Page 25 - Matti Kalkamo / RAW
P. 25

A manifest of matter
Even that three-dimensional thought requires a substance to hold it. In Kalkamo’s art, matter is not just a humble vessel without its own ideas, however. First of all, the mate- rial suggests surprising possibilities in different stages of the technical process, ideas of its own; it suggests certain forms. The material has its say. The wax of a bronze cast can take a huge amount of moulding; a femur made out of it can be twisted into a knot, a cast of a face or body can be cut open, decorated and turned into anything, like a hide. A sculpture can be squashed to the ground into a crude and violent image of man’s “Existence”, but all of us who have seen cartoons think that image is also humoristic in an embarrassingly strange way.
On the other hand, materials are not neutral and suitable for anything, for they as such can make the most essential statement of the work. The skull in Memento Mori would be just a skull, one of the most commonly used motifs in folk art and popular culture, if this aluminium skull did not also contain genuine gold teeth, the teeth of Kalkamo’s father. Value and the disappearance of value are metaphorized in this skull into a new setting, the same moment they metaphorize in our skulls that ponder on this work. The work runs on gold.
Plastic, on the other hand, is in the pariah class of materials; as material waste, it never quite decomposes. Therefore Siemen (Seed), which depicts human corpses lying as if in a mass grave originally referred to the Balkans War and violence that stems from taking revenge for centuries-old wrongs and where this fiberglass “everlasting shit” can be picked up again and again to stir up new rage.
What about bronze, then? When one looks at Kalkamo’s works with skeletons or human shells and pieces, one may forget that bronze specifically has been used to depict primarily war heroes, admirals and conqueror kings, and statues made specifically of bronze have been tossed into the gutter in the heat of vengeance during recent identity struggles. These Kalkamo-style bronze statues grant permanence also to the other kinds of heroes of our wars – the dead and the tormented.
Kalkamo thinks a lot about the material. In Isä, poika ja kotikaupungin henki (The
Father, the Son and the Hometown Ghost) Kalkamo depicted his hometown, Tampere.
People have been frozen inside chimneys. The almost clichéd symbols of Tampere
transform into an interpretation of man’s three age periods, the chain of generations,
anxiety, loneliness and of man closing up. But through the chimney, one can obviously © also see a piece of the sky. Perhaps some sort of hope is also gleaming out there somewhere. But it is probably also essential to note that the brick of the chimney is
made of the clay of the earth – just like the first man, Adam, whose variation ‘adama’,
according to Kalkamo, means red dust in Hebrew. From dust we came, and dust we
are about to become. Only the smoke rises up to the heavens. Man, like a work of art, is
really just matter that at its best will carry a spirit, a meaning.
And especially in sculpture, the cycle of materials, the idea of their lifecycle, practically always parallels the cycle of man, the idea of man’s lifecycle.

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