worldview invoked by historical materialism. I was affected by this description of political awakening and wanted to see what kind of a landscape makes political enlightenment possible.” The artist’s research into the strands of Wuolijoki’s life in present-day Valga/Valka, on the border of Estonia and Latvia, as well as into the physical spaces she inhabited took different directions. For instance, Wuolijoki’s vivid descriptions of the window view in Valga made her curious to see the outlook that inspired Wuolijoki’s political awakening.
In the course of her research Kokko interviewed several women in Valga/Valka, and their shared experiences of motherhood and situated knowledge of the border guided her quest and left important marks on the work. Along the way, her artistic research and the oral histories she collected spoke of the silence around the Roma Holocaust in the area and of life with the awareness of it and its histories. The video aims to raise questions about the possibility of telling history, even when attempting to include its difficulties. Reflecting on the film, the artist explains that it “focuses on the experiences, everyday life and work of the people living at the present-day border,” asking “what remains alive in a place from which the protagonist has already left?”
Jaana Kokko is a Helsinki-based visual artist with a background in arts and economics. She works primarily with video, but also in the fields of photography, text and drawing. Her works revolve around the subjects of language, representation and alienation with the eye of a feminist. In her practice Kokko is often interested in ‘polylogs’, showing through dialogue how our world consists of different individuals and their interpretations of reality in their historical context. Since 2011 Kokko has been working on her practice-based dissertation in political and social arts and is particularly inspired by Hannah Arendt. She has lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in the program Time and Space since 2016.