Artist's Statement: Kaarina Kaikkonen on the Brighton Festival's Blue Route at Fabrica

By Ben Miller | 25 March 2013

Artist's Statement: Brilliant Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen on her plan to hang thousands of shirts – many of them donated by the public – in the holy space of Fabrica for this year's Brighton Festival...

“I had an exhibition here ten years ago, when I made another kind of installation. That was made of jackets, but this time it will be made of men’s shirts.

It’s about the dialogue between this building, which is a formal church, and the work. It’s called The Blue Route. I hope it will be beautiful. I have good feelings about it.

I haven’t been to the Brighton Festival before, but I have been reading about previous years and I think it’s wonderful mixing different cultural events.

It’s important that there has been a warm heart inside every shirt. They are used shirts, but for me there is still the energy and history of this person and their being present – the whole attitude of their life and everything.

The shirts are hand in hand – every person is hand in hand, because everybody is very important in creating the structure.

As art, it’s interesting because everybody has interpretations of its meaning.

Everybody has different backgrounds and looks through their own glasses. That’s very interesting to me.

A photo of a female artist in a gallery
The Finnish artist has taken part in the Liverpool, Cairo and Vancouver Biennales
During all the installations I’ve done, I’ve often had a lot of feedback. People have a lot of feelings about the work.

Sometimes they are negative. Sometimes people don’t think it’s art. I accept if people think it is laundry. They can think whatever they want.

There’s a definite spark for the people who’ve contributed. I was in Washington in February and more than 1,000 shirts were collected. People were happy to find their shirt. It makes them part of the interactive process.

My recent exhibition was at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile, so some of the clothes donated had belonged to people who had disappeared and been killed during the dictatorships.

Their clothes had a special meaning for the donors. There were shirts worn by fathers who had suddenly died, or loving husbands – not everybody tells a story, but some people want to bring their stories with them and have them remembered.

We tie the shirts up with ropes. It is a long process, but I have assistants. I had 12 in Chile. Many of the shirts are given to us by the public, and some of them are bought or donated from flea markets.

They are going to be conserved after the exhibition. I don’t destroy them – I just borrow them for a while.”

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