Tero Puha has set up an installation on the bandstand on Helsinki’s Esplanadi, a shop that sells canned emotions. For Puha, this store that provides the basics has taken the form of a “basic needs shop”. The sides of the cans are not adorned with pictures of pea soup or pork-veal mince, but of a couple looking at each other with a smile (first love), a boy in a Marimekko shirt sucking a lollipop (innocence), or of a man chastising himself (fear). Unfortunately we can buy nothing from the shop – the doors remain closed: the rows and pyramids of cans can only be admired in the shop’s windows.
Puha’s message is clear: in contemporary culture everything has already been recycled, used, and nothing is authentic or original any longer. Not even feelings or needs: in a world dominated by the media and images, depth of emotion is measurable in the number of Magnum ice cream bars we eat. A feeling or a need is just a tool for getting the consumer to buy something, to assuage that gnawing feeling of emptiness, if only for a moment. Puha’s canned feelings are an excellent aid to us postmodern, fragmented, diffuse, cyber-age individuals, who are not sure what we feel or need ourselves. On top of that: if noses are interchangeable, fat removable by liposuction, lips, breasts and cheekbones enlargeable, why can’t we choose our feelings and needs in the same way? Go ahead, take a mouthful of fear, then you’ll really know what you feel. Ah, the feeling of strength and power that control of your own body and emotions gives you!
Just one minor niggle remains to bother us as we look at the canned feelings: what would happen if we were to have a taste of fear and first love, rage and innocence, or what about greed and sexual satisfaction, at the same time? Have we actually gone from the frying pan into the fire, back to that jumble of feelings and needs that we were in before the can was opened and its contents savoured? Shouldn’t we then try to get a clear idea of what our own feelings are?
Shop of Basic Needs
The Esplanade Bandstand, Helsinki October 1997
FEAR FROM A CAN
ANNAMARI VÄNSKÄ (KUVA MAGAZINE 4/1997)