Eyes as Big as Plates is a photography series produced in collaboration with over fifty seniors from ten countries. Starting out as a play on characters from Nordic folklore, the series has evolved into a continual search for modern human’s belonging to nature. Each character inhabits the landscape in wearable sculptures made from natural materials.
We are Riitta Ikonen (b.1981) and Karoline Hjorth (b.1980), a Finnish-Norwegian artist duo behind the ongoing collaborative art project Eyes as Big as Plates. Karoline is a photographer with a journalism and tall-ship sailing background and Riitta is a Finnish artist with an MA from the Royal College of Art, who grew up in the deep Finnish forests. We met and started collaborating at an artist residency in Norway in 2011 after Riitta, in search of a collaborator, typed in: Norway + Grannies + Photographer into an Internet search engine and found Karoline as the top search result (she had just published a book on Norwegian grandmothers). Our very first meeting took place on the doorstep of a 20 m² flat in the small town of Sandnes, southwest of Norway.
Part sculpture, part installation and part photography, we come up with one image from two heads and create it with our different complementing skills. Karoline is the photographer in this duo while Riitta works mainly with the creation of the wearable sculptures in the images. We work together from beginning to the end of the process.
Many people who see our images wonder why we portray older people. We believe much of the western society is unnecessarily confused when it comes to the ‘usefulness’ of older people. Attitude with knowledge, life experience and stamina are some of the main traits we have found amongst all our collaborators, as well as a formidable curiosity for new experiences. As the project continues to cross borders, it also aims to rediscover a demographic group too often labeled as marginalized, and generate new perspectives on who we are and where we belong.
Starting out as a play on characters from Nordic folklore and the personifications of nature in the lore, we wanted to find out what kind of connection the Norwegians had with their rocks, fjords and hills. Those hills haven’t changed since the tales, but the people sure have. We figured that the older the local interviewee/model, the closer we would get to the talking rocks of the tales.
Folktales make complex natural and sociological issues understandable and accessible, with phenomena taking on forms and characteristics that even a mere mortal could have a dialogue with. Our Eyes as Big as Plates images aim to capture our belonging to nature in a similarly approachable language. After interviewing in Sandnes for a month, we shifted our investigation towards universal questions about imagination and Eyes as Big as Plates has since evolved into a search for modern human’s belonging to nature.
The series is produced in collaboration with retired farmers, fishermen, zoologists, plumbers, opera singers, housewives, artists, academics and ninety-year-old parachutists. These are people we meet through friends, relatives and newspaper ads, in hardware stores, noodle bars, indoor gardening society meetings, swimming pools, senior centers, on the city streets etc.
The title Eyes as big as Plates is inspired by characters from Scandinavian folklore and is a tribute to imagination and curiosity.
Each image in the series presents a solitary figure in a landscape, dressed in elements from surroundings that indicate neither time nor place. Nature acts as both content and context and the characters literally inhabit the landscape wearing sculptures made in collaboration with the two of us.
So far the series include works produced in Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, The Faroe Islands, France, UK, US, Japan and Greenland, with Portugal, Czech Republic and Germany scheduled for 2016.
The series has been exhibited in solo and group show in New York, Helsinki, Paris, Leeds, Tokyo, Glasgow, Oslo, Stockholm, Bogota, Torshavn, Seoul, Nuuk and Miami to mention a few, and is currently on tour with a custom-made workshop with the Norwegian National Museum. The project website has over 300.000 visitors from worldwide and the series has been covered widely in the press, including features in the TIME Magazine Lightbox, Huffington Post, BBC, Conveyor Art (US), Internazionale (IT), Artlink Australia, Life Magazine (Hong Kong), Quotation (Japan), Vice Magazine (Colombia), SVA Magazine (NO), Fanfare (NO), NRK Nasjonalgalleriet (NO) amongst others.
More press on the Eyes as Big as Plates site.
We have a long list of people to thank for their hospitality, spare rooms, production support, guidance, translation help, rental car services, exhibition rooms, rhubarb bushes and impressive stamina. We look forward to including the complete list of supporters in the finished book, perhaps it will also include your name!
More than 50 portraits, countless film rolls, spools of wire, kilos of moss, seaweed, sticks and spectacular nature – only a book could contain all of this.
To strengthen the dynamics between the artistic process and the resulting photographic works, the structure of the book will reflect the organic development of the project: The final photographic works will be presented alongside field notes, images and texts from the working process and the journey.
Eyes as Big as Plates’ creative point of departure lies in the collaboration with a participating public and in engaging the local community. That’s why it is important for us that this book also gets off the ground in similar spirit and why we want to make this book with you.
2016 marks the five-year anniversary of our Eyes as Big as Plates adventure and we want to celebrate this with a book. We have had the honour of meeting and portraying over 50 inspiring seniors from ten different countries and we now want to share the stories, meetings, journey and final works in a sparkling new international publication.
See us in action in the video at the top of this page!
We are really grateful for all the support from across the world so far and now we’d like to give something back: A beautiful, well-crafted, hardcover book that is sustainable both with the printing practices and the choice of paper. Eyes as Big as Plates will be a fully independent production, with every part of it made only a train-ride away so that we can oversee the entire process in Oslo and Gothenborg.
As a thank you for your support, we have conjured up some tempting rewards: The signed book, handwritten postcards (with some Nordic moss), exclusive artworks – available to our Kickstarter backers only: pick your favourite(s) from the Eyes as Big as Plates works. There is also a very special Granny Deluxe Package and artist talks.
We cannot do any of this without your help and hope you’ll support us in making the Eyes as Big as Plates book come into reality. Join us in making this happen!
Our deepest bows and gratitude,
Riitta & Karoline
(Music included in video: Sternklang: Field Days / Emmental)
Photographs and texts by Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen.
Hardcover: approx. 200 pages
Size: approx. 23 x 21 cm
Photographs: approx. 200
Printing specifications: 4×4, printed on FSC-certified paper
Printer: Elanders Fälth & Hässler, Sweden
Publication date: December 2016