Perttu Saksa’s work on our relationship with the environment 

Perttu Saksa’s (b. 1977, Finland) body of work focuses consistently on our relationship with the environment, especially animals. His works explore the borders of fiction and reality and he often uses documentary photography mixed with staging and fictive narratives. In photographic series Echo (2012) Saksa addressed on how our lives are related to nonhuman, on thinking about ourselves through an animal other. Echo was a series of fragile portraits of taxidermic primates, captured into European museum archives from colonial Africa and Latin America. The series displayed how our histories are written and represented through photography and natural science, and how our histories can be related more in to fiction than reality. In A Kind of You (2013) he traveled to Indonesia, to create a body of documentary photography work of macaque monkeys, dressed to wear human clothes and masks. The portraits of city monkey figures,  who say more about humanity than about the nature of the animal, are like the dangerous, nasty, reverse side of what we are accustomed to expect from animal photography.

 Presence (2015) consists of oak-framed diasec mounted photographs. The presence of an animal other is seen at a decisive moment before it loses its form and becomes flesh and matter. The animal being viewed is not just an animal, rather a unique, specific and valuable being for us, a horse. Saksa’s photography reveals one of the ghosts in our machinery, one of the countless others that we have lost our ability to face and meet animal as an individual other. Presence is an invitation for us to look at death eye to eye. There is a terrible beauty present. But it reveals the grotesque hidden in our (carnivore) everyday. What are we looking at? Is it too late to return the gaze? Does the flesh still look at us?

Saksa asks how and why we look at an animal – and do we meet the same gaze when we look at each other? Presence addresses this question just as the A Kind of You revealed the ingenious and diabolical means used to harness the animal to the service of humankind. Both series are a natural continuum to the Echo series that plunged deep into the question of how we precieve animals in relation to ourselves and how the animal in the photo can become a representation of us.

Mikaela Lostedt

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