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Talo/The House

A still photograph of a video. In this scene, a woman wearing a red top and a brown skirt floats between trees in a forest. She appears to be flying.
Written and Directed by Eija-Liisa Ahtila © 2002 Crystal Eye, Helsinki

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  • A still photograph of a video. In this scene, a woman wearing a red top and a brown skirt floats between trees in a forest. She appears to be flying.




Eija-Liisa Ahtila
Finnish, born 1959

About this artwork

Culled from research and interviews with individuals suffering from psychotic disorders, Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s films are sensual, profoundly moving vignettes. Ahtila’s chosen subject matter lends itself easily to perceptual distortions, as series of images flow seamlessly between reality and illusion. Although the rich, epic character studies of filmmakers such as Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman, and Louis Malle have influenced her work, Ahtila does not attempt to construct or replicate any kind of symbolic order. Instead, she draws viewers into uncanny and deeply fractured environments that suggest the breakdown of human relationships.

Like many artists of her generation, Ahtila situates her practice in between film and video, initially shooting on film and transferring to digital video for exhibition. Her works are rooted in her background as a painter, and she employs color, light, and sound in a vivid, surreal way. Talo/The House is a three-channel video installation that envelops viewers, mirroring the protagonist’s acts of self-confinement. The film opens with a woman driving up to a secluded house in the woods. Through a series of fixed camera angles that recall surveillance-camera footage in their passivity and fragmentation, Ahtila describes the interior of the house and its surroundings in vibrant, contrasting colors and lush images. As the film progresses, the protagonist hears voices, her awareness of her environment beginning to disintegrate. She describes her experience to the viewer, stating, “Everything is now simultaneous, here, being. Nothing happens before or after. Things don’t have causes. Things that occur no longer shed light on the past. Time is random and spaces have become overlapping. No place is just one anymore.” As the woman’s perceptions unravel, the images become increasingly dreamlike, eventually creating a complete rupture of spatial and temporal boundaries. In one scene, she floats slowly through the trees outside her home, gently brushing against the branches; in another, her car drives around the walls of her house. At varying intervals, she turns to face the camera, confiding in the viewer directly.

In an effort to isolate the splintering images and sounds, the woman sews dark curtains and covers the windows. The screens go dark as she states, “When I don’t see anything, I’m where the sounds are. In the street, on the shore, in the ship.” As the work reaches its conclusion, the protagonist is enveloped in the shadow and solitude of her home, the tension occurring onscreen reflecting the claustrophobia of the darkened exhibition space.


Currently Off View


Contemporary Art


Eija-Liisa Ahtila


Talo/The House


Finland (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Super 16mm color film transferred to three-channel video (projection, 5:1 surround sound); 14 min. loop Edition number five of five

Credit Line

Jointly acquired by The Art Institute of Chicago, Contemporary Art Discretionary Fund and W.L. Mead Endowment; and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Acquisition and Collection Committee and Bob Tuttle

Reference Number



Written and Directed by Eija-Liisa Ahtila © 2002 Crystal Eye, Helsinki

Extended information about this artwork

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