Born in 1973 in (Finland)
Lives and works in (Finland )
Liste expositions


Videomaker and photographer Salla Tykkä was born in 1973 in Helsinki, Finland, where she lives and works today. She had her first solo exhibit in Finland in 1997, while she was still at the Helsinki Fine Arts Academy (where she studied from 1995 to 1999). Since that time, she has participated in many international group shows (the 2001 Venice Biennale, the touring exhibition “Greyscale/CMYK” at the Tramway in Glasgow in 2002 and the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin in 2003, as well as the 2002 Baltic Triennial of International Art in Vilnius, Lithuania) and presented her work in more than ten solo exhibits (notably in 2002 at the Bern Kunsthalle, the BAWAG Foundation in Vienna and the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, and in 2003 at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, New York).


Tykkä's earliest work, especially the photographs, were marked by her personal history. After many years of eating disorders (anorexia in particular), she used art as a self-therapy in order to regain possession of her body.[1] Indeed, her first piece was entitled My Body Is My Art My Body Is My Enemy (1996). Until 1999, illness and the woman's relationship to her body was central to all her work, whether video (My Hate Is Useless, 1996) or photographs (This Is the First Bit I Eat Today, 1997; Sick, More Sick, the Sickest One, 1997-1998). For Tykkä, “to make art is to conduct a continuous death struggle with myself.”[2]


In Bitch – Portrait of the Happy One, a 1997 video, the artist once again stages herself, this time to explore the artificial happiness of a beautiful, rich young woman in the glamorous world of fame. A film star gets out of a limousine and greets the many fans waiting for her: repeated several times, this single sequence seems endless, thus accentuating its artificial, satirical aspect.


After this piece, the use of the codes of the mass media and Hollywood superproductions was to become one of the main features of Tykkä's work. Her film Power, shot in 1999 in 16mm and transferred to video, uses the semiotic codes of boxing films. Against the background of the well-known musical score from Rocky (directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Sylvester Stallone, 1976), a young woman dressed as a professional boxer (Tykkä herself in satin shorts and bare torso) fights with an older man in warm-up clothes. Her bare breasts reinforce the impression of the young woman's vulnerability in face of a man much bigger and stronger than she is. In an interview with the Italian magazine Boiler, the artist explains: “In Power, I was using boxing as a metaphor of life, the eternal struggle to find the balance between powers of both sexes. The bare-breasted woman is the provocative part of the work. It underlines the pain and it gives a special emotional tension to the piece.”[3] Elsewhere, she has written, “Power is a statement against the power relations in our society but it can be seen as a symbolic struggle for life and survival through it.”[4]


In addition to this film, Power also includes a series of photos, the best-known of which, American Dream, again features a young woman boxing, but does not show her face or legs. Above her blue satin shorts, her torso is no longer bare: her breasts are wrapped in gauze, with two bloodstains where her nipples would be. At once wounded and combative, the young woman seems to be trying to hid her femininity while asserting it. Here, Tykkä emphasises the intimate mixture of pain and pleasure (she also did a series of photographs entitled Pain, Pleasure, Guilt in 2000) and exploits the clichés of pornography to return the viewer's voyeuristic gaze.[5]

In 2000, the artist began a video trilogy which, through an investigation of Hollywood genre films, explores the coming of age of a teenager, the discovery of her nascent femininity and the ambiguous, conflicting nature of male-female relations. The three films, Lasso (2000), Thriller (2001) and Cave (2003), take their forms from the codes of specific film genres: the Western for Lasso, the horror film for Thriller and science fiction for Cave. In this respect, the sound tracks are essential, for Tykkä has made use of the most representative musical scores of the respective genres: Ennio Morricone's theme in Once Upon a Time in the West for the first, that of John Carpenter in Halloween for the second and one by Brian Eno (one of the electronic music composers whose themes were often used for 1970s science-fiction films) for the third.

These films, like all of Tykkä's work, are a mix of self-portrait and cultural analysis. The traditional role attributed to women in the genre film allows the artist to deal with sexuality and emotions in the context of male-female relations. In a text entitled “On Power and Control”, she writes: “My works are autobiographical and deal with my relationship to my environment. These experiences reflect themselves in emotional states. Growing up as a woman in the narrow strait of Western values has not been easy.”[6]


[1] . “During the year 1995 I became interested in photographing. It worked like therapy to me after suffering from eating disorders for many years. I wanted to look at myself from a distance and accept myself the way I was.” From the website presenting her work:

[2] . Salla Tykkä, “On Power and Control”,

[3] . Salla Tykkä, Boiler (March 2002),

[4] .


[5] . “Naked women boxing or wrestling are imagery typical of commercial sex. Yet despite their roles, these characters are passive objects subjected to the male gaze. In the work, the active character of the woman reflects a violent gaze towards the sender.” Salla Tykkä, “On Power and Control”,

[6] . Ibid.