Kiasma-lehti | Kiasma Magazine
Kiasma-lehti 52 | Kiasma Magazine 52
No 52 Vol 15

Reality Bites in Kiasma’s Collections

There is a mobile phone, a laptop, a pile of books and magazines, an even bigger pile of paper and a glass of water on the desk of Pirkko Siitari, Director of Kiasma. In his Twitter profile, curator Leevi Haapala styles himself as ”Art & life enthusiast, retro design and glass lover”.

Neither the collection of objects on Siitari’s desk nor Miller’s Twitter profile can be considered an official document, yet they contain information and thus function as documents of sorts as well as personal archives.

People have a fairly uniform, generic idea of what really constitutes a document. The concept of a document is associated with notions of truth, proof, even something official or judicial. A documentary film or television programme is expected to conform to a certain format. One idea associated with documentation is expert knowledge, which can also be based on personal experience. Documents are stored in a certain way, and their content refers to something, an event or a phenomenon, that is relevant to a large number of people. Yet a document is always a result of choices.

A document can also be personal. A familiar example from the media is a story in which the content of a shopping basket or a handbag reveals the truth about a person. A Facebook or a Twitter profile is a carefully constructed image, a document of the kind of person the profile owner wants to project to others. Yet even personal documents share certain recognisable, common features.

The pictures of a holiday trip or a family reunion in a photo album show precisely the things one wants to remember. With selection and emphasis, the same pictures can tell many different stories. The record thus created is a document.


The Reality Bites collection exhibition poses critical questions about truth, authenticity and the relationship between original and copy. Addressing issues of power and authority, it investigates whose information is presented as true and worth communicating.

A document in the exhibition can be the artist’s interpretation of some event or thing, an archival system that differs from the norm, a set of evidence of an event presented through something mundane, a misremembered thing, an alternative reality. The freedom of art blends in with the popular conceptions and forms of documents.

Many artworks are ultimately accessible only through documents, never directly. In performance art, for example, the debate on documentation has been continuing for a long time: What is the significance of a camera in a performance? What is the relationship between performance documentation and the performance itself? Is one “more real” than the other?

In contemporary art, a document is the artist’s personal truth, and as such it is similar to the personal truths of anyone. A collectively shared or a given truth is replaced by an unofficial truth.


The collections of Kiasma are a record of Finnish and international contemporary art from the 1960s into the future. The collections are the very heart of Kiasma. The Reality Bites exhibition invites the audience to consider the operating principles of the museum itself – a museum is, after all, always an archive and a document. Kiasma’s collections are in themselves a continuously growing document of the art of the age. Kiasma has a special responsibility to portray our times as faithfully as possible. And yet, just as all documents, the collections too consist of selections and interpretations.

Piia Laita

Reality Bites
Document in Contemporary Art
Kiasma Collections Oct 2, 2012 – Mar 10, 2013
3rd, 4th and 5th floors
Performance Compost Oct 2 - 21, 2012
Kiasma Theatre