Street Level Photoworks logo

2024 marks 35 years of Photography, Participation + Production. Support us by making a donation here.


Mari Hokkanen - Set & Setting


View Gallery

Set & Setting is a series of self-portraits which integrate elaborate sets, installations and performance into the final photographic work. This is a premiere of new work to coincide with Glasgow International 2016.

Every image is a scene on its own presenting a story of different allegories and world phenomenon. Hokkanen is interested in blending the collective and the subjective view of the world in her art. Her works deal with ‘large’ issues but presents them in a playful and parodic way which challenges naïve realism. In some ways they are 2D outcomes of a 3D comic set, and she references the cartoon style in her practice. This allows her to work with humour that tends to soften the otherwise cruel themes. The images always feature a protagonist, the one through whom the situation can be seen. The viewer is invited to interpret the scene based on his/her own experience. This chance of changing the perspective should invoke a question of the “right” or “wrong” way to see or feel the story portrayed.

Hokkanen uses colourful sets to immerse the viewer in the work, whilst at the same time give the opportunity for ambiguity. You can choose to see through the set or take it as a guideline to unveiling what is actually there. This aspect of theatre, believing the story regardless of the non-realistic set is an issue of interest to Hokkanen. How much is your interpretation based on your view of the world, are you looking through the collective narrative or through the character within it?

The self-portrait approach in her work never reveals her face as she feels it draws too much away from the narrative. The anonymity also helps to distance the viewer from taking the obvious route to the emotions in the story.

‘Building sets in this manner is very time consuming as I do all the work myself, whether its building, painting, producing, lighting, propping or anything else it’s done by me. As I progress towards the final image on any scene I have a few questions left open just so that there’s some room for improvisation, performance and intuition. I interested in the tension and subtlety this creates.’

Mari Hokkanen is a photo artist based in Helsinki, Finland. She works with both film  and digital techniques, telling stories that raise questions. The ambiguity of images intrigues her. I mostly use myself as a model to integrate the performance into my work. I either find locations that inspire me to tell the story or I build up the set for it myself.

Hokkanen graduated as a photographer in 2008 from Helsinki Vocational College. Her first solo exhibition was held the same year in Helsinki. Since then she has held solo and group exhibitions in Finland and abroad. Hokkanen participated in the Young Artist 2011exhibition arranged by the Artists’ Association of Finland and her work has been seen as part of  group exhibitions at the Art Museums of Lahti and Hyvinkää. Her first documentary exhibition Visiting Burj el- Shemal, about the life of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, opened in Helsinki in January 2012.

Set & Setting runs alongside 'Political Letters' - Catrine Val

Banner Image: © Mari Hokkanen 'Shooting Star' (2012)
Left Image: © Mari Hokkanen 'The Sheperdess' (2015)

Programmed as part of:

Please tick next to the newsletters you would like to receive. The Street Level Photoworks newsletter will provide information on exhibitions, events, opportunities, courses, prints and publications. The News From Photography Networks newsletter will be sent from Photography Networks Scotland, a platform managed by Street Level Photoworks. For more information, please look over our Privacy Policy