Mia Makela is a Finnish media artist and cultural historian, whose work explores intersections between art and other disciplines: technology, science, ecology. Makela exhibits chosen themes in the forms of video, audio guides, expeditions, participatory acts, installations, performative lectures, related publications and blogs. Makela, internationally acknowledged pioneer in the field of live cinema, has shown her work and lectured all over the globe.
Her latest activities include History of an Impossible Destiny, a 4-channel video installation, for which she spent 3 years documenting beekeeping around Europe and doing research on the destiny of the honey bee. Zootopia- audio guide for zoos, a posthumanist and feminist research on other species. Artistic expeditions on the strait of Magellan, Patagonia and Chiloe Island in Chile. Cabin Walks&Talks - a guided expedition for tracing interspecial empathy. Green Matters – video handbook for algae gatherers - a two-year exploration in the world of green algae and traditional weaving.
Currently she is doing (artistic) research on minerals and geese.
I´m interested in the research artists can produce in various fields of knowledge and the capacity to adapt to various roles in society : an intruder, a buffer, a metamorphosis, a provocateur, a clown, an antennae… . Artists can provide non-expertism, which can offer valuable insights. Curator Adrienne Goehler writes. “We cant leave the world to experts”. I find that a relevant notion, as so called experts´ hands might be too tied to political and economic currents and interests.
During the recent years my artistic work has turned from mystical and meditative live cinema performances towards ecological, social and political spheres, and the nature of my work has become more investigative. Originally trained as a visual and media artist, I have a master degree on Cultural history. Mixing academic research with art process feels natural.
I´m fascinated by the figures and imagery of natural philosophers and the mentality of the exploration and discovery, without the colonialist agenda. According to Laura Snyder the word scientist has its roots in the combination of the terms artist and natural philosopher, which is fascinating as both scientists and artists indeed study the same thing: the world around them. My projects bear titles that resemble educational terminology, they are guides and handbooks to an alternative world.
“Green Matters – Handbook for Algae Gatherers” (2011) was a result of two years exploration in different fields of knowledge, including marine biology, phycology (algae), traditional weaving, sustainability, Baltic sea regional politics and nature preservation. The research results - a video handbook and the green algae rug experiments-were shown in a green house at the botanical garden of Turku, and targeted general public. The approach of the project was hands-on, rather than philosophical, which correlated with my idea of exploration. The project´s aim was to encourage people to see green algae as our partners and ancestors in life and take action about the Baltic Sea situation. The video handbook ended up at girls`science institute in Abu Dhabi and was screened at Natural History Museum (NYC).
During 2015 I focused on zoos and animal research, while working on Zootopia audio guide at the Helsinki zoo artist residency. I started by writing a short cultural history of the zoos, in order to reach an understanding of the current context of the zoo world, then interviewed the zoo staff and took part to workshops for zoo keepers. I also read scientific studies and publications about the latest discoveries in animal behavior. The result was an alternative audio guide which focused on the inside stories, which cant be known just by twitching animals in their corrals. I dwelved into different knowledge fields: cultural history, zoology, zoo world, animal research, animal ethics. Zootopia encouraged the public to realize that even the most familiar animals live in a fascinating world unknown to most, due to slow change in societal values and agnotology.
With a statue of the Lithuanian bee goddess Austeja in 2018.
Photo: Hilja Mustonen