Ilppo Pohjola

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Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Ilppo Pohjola

CrystalEye

Essays

Quote

"Ilppo Pohjola achieved his international breakthrough with his very first cinema feature, Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991). In subsequent works such as P(l)ain Truth (1993), Asphalto (1998) and Routemaster (2000), he then proved himself to be one of the most extraordinary avant-garde filmmakers of his day.

A leitmotif running through all of Pohjola’s work is transformation – how a person can change from one gender to another (P(l)ain Truth), how flesh and steel can fuse in an apotheosis called the crash (Routemaster), what time and chemicals do to film images (1 Plus 1 Plus 1 – Sympathy for the Decay).

What all these films have in common is their intoxicating imagery. Little that cinema has brought forth in the past quarter century leaves the viewer as ecstatic, agitated and euphoric as the films of Pohjola."

– OIFF catalogue, 2012

Pohjola, or Elogies of Excess

ERKKI HUHTAMO
Professor, Digital Media Arts, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

Ilppo Pohjola’s mastery of multiple means of expression has led to the development of a dense and insistent visual idiom, which, while highly controlled, at times feels almost neo-Wagnerian in its exuberance...

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To Die Without God

OLAF MÖLLER
Film critic & columnist, CinemaScope and Film Comment

Routemaster – Theatre of the Motor (SFO Mix) (2000) and Asphalto – An Aria for 13 Demolition Derby Cars, Girls & Gas Stations (1998) already make the head spin. Eyes are bulging as if you had swilled a gallon of heavy espresso in five minutes to survive the last 150 miles of the speed trip between nations before the night falls – in fact the limits of tolerance have already been broken, nothing works anymore, you should stop and sleep as long as it takes to recover, but you just go on with the last of your strength, you force your body to go on, and the spirit should be pulled along, everything must work, even if it crushed your heart.

And then, just before midnight, when the double serving of cars and eternity have already been consumed, then you get 1 + Plus 1 + Plus 1 – Sympathy for the Decay (2012), Ilppo Pohjola’s Death Trip(tych). And you realise that there is life after death, and there is nothing comforting about it. 

1 + Plus 1 + Plus 1 – Sympathy for the Decay gives death a cinematic form it has never had before...

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PURE KINETIC MOTION

E. RAUTIO
Entrepreneur, founder of pHinnWeb.org

Routemaster – Theatre of the Motor consists of strobe-like, fast-flickering shots, and grainy, monochrome images of speeding rally cars. While Pohjola’s Asphalto was still concerned with human interactions, here the absence of humanity is total (only the cadavers at the end signify that there has been life, of some sort): what remains are the machines in movement that is an end in itself. The rhythmic structure is provided by slow-motion, close-up shots of checkered flags, repeated at regular, mathematical intervals, with passing shades of blue providing almost the only color in the film. Shaky, hand-held cameras and split screens are used, with occasionally mosaics and repetitions of the checkered flag theme. At times, the accelerating speed of the images makes it painful to watch the film, like a sort of visual Blitzkrieg waged on the human nervous system through the viewer’s tortured retinas. The whole watching experience becomes increasingly fragmented. 

Routemaster is a textbook example of pure kinetic motion...

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PAINTING WITH MOVEMENT AND SOUND

MARTTI LAHTI
Professor of Cultural Industries, University of Lapland

The main and essential thing is: The sensory exploration of the world through film… We therefore take as the point of departure the use of the camera as a kino-eye, more perfect than the human eye, for the exploration of the chaos of visual phenomena that fill space. – Dziga Vertov

Ilppo Pohjola is among the most visually inventive filmmakers to have emerged from Scandinavia during the last decade. From the beginning of his career, he has shown a commitment to the exploration of the political and visual boundaries of audiovisual media (cinema, television, and video), juxtaposing elements and influences from sources such as the graphics arts, music video, video art, and traditions of radical and experimental filmmaking.

For example, Pohjola’s Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991) was an experimental documentary about the art, life, and influence of Tom of Finland, a Finnish-born, queer graphic artist, whereas his P(l)ain Truth (1993) brought the conventions of graphic art and experimental filmmaking into play with an almost documentary investigation of transgendered identity. Routemaster (1999), as well as the preceding Asphalto: An Aria for 13 Gas Stations and Demolition Cars (1998), continues the exploration of the limit(ation)s of classical film narrative by focusing on filmic movement in tandem with speed...

