An artistic duo consisting of an innovative Finnish performance artist and an English metamodern maverick joined creative forces years ago and has since created videos, events and art that have enamored the western world. More recently, though, the two have taken up plans to visit Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Artists Luke Turner and Nastja Rönkkö are visiting the CSU-Pueblo campus Jan. 18-29, where they will exhibit and discuss their artistic works at the Fine Arts Gallery, open to the public at no charge. Their works on exhibit include their individual pieces as well as their collaborative efforts, which include pieces with actor Shia LaBeouf.
The exhibit consists of many of videos, photos and pieces from their projects, such as a paper bag LaBeouf wore on the red carpet during their widely-covered “#IAMSORRY” project.
Rönkkö and Turner said that they mostly chose their recent work for the exhibit, but found that all the pieces there have a “dialogue” with each other upon reflection.
Most well known for the popular video of LaBeouf’s emphatic “Just do it!” speech, the trio have been working together steadily for two years now, but it has been quite an artistic journey for both Turner and Rönkkö reaching this point in their respective careers.
Turner, born in Manchester, England, has become a prominent name in the world of metamodern art. He was an early adopter of Internet and computer-based art in the late ‘90s despite reluctance of others to do so.
“Ironically, I dropped out of school at a young age because they told me I couldn’t use computers in art,” Turner said.
It was during his time studying photography at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design that he met fellow artist and future collaborator Rönkkö, who was studying as a painter. Rönkkö, born in Helsinki, Finland, is predominantly a performance artist now, implementing a multitude of artistic themes into her work.
“It’s great to collaborate with people you’re on the same wavelength with,” Turner said, “but challenge you at the same time.”
“I think it works because we are so different,” Rönkkö said. Turner jokingly added, “same but different.”
Some of the duo’s earliest collaborative efforts set the stage for their community-based projects that would captivate so many later on. They mentioned how they used hashtags in the titles of their works because they have a sort of “ironic” feeling to them, but at the same time, are a powerful utility that can be used for sharing and archiving.
“Collaboration, connection and engagement are keys to our practice,” Turner said in reference to their work on the Internet. An early collaboration like “#STARTCREATING” personified this, where the phrase “#STARTCREATING” was written in the sky with five separate planes, hashtag included.
Numerous videos were filmed and uploaded of the skywriting by people on the ground that had no idea what was happening.
“The point was to show that we’re all the artist,” Turner explained, later calling it a very “hopeful piece” and one of his favorites.
The two artists have been working with actor Shia LaBeouf for the last two years, first meeting during a very controversial time for the actor. LaBeouf had made short film based off of work of Daniel Clowes, but had not properly credited him. The situation lead to immense backlash, though it allowed the him to try new things artistically and conceptually.
Eventually, LaBeouf’s new artistic pursuits lead him to Rönkkö and Turner, who have embraced working with the famed actor. Rönkkö said she didn’t really notice the abnormality of working with LaBeouf anymore, sometimes forgetting what a well-known public figure he is.
Turner explained that every artist wants an audience, especially if your work is very involved with the audience like their art is. Working with LaBeouf has helped Rönkkö and Turner reach that broader audience.
“We want to resonate with as many people as possible,” Turner said.
The fact that they are reaching a much broader audience hasn’t been lost on the artists, however.
“It feels different to do work you know that millions of people will see … but I don’t really think about it because it would be overwhelming,” Rönkkö said.
Turner said they usually like to keep the physical space of their works much smaller in contrast to the expansive “gaze of the Internet.”
He referenced their piece “#ALLMYMOVIES,” where LaBeouf watched all of his movies over a three day period.
“We did it in the smallest theater we could find, so we could have a sort of intimacy,” Turner said.
The trio has worked on a variety of pieces since first coming together, yet none have became nearly as big as the “#INTRODUCTIONS” project, which featured the notorious motivational speech by LaBeouf.
The 31-minute piece actually consisted of the actor reading and performing various scripts written for him that included everything from emotional anecdotes to awkward conversations.
Rönkkö explained that she was actually quite surprised by the response to the video.
“I couldn’t tell that particular thing would become so big,” she said, in reference to the motivational portion going viral upon its release.
Turner was very enthused by how big the video got, saying that it embodied the artistic ideals they strived for by being “funny and ironic, but at the same time deeply sincere and incredibly motivating.”
The dynamic art duo didn’t comment on any projects they have in store for the future but they both seemed enthusiastic when considering what might be next. Turner said having three people always kept things fresh and they were never short of new ideas.
During their two-week stay at CSU-Pueblo, Rönkkö and Turner will be visiting multiple classes, including art courses. In giving advice to aspiring artists, Turner said it’s crucial to “find your own voice” and even try something that’s been done before and seeing how you do it differently.
Rönkkö’s advice was to “just keep going.”