Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki
20th October 2021
Letter in Support of:
Meta Version, 2021, digital printed comic book, first edition, commissioned by Vantaa Art Museum Artsi. 32 pages, 17 x 25cm
To whom it may concern.
This letter is in support of Jessie Bullivant’s work Meta Version made for the Reciprocities exhibition at Vantaa Art Museum Artsi, an exhibition that, due to COVID-19 never opened to the public. Meta Version is a digital print comic book that places a transcription of a ‘real’ event over the adjusted comic images of an Aku Ankka (Donald Duck) comic book. The transcription is from a seminar at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki convened by Bullivant in 2018. Bullivant presented the participants with a scenario before leaving the room—in front of them (us) was a packet of biscuits and bowl full of 10€ notes. The whole event would be recorded with video. They (we) had 30 minutes to decide what to do with the money and the footage from the two cameras recording the seminar, at which point Bullivant would return for our response.
The comic book overlays the transcription of the event over a Donald Duck (Aku Ankka) comic where the faces have been removed. It depicts the conversations around what to do with the money, biscuits and the footage from the situation that nobody was prepared to be part of. What can we realistically do and whose role is it to do it?
I very much enjoyed reading Meta Version and it’s exploration of ethics and values that were forced into discussion. The combination of the text and the comic book form lends the work a light yet serious social commentary enhanced by the strangeness of the situation presented in the transcription. If you have ever taken part in an Art school seminar, it is immediately apparent that this situation is unusual. The real-world consequences provided by Jessie (i.e. what to do with a bowl full of money) creates an urgency in the discussion and a multi-layered complexity to the intentions and outcomes of the scenario. If you are familiar with Bullivants’s work, you will not be surprised to know that I took part in the seminar in question in my position of Lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts Helsinki. It remains one of the most memorable seminars I have ever been a part of.
Neither would you be surprised that Bullivant has invited me to write this letter. Obviously this compromises my support. But this is exactly what Bullivant’s work does best. It forces us into situations that undercut positions, social constructions and assumptions in order to draw out our inherited norms and preconceptions. It plays with how we construct social realities. Interestingly, I remember the events slightly differently from the transcript. Could it be my memories or the transcript that is unreliable or constructed?