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Ismo Kajander: To Mayakovsky, 2012


The installation To Mayakovsky by Ismo Kajander (born 1939) is one of Ateneum’s newest acquisitions. As with many of Kajander’s works, it originated with some objects that the artist happened upon: in this case, a stack of charred free daily newspapers that he found on top of an outside transformer box in a small park on Kapteeninkatu in Helsinki. The name of the installation refers to the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his artistic output. Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a revolutionary poet whose poetry is closely tied to the development of Soviet Russia and his own love life. Ismo Kajander was particularly fascinated by Mayakovsky’s A Cloud in Trousers (1915). In this long poem, a man sentenced to death utters his last words to advertise van Houten cocoa, as the company has promised to look after the man’s family after his death. The individual is thus ready to sell his ideals as long as the price is right.

The crimson feather and charred stack of newspapers in Kajander’s installation can be seen as a monument to the conflict between the passionate poet and the soviet reality. Or as Mayakovsky himself noted in one of his last poems:

As the saying goes –
”the incident is closed”
the ship of love
has foundered on life’s reef.

The contradictions of life nevertheless gave rise to brilliant poetry, as symbolised by the metallic balls that burst out from between the burnt pages. Kajander’s installation can also be seen as a comment on the dangers of putting things on a pedestal. Mayakovsky had worked for Soviet Russia even though he was aware that it was moving in the wrong direction, and after the poet’s suicide Stalin canonised Mayakovsky as the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch.

Ismo Kajander and Erkki Pirtola discuss Kajander’s art and the installation “To Mayakovsky” in the following video made by Pirtola: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brSdGX0AToc