Film Reader and other stories – Mika Taanila in the Nordic Pavilion

Artist and filmmaker Mika Taanila is participating in the Nordic Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, along with five other Nordic artists. We had a chat with him ahead of the Biennale preview week.


Tell us briefly about your work for the Biennale.  How you did you came come up with the idea?

The series Film Reader consists of several prepared cinema books. They are spread out over different genres – musicals, horror, exploitation, art house, melodrama – and time periods. The books are in various languages, and they vary from colourful coffee-table celebrity books to academic publications.

The project got started when I was in a second-hand bookshop and stumbled into upon an intriguing and inspiring title of a book: When The Shooting Stopsthe Cutting Begins: – A Film Editor’s Story by Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen. I then started to think about “shooting” and “cutting”.

I understand you are using a montage technique.

Yes. Each book is now “re-edited”. Instead of text editing, I treated the books with cutting tools such as knives, scissors, and especially single-use feather scalpels, creating a process somewhat parallel with traditional film splicing, or editing.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of various transformations from one medium to another. In filmmaking text is often integral in to communicating your ideas. One writes a screenplay for a film, some other people make a film based on that text, then someone writes a book about the film… and then someone cuts that book… and so on. It’s a slow process, a bit like an “exquisite corpse”, if you’d like to see it that way.

I get excited with about the potential of conceptual filmmaking, film-without-film. Film Reader is very much about deleting stuff, editing out. These books can be considered as works of literally moving images: images moved out, erased, cut-out.

Curtains by Mika Taanila_photo Johnny Korkman
Mika Taanila: Curtains from the series Film Reader (2017). Photo Johnny Korkman.

What does it mean to represent Finland in the Nordic Pavilion?

It’s a big great honour to be there as a Finnish artist. The planning process of the series with curator Mats Stjernstedt has been absolutely great. It’s been a genuine and intense dialogue, and I’m happy that I’ve had the luxury to produce a totally new project for this occasion.

However, the questions of national representation or typical-versus-auntypical “Finnishness” has not been a  key issue in the dialogue, to be honest. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward with excitement to what happens when all the works by the six of us collide in Mats’ overall vision.

Are you looking forward to seeing anything else in particular in Venice this year?

I will try to see as much as possible. One of the first things on my list is Xavier Veilhan’s installation “Studio Venezia” in the French Pavilion. Using the space as a music studio for the whole entire exhibition period sounds fantastic. I noticed that during the opening days, two artists whom I admire a lot – the Turin band My Cat Is An Alien – will be performing there. A bit later on, the French master of subtle feedback composition, Éliane Radigue, will also perform in the pavilion, among others. So, see you there.

The exhibition Mirrored, curated by Mats Stjernstedt,  will be presented in the 2017 edition of the Nordic Pavilion at the 57tth h International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. Mirrored is a group exhibition featuring works by six artists from different generations: Siri Aurdal, Nina Canell, Charlotte Johannesson, Jumana Manna, Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki, and Mika Taanila.


Text: Laura Boxberg.