Battered – Street fights in Finland

Sorry for the long silence, i was in Amsterdam for a Fringe Critics Lab masterclass and it took far more brain energy than i had expected. From now on nothing should disrupt the blogging flow.

Hitwitha bottleNl569314s.jpgHit with a bottle, 02.35, from the series BATTERED, 2006 -2007 © Harri Pälviranta

0aboutisdeagrilllattered_03.jpgOutside a grill, 04.10 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

If you find yourself in Amsterdam too, don’t miss Battered at Melkweg‘s photo gallery. For obvious reason, the exhibition has the support of the Finnish Institute of Culture rather than the Finnish board of tourism. The photo series by Harri Pälviranta shows men (and a few women too) in the middle of or after a physical fight in the streets of Turku. The powerful flash leaves nothing to imagination. It’s bloody, messy, a few teeth have probably been lost and the subjects will wake up the day after with ecchymosis all over their face.

I had seen a couple of these portraits in another exhibition but they hadn’t left such a strong mark on me. This time, seeing so many assaulted, punched, contused men one after the other, filled me with the fear that Finland might not be the perfectly lovely and idyllic city i had witnessed during my recent visits. After some 12 photos the discomfort turned to a strange fascination for the patterns the blood made on the men’s face. None of them actually seemed to be much shocked or in pain. The minimal description of the scene contributed to turn a moment i regarded as dramatic (a man has just been injured) into a scene of utter banality: In a park, I don’t know who hit me, Outside a bar, Second beating that night, on the Main Square (a popular place to get a good beating apparently), Outside a grill, etc. Many of the altercations involved Finns against Swedes.

0bsecondbeatingattered_05_2.jpgSecond beating that night, 03.15 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

In the artist’s own words:

Batteries and street fights are every night activities during the weekends in Finland. People have a strong tendency of getting rather intoxicated during the partying and once drunk, people are released from their inhibitions. Aggressivity turns into physical acts, to direct violence.

There is a social awareness on this topic in Finland, the issue is recognized and it is considered to be a severe social problem. But the discussion has mainly literal dimensions, it appears in news headlines and it is discussed in seminars. There are no images from these happenings. By photographing assaults and batteries I wish show the real faces of street violence in Finland. In contrast to the stereotypic portrayals of male heroicism and the worn-out attempts at shocking people I am interested in dealing with the utmost banality inherent in violence. What I find more unsettling than any single representation of physical injuries is the everyday nature of street violence and the laissez-faire attitude towards it in the Finnish society.

0bdontknowhwoattered_07.jpg“I don’t know who hit me!”, 04.30 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

0bfinnhitbyafinswedeattered_023.jpgA Finn hit by a Finnish-Swede, 01.15 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

0babarbarattered_024.jpgOutside a bar, 03.50 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

0boutsidea barattered_035.jpgOutside a bar, 23.10 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

0bmainsquareattered_026_1.jpgIn the main square, 01.15, # 1 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

0btriedtohelpattered_010_1.jpgTried to help his colleague, 20.15 from the series BATTERED, 2006-2007 © Harri Pälviranta

Battered remains open at Melkweg‘s photo gallery in Amsterdam through 2 October 2011.