Atlas of Emotions: An Essay on the Organization of Experience, 2009–2020

Helsinki-based artist Jari Silomaki has been working on this project since 2009, and it has marked a significant shift in his art. The major concern of his well-known ‘narrative documentary’ photographic series has been the relationships between individuals, including the artist himself, and larger (political) narratives. These relationships have been historical, abstract, real, physical, safe, detached, mediated, paradoxical, or tragic in their consequences. Launched in 2001, the artist’s magnum opus My Weather Diary is representative of his method, geographic scope and ever-present poetics, which are helpful in reconciling the tensions between the textual and the visual, the local and the global, the natural and the social, the personal and the political. Atlas of Emotions stems from anonymous Internet diaries, which inspired the artist to approach reality in a more performative than descriptive manner. The project borrows its title from the classic book by American sociologist Erving Goffman Frame analysis: An essay on the Organization of Experience (1974). Both this academic account in the field of the micro-sociology of everyday life and Jari’s art project employ a frame as a device to demonstrate that a fragment of daily social reality, which at first instance may look casual and insignificant, is actually organized and thereby experienced. Although having similar means, the sociologist and the artist pursue contrasting aims. Jari’s project does not intend to expose social patterns or make scholarly generalizations based on them. Quite the opposite, everything about his choice of why and what he has framed is subjective, emotional, and visual rather than rational. As a result, his re-enacted stories have something in common with novels or films, but they also embrace a unique, sovereign quality, at once originating in and emancipated from the photography medium.

Andy Shab
art historian, independent curator