some thoughts about making art

* art-maker

I am an art-maker. I think (here-and-now, at this point of my life and career) that art(-making) is first and foremost about making and doing things, not so much about “being” or behaving like an “artist” or about establishing a solid (professional) artist identity. I am more interested in making things than in being “an artist”.

The term “art-making” also emphasises the fact that the processes of making art – be it performances, objects, texts or concepts – are about producing things (mental and/or material). Seen as being productive and as production, art-making is work. Making art is work and thus it is in a basic level comparable to any other work in the society, say, baking bread or plumbing pipes or planning houses. Most artists use their time to produce something which they think (may) be useful for others in the society in some way(s).

It can be great to be an art-maker but art work is not per se more (or less) important than any other work or profession.


I believe that everyone has the capacity to create art. I am skeptic about the so-called “genius”. I am sure that IF there exists some kind of “innate creative talent or capacity” in certain human beings from the very beginning of their life (well, when does life start anyway?), it cannot be independent of their social, cultural and material experiences. Human beings become individuals in a society, through living with other people and they are completely embedded in the material conditions and intellectual and moral values of that spatio-temporal society.  All concepts about what “genius” “is” are irretrievably rooted in the  society and the viewpoint of those who recognise or “see” it. Everything we do, think and see is cultural and processual; there are no stable (view)points which couldn’t be challenged,there are no “natural” phenomena or things which aren’t embedded in culture.

I don’t believe in art as any kind of “personal destiny”.  I get the chills when someone says that “art is my destiny” or that “I can’t imagine myself doing any other work”. Our life is based on choices, some of which we want to make and some others which we have (had) to make. The way to be(come) an artist is based on choices and the social circumstances one happens to live in, not on “destiny”.

* why art?

Why is art important? I think that art practices offer effective means to reflect on and question things and beliefs which are considered “truths” in our Western (or any) society. Art practices may open possibilities to see differently, to bring about the relative subjectivity of all(?) views and judgements. Art practices may help us to manifest the right to question any decision made by a person, a work community, a political organ etc. Art can make people think and re-think.  As Ales Erjavec recently stated in a conference, “one of art’s main functions is to be against the automatisation of life”.

Although art can indeed be used  for political purposes both directly and indirectly, I don’t claim that art could/would/should have any essential or “innate” capability to change the world. But art can stimulate our thought processes and sensory experiences in a way that may have an effect in the ways we lead our lives.

About Joonas Lahtinen

Joonas Lahtinen (* 1984, FIN/A) is a performance artist, director and researcher who lives and works in Vienna and Helsinki. His performances are often site-specific and have a strong installational character. In his works, he explores the politics of space and of the everyday from perspectives that are both humorous and disturbing. Joonas has studied Performance at Queen Mary, University of London and he is writing a PhD thesis about the problematic of “emancipatory” participative art at the University of Helsinki. Since 1995, he has performed in various Live Art, theatre and TV productions both in Finland and abroad.
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