Archive for the 'Art' Category

Tracing the origins of joulupukki

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

I had an “Aha!” moment the other day when I was reading the Word of the day where brilliant folks at Merriam-Webster daily deliver an explanation of one delicious English word after another. Reading that one particular explanation literally made me stare into the distance for the next fifteen minutes. Everything around me came to a standstill. It was exceptional in that it helped me uncover part of a riddle that had me puzzled for a long time.

For quite some time now I have been scratching my head about the origin of the word joulupukki, the Finnish word for Father Christmas. The literal meaning of the word is rather straightforward, albeit rather peculiar. Joulupukki is a compound word consisting words joulu (Christmas) and pukki (goat). Christmas goat? But why Christmas goat?

As Wikipedia these days provides an answer to almost any question, they had that covered too. The article explains the origin of goat (pukki) in the word joulupukki by referring to a “tradition of men dressed in goat’s clothes called nuuttipukki [who] used to go around from house to house after Christmas eating leftover food.” I have also checked the Finnish etymological dictionary which traces the origin of word pukki to bock, Swedish for billy goat.

Although Father Christmas is incomparably more popular, the nuuttipukki tradition is supposedly still alive in the Finnish regions of Satakunta and Pohjanmaa, according to another Wikipedia entry. Never mind that nuuttipukki does the opposite of what joulupukki does: kids today dress up and go singing from house to house hoping to receive candy and pocket money in exchange. A Halloween of sorts, only two months later.

Back to Merriam-Webster and their Word of the day that started it all. Folks at Merriam-Webster reveal that an English adjective puckish originates in medieval England from word puke (also pouke) meaning a nasty hobgoblin, an evil spirit, a demon. However, both puke and pouke are related to the Old Norse word puki, meaning devil. Since Finnish did loan words from Old Norse, I wouldn’t be surprised if Old Norse puki was Finnishized into pukki and  Christmas goat afterall isn’t really a Christmas goat, but rather a Christmas goblin, elf, sprite, fairy, puck, demon, or imp. Something that the makers of Rare Exports Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 understood very well.


Posted in Art, Books, Culture, Finland, Movies | 1 Comment »

Twenty years of Pixar

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Pixar’s 20 Years of Animation exhibition is currently on display at the Tennispalatsi art museum in Helsinki. I went to see it and all I can say is, if you’re anywhere close to Helsinki, you can’t afford to miss it (and hurry up, because exhibition’s next stopover is in Seoul).

Although most of us might not have been as radically inspired by Pixar’s animated movies as those kids who flushed their fish down the toilets after seeing Fining Nemo (to save them, of course), characters and stories created at Pixar are quite impressive when it comes to suspending our disbelief. Sure, cars and fish usually don’t talk humanese, but great characters and their believable expressions make us forget we’re watching cars and fish.

Anyway, I can imagine that most see a movie, either like it or not, but don’t give much thought to how it was made. This exhibition, however, provides such introspective opportunity; you get to see how Pixar’s characters and stories are conceived, developed, re-developed many times before they are polished, even sculpted and only then modeled and rendered. I was stupefied when I found out that three quarters of production time is spent just developing the characters and story, and only a quarter turning those ideas into a movie.

From what Pixar shows us in the exhibition, it definitely must be a dream job to work on their projects. They travel all over the place, some even had to learn how to scuba dive to be able to envision more realistic imaginary worlds. It must be a dream job most can only aspire to.

Besides abundance of quick sketches, conceptual drawings, detailed character sculptures and even some high art-like framed paintings, exhibition offers two brilliant gems: a superb four-projector wide journey through two decades of Pixar’s work and a large mesmerizing zoetrope full of Toy Story characters. The zoetrope itself is an unbelievably dazzling display of magic of bringing static figures into motion. I’d never get tired of it even if I had one at home.

For those who can’t make it to the exhibition, get a glimpse of the spinning marvel here.


Posted in Art, Culture, Finland, Movies | No Comments »

Flower Power

Sunday, June 10th, 2007


Last week Finnish artist Kaisa Salmi outfitted the Finnish Parliament staircase with about 60.000 gerbera flowers in an attempt to show that this very same place could be the natural habitat of these tropical plants if the climate change continues in the direction of global warming.

The artist explains that seen from a distance her environmental piece of art also reveals a double rainbow. Possibly, although I tried approaching the work from various distances and no such thing as a rainbow revealed to me.

It is not only a great idea, but also a strong political statement. Especially since climate change has been a hot topic in Finnish media and politics for more than a year now. Reversing the current trend of global warming should also be one of politicians and citizens top priorities.

20070610-eduskunta_gerberat02.jpgAlready upon setting up the work Kaisa Salmi announced that people can come and collect the flowers once the exhibition was over. Even though the announced collection time and date were Saturday, June 9th at 9 o’clock in the morning, first flower snatchers appeared already during the night as they were returning home from clubs. Anyway, there was still enough flowers as more than thousand people came to collect them on Saturday. They emptied the monumental staircase in just a couple of hours. The work was on display for exactly a week.

It was nice to see flowers instead of manure, eggs or rotten tomatoes in front of a parliament.


Posted in Art, Culture, Environment, Finland, Politics | No Comments »

Expatriate Graffiti in Göteborg

Monday, May 28th, 2007


Aaaaalmost there. Obviously not a first generation immigrant graffiti artist from ex-Yugoslavia.


Posted in Art, Culture, Politics, Random, Sweden | No Comments »

High Art Goes Pop Art

Monday, May 21st, 2007

20070521-goteborgoperan.pngNot long ago opera house in Gothenburg begun a marketing campaign that seems to be the right kind of approach to selling an opera. The posters scattered around the city of Gothenburg invite people to dial an advertised phone number and listen in on opera’s current and upcoming program. Enticing.

Naturally, if you want to attract people to whatever you want to sell, you should let them get a taste of it, or in this case, let them hear what it sounds like.  I just wonder why opera houses don’t realize and accept this fact more often, or ever at all.

To get a glimpse of Göteborgs Operan program the old fashioned way dial 031 10 81 00 (or +46 31 10 81 00 if you’re calling from outside of Sweden), or visit the campaign Web page where you can sample different operas by picking up different telephones.

Even though the new generation of consumers will be content by hearing just these samples, I find it to be unfortunate that they don’t play the whole deal.


Posted in Art, Culture, Music, Sweden | No Comments »