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WITHIN THE MEDIA MEMORIES OF THE MAN-MACHINE

KARI YLI-ANNALA
Curator-researcher,  Nomadic Academy of Experimental Arts

Ilppo Pohjola gives us three keywords for his film Asphalto (1998): deconstruction, demolition and destruction. Having viewed Asphalto and the later Routemaster (1999) together, I would like to add another word here (borrowing from Paul Virilio): disappearance.

In Asphalto masculine machine culture’s representations of itself and of reality turn out to be clichés, media-memory images that are enclosed within themselves. It looks as though in this film the subject’s attempt to get behind these clichés, to get to touch reality, turns out to be doomed to failure.

Asphalto’s successor, Routemaster, takes this set of themes a step further. Its theme is the images stored in the film’s actual film material, which are accelerated and broken into fragments. Even though speed knows no bounds, there is an outer limit to the subject’s perception.

Both images and subject are liable to disappearance, even though the images frequently live longer than the subject...

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dromology – theatre of the motor

MIKA MÄÄTTÄNEN
Tai Chi teacher, translator of French and buddhist philosophy

Routemaster is itself a motor – a study of the motor that identifies with its object as pure acceleration. A motor that approaches the essence of film as a moving image, beyond representation, as a ray of light springing from the projector that unites with the primitive fascination of the campfire’s glow. The theatre of the motor is the theatre of pure speed...

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AUTO-EROTIC EXPERIENCE

E. RAUTIO
Entrepreneur, founder of pHinnWeb.org

"YOU'VE GOT ASPHALT UP YOUR ASS!", a woman’s voice repeatedly shouts throughout the film.

Asphalto is a road movie and a fetishistic fantasy made in the  style of oil-company commercials of yesteryear with their glamourous model girls, combined with the modern fragmentary style of music videos. The film is a succession of fleeting images in non-linear order of a journey through Finland, from Helsinki in the south to its northernmost point at Utsjoki-Nuorgam; it is also the story of a pointless demolition derby with rally cars smashing into each other like insects running amok.

Finally, it is a film about a man and a woman: the image of this couple behind the shadowy windscreen – hidden somewhere behind the reflections of light – reminds us of Jean-Luc Godard. They are physically so close and yet so far apart... 

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body work

MARTTI LAHTI
Professor of Cultural Industries, University of Lapland

It’s hard to categorize Ilppo Pohjola as a filmmaker and an artist, as he moves so effortlessly from one medium to another...

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REEK OF LEATHER, SWEAT AND TESTOSTERONE

E. RAUTIO
Entrepreneur, founder of pHinnWeb.org

Ilppo Pohjola originally wanted to release a record himself but could only play software, and doing just another remix album felt too simplistic and banal. Therefore he came up with an idea for the name of album – Tone of Finland. Tone of Finland being not only a pun on the late artist's nom-de-guerre but also an indication that all the musical interpreters (bar Elliot Sharp) are of Finnish origin and represent the local underground music scene. 

Tone of Finland is a research into the possibilities of electronic music. Snippets of Tom of Finland's interview with those of his followers create a completely new narrative going on sequentially from one track to another, interspersed with music, rhythms, sounds and sonic textures. Tone of Finland can be listened to as a totally new, alternative soundtrack to the film: a movie without images, or one where a listener can imagine his/her own movie. In conjunction with the original documentary film, visual images, textual narratives, music and sound together create...

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DESIRE FOR THE TRUTHFUL BODY OF ONE’S OWN GENDER

KARI YLI-ANNALA
Curator-researcher,  Nomadic Academy of Experimental Arts

P(l)ain Truth (1993) addresses the politics of the representation of the body and of sexual identity from the viewpoint of a transsexual who has undergone a sex change. I will first investigate some crucial points of the personal audiovisual aesthetics that Pohjola adopts in this work. After that, I will present a contemporary feminist-philosophical discussion that I see as having points of convergence with the themes of Pohjola’s works...

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POLITICS OF THE FLESH

MARTTI LAHTI
Professor of Cultural Industries, University of Lapland

Among male Finnish directors, Ilppo Pohjola has been the most consistent in seeking out new political ideas. It is my intention here to examine his films Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991) and P(l)ain Truth) (1993). These two stand out from the majority of Finnish films both in terms of their subject matter and their provocative style. They do not aim for transparency of style or to camouflage their narrative solutions: both foreground their character as filmic constructions with a definite point of view...

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DIRECTOR´S truth

Transcript of Ilppo Pohjola’s informal introduction to P(l)ain Truth at the ISEA 94 / Nordicil film seminar.

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INFO

Contact: Ilppo Pohjola
pohjola@crystaleye.fi
Tel. +358 9 694 2308

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