LOVE AND LUST MUSEUM (1999)
Kluuvi Gallery / Helsinki
Helsinki City Art Museum
Film posters (chromogenic prints)
Love and Lust Museum is Tero Puha´s and Julia Suikki´s submersion into the world of two B-movie stars, Linda Lust and Cheryl Love. This submersion is at the same time both a wink and a show of respect to the phenomena of popular culture. Veikko Halmetoja
Love & Lust Museum is a cross-artistic project grabbing the viewer with a provocative sense of humor and twist on the subject of gender identity. It´s a vision of the sparkling stardom of Puha´s alter ego Cheryl Love and Julia Suikki´s Linda Lust. Divided into music, video, performance and boutique products, the work has demanded a more diverse approach to work, extensive knowledge, organizational skills and collaboration with professionals in various fields. Of particular note is the role of Julia Suikki (Linda Lust) as the second main character and author of the art show.
The overall concept of the work has been refined to the end, and it works just fine with the photos in particular. The visual appearance, the chosen fictional situations, their color scheme, the feel of the epic and the psychological load of the exhibition are very convincing. The main character of the series is Linda Lust, whose femininity is never questioned by the viewer, so she fulfills her physical and social assumptions. The images create a clear thematic continuity: the series portrays the fictional character in relation to her husband, her body and family, her mother’s past, and her daughter’s as part of a generation-long chain of generations. All interpersonal relationships seem equally instrumental, against the backdrop against which Linda Lust is posing.
Over-the-top makeup is a common denominator and a bond between women. Knowledge of cross-dressing makes images more diverse: what categories are femininity and masculinity? Or, more specifically, how does the power culture represent the different sexes, how does it naturalize the boundaries between the sexes? Cheryl’s character looks much more like a man dressed as a woman, making both categories visible at the same time, and in so doing highlights Linda’s “natural femininity”, and the construction of femininity.
The exhibition presents scenes from the life of Linda and Cheryl that the viewer may not be familiar with. The fictional story is only featured in the booklet on Victims of Pleasure CD-release. I think the solution is very defensible. The exhibition works on its own, but adds an extra dimension to the background story. Poster images are credible even if they do not have the same power as core images. Rather, they provide a backdrop, creating scenes of the core.
The work’s appeal is based on a multilevel ambivalence: gender, economic, moral. Under her own pancake make-up, Cheryl is terrified of animal experiments by the makeup industry. The stars come from remote and economically fragile Hungary and Yugoslavia, their story typical American princess dream. In that sense, the commercialization of people and relationships seems like legitimate themes. Puha (and Julia Suikki) mimic the logic of capitalist market economy in two, perhaps three, ways: by exploiting, playing with, and taking ironic distance from the mechanisms of market functioning – and by making commercialization a conscious part of art. Arja Elovirta / Sinkka Art Museum