Atlas of Emotions 2009–2020

In 2006, at a flea market, I bought some personal documents that had belonged to a woman I didn’t know. While reading her letters and notes, all stuffed into garbage sacks, her life and personality began to open up to me. Based on these texts, I tried to construct, or rather reconstruct, a visual portrait of her, which became part of the series Alienation Stories (2009). This experiment was the beginning of my current project Atlas of Emotions. I began searching online for everyday life stories written by anonymous people from around the world. Google Translate helped me to get a general meaning of these texts, typed in all possible languages and scripts. After hundreds of hours of Internet trawling, I ended up with a similar feeling as with the paper-based past of the first woman: portraits and the living environments of the various narrators slowly unfolded before me. I selected the most appealing stories and asked a professional translator to translate them into English as precisely as possible. I then located the place, a city or a village or even a street, where these anonymous stories came from. I travelled there to discover what the streets, houses and living spaces looked like. I then bought genuine local construction materials – fabrics, wallpaper, furniture and the like – in shops and flea markets. Finally, in my Helsinki studio, I re-enacted each story and its specific setting as accurately as possible, based on the textual references and employing professional actors. The text in each final image-re-enactment is written in the native tongue of its unidentified author. When completed, the series will include dozens of such anonymous stories from around the world.