In•ter•stice: (noun) a small intervening space | 31st Annual Contemporary Finnish American Artist Series Exhibition | Finlandia University Gallery
I created a meditative slide show for the Zoom opening for Interstice that I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s now on Vimeo. Please pass along to those you think would be interested in contemplating the role of technology in our modern lives. And perhaps before viewing, might I be so bold as to suggest preparing a cup of tea, quieting what might be quieted, hitting full screen and taking this in for a moment of thoughtfulness.
Here also is the YouTube link to the recorded Zoom opening in its entirety – I shared my artist statements, a few thoughts on my Finnish heritage (and how that intersects with my mothering) and we then closed with a really lovely Q & A. Thank you to all who participated! It meant and means so very much to me. The slideshow of all new work and haiku begins at 17:44. Enjoy! You can also click here for more information on the show and gallery at Finlandia University.
This show is the culmination and heart of the last three years of my studio practice. Integrating the philosophical work of late French sociologist and theologian, Jacques Ellul, I am exploring the current dehumanizations rampant within our burgeoning digital landscapes. How do we flourish as human beings within a digitized and technocratic culture? How do we think well about the dark and amorphous forces confronting us, such as biodigital convergence (transhumanism), surveillance capitalism, growing censorship and an opaque technocracy ? What happens to humanity as we begin to embrace the “metaverse” and leave our physical realities for digital ones? I’m asking many questions in this body of work (through the artwork and haiku) and hope that you’ll join me in bringing your own inquiries. Watch the above zoom link to dig in deeper. Looking forward to more conversations together, – Natalie
In the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic was unfolding, I made the decision to step away from all things internet and social media. Intuitively, I had been sensing a deep unrest and discomfort which seemed to grow in correlation to my hours (and hours) spent online. I could not get past the sense that all the hours I had been giving of my attention to the screen were somehow at odds with my being.
Hence, an interstice. In the year that I left the digital landscape, I was astounded by the mental spaciousness I experienced. It was as if a clearing had been made for me. The information overload was being swept up, and the piles of clogging chaos seemed to disperse in direct correlation to the quiet time I gave my mind. Given this space, I was able to step away from my patterns of incessant media consumption. With time, I found it easier to contemplate and concentrate. I was thinking my own thoughts. I was asking my own questions. I wasn’t meditating on some post I had seen while scrolling, I wasn’t stewing on events fed to me by the algorithm. For the first time in years, I had the ability to pull back from the onslaught of information and opinions I had been drinking by the gigabyte and place my attention back under my own care. I was able to put space between my own ideas and the perceptions of those that were being hurled at me with every click. I could sense my splintered self coming into a new wholeness. My attention was returning.
The artwork in Interstice aims to help us identify and unmask these amorphous, creeping forces that appear within digital landscapes – the forces that leave us with the sense that something is askew. These same forces work to deaden our intuition and that is exactly why this work of exposure is so important. What does your intuition tell you? We need to be asking the questions that lead us deeper. What are these forces exactly and what is their purpose? Most importantly, what is being lost in the absence of inquiry? These are the questions I’m asking in this body of work. It is my hope that you might ask some of them, as well.
There are many already who have given their time, talents, and lives to the purpose of both questioning and understanding the technological forces at play, as well as their ramifications. French sociologist and theologian, Jacques Ellul, is one such voice, and his wise work has accompanied me as I strive to understand the digital age, its consequences and its position as a new sacred within our value system. Ellul’s work is for all of us, if only we’ll quiet our digital consumption enough to listen.
The key to asking hard questions is to always hold hope while doing so. All of the artwork presented in Interstice holds hope, understood symbolically through the use of gold leaf and lilies, light and the natural world. The haiku titles assist us by making room for deeper dialogue. And the artwork holds hope spiritually, knowing that the created order is altogether Good, True and Beautiful and always worth fighting for. It’s by doing the deep work of tearing down what is false and by planting what is true, simultaneously, that will aid in our navigation of the digital era with our humanness intact and postured to thrive. If we’re open to our own interstice, we’ll see the harvest is sure to be abundant.
Contemplative, multidisciplinary and inquisitive, Finnish American artist Natalie Salminen Rude aims to identify and uncover the dehumanizing forces found within technology and systemization. What is to be done if we are too deeply steeped in a system that we depend on? What happens when we never stop long enough to think thoroughly through the possible ramifications of progress as a core value, as our new sacred?
The intention of these dehumanizing powers or “the Machine,” as Salminen Rude terms it, is to dominate society through a set of principles that are, under no circumstance, to be questioned or deviated from. She asks the viewer to consider: Could these principles be the myths of modernity we use to fuel our existence? Myths such as progress, technology, materialism, capitalism, globalism, scientism, colonialism and ultimately the commercialism of all things, made possible by way of data collection. Each plays a dramatic card in the game of dehumanization. Neither does the Earth escape, for it pays the ultimate consequence when the Machine, masked as progress, conquers all. Nature is castrated when we bow to the law of progress for progress’ sake. “Sustainability” simply becomes a code word for the digitization of the natural world. The examples seem copious.
For Salminen Rude, an antidote lies in the re-humanizing of all things. A simple first step for her is more non-digital communication, through movement, word and image, in physical spaces. By use of antidotal and symbolic imagery, layered ideation, encaustic, oil, light and darks, and haiku (as “poetic assists” for conversation), Salminen Rude brings together an interstice for contemplation and conversation. Her desire is that viewers pay attention to and participate in their own inquiries and solutions. Through attention, dialogue and the art of breaking down the breakdowns, the re-humanizing of our world is still possible.
Salminen Rude is both an artist and a poet, with poetry and text playing a vital role in her practice. She works in a variety of mediums, employing oils, mixed media and encaustic in her paintings and sculpture. Her work explores and celebrates layered ideation, both physically and metaphorically.
Salminen Rude received a BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2003 and currently resides in Duluth with her husband and three children. Prior to the pandemic of 2020, she maintained a brick and mortar studio and showroom, Studio Haiku. She teaches encaustic workshops both locally and internationally, exhibits, and facilitates discussions on spirituality, the art of haiku, and what it means to live as an artist within the context of commitment, family, and the humble rhythms of life.
And one more thing: what I feel is the crowning piece of the show, is not my own, but rather the film Betrayal of Technology featuring Jacques Ellul. I highly recommend you take in this much needed commentary on our increasingly digitized society. If you’re interested in thinking more thoroughly on this topic, you may watch it here.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Drop me a line here in the comments or reach out via email – natalie (at) natalie salminen (dot) com. Thank you for your care, attention and continual support.