“PUSH YOUR LIMITS, BE CONTROVERSIAL”: In Conversation With Multidisciplinary Artist Yvapurü
Jan 3, 2023
Text: Wena Ho
As part of the GAP Peer-to-Peer Programme, we had a conversation with multidisciplinary artist Yvapurü to talk about his practice and his take on personal branding, social media and visibility of international artists based in Finland.
W: Thank you for sitting down with us. Personal branding is a topic that has come up repeatedly during our other sessions. As a board member of GAP, you are familiar to some of us. Would you like to tell us more about yourself and your current passion?
Y: I am a multidisciplinary artist. I work as a restorer of historic buildings. I am a photographer, performer, painter and curator. I do everything that can be done by hands. Most of the things I do are collaborative, like workshops and institutional projects. I like to work with people. I have worked in art for 27 years. I have worked in New York and Barcelona, before coming to Finland. I do many anti-academic stuff, to prove creativity does not need to follow rules. I am trying to invent new ways to show. Most things I have developed are experimental.
W: You are certainly very productive. You have been residing in Finland for some time now, where did you start? How did you come to identify your position locally and internationally?
Y: In the beginning it felt easy, because many people were interested to meet you, to do many things with you. But when you start working, things change totally. People in Finland do not know how to work in teams, they are taught to be individual in universities. This is your own project, do not tell anybody about it. This is quite scary to see. It took me a long time to understand what I could do here. I started as a teacher for children. When I wanted to create artwork, people asked what I wanted to do, because in Finland, if you are an electrician, you are an electrician all your life. I never sit and analyse, what is my position or the situation, but I think about what more I can do. I collaborate, I am active.
W: What does personal branding as an artist mean for you?
Y: I would say, finding something that you are passionate about. Create your work, then find the market. Sometimes it is easy to put ten posts on social media, but are you ready to show ten of them, or only one? It is important to keep some mysteries, there has to be a story behind. People love listening to mysteries.
W: It is nice that you are already bringing up the discussion about social media. When did you first start using websites and social media?
Y: I created my website when my gallery asked me 7 years ago. In the beginning I was avoiding the digital stuff, it took me a long time to develop all these things. Websites are old-fashioned. You clients will come on social media, it can be TikTok or Instagram. These are magical tools, where the opportunities come from.
W: I know you use social media to sell your artwork. How do you do that?
Y: You need to first find a circle of target audience. I put hashtags on my posts. I have a few profiles to manipulate the algorithm, I am careful about what I search. The most important thing is to be active. It doesn’t matter if it is a picture of a cookie if the cookie is important for you, it will also be important for other people. It can be random, but also something special. I am never looking for buyers, if you stay active, people will talk about you. It starts to grow. I never tell people what I do in the next step. It’s good to focus on the present. Always be active, but don’t tell them what you are doing next.
W: How do you identify the target audience?
Y: I connect with artists with similar practices, go to their exhibitions, visit their studios, talk with them, observe and analyse their situations. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived in Finland, you need to know the right people. It doesn’t matter if you have a gallery in New York or Berlin, you can be nobody here. It is a small circle. Make friends, talk to people, then people will follow you and talk about you.
W: Would you share any example of artists who are successful in their personal branding in Finland?
Y: I really appreciate Jani Leinonen. I have worked with him. All his work is satirical. I asked him what his inspiration is, and he said, money. He loves creating drama, the best example is the work in which he stole the statue of Ronald McDonald and cut the head in Al-Qaeda style. It was in the American news. For him, this is how he found his target audience, he showed what he was doing to the world.
W: For artists who work with less provocative practices, how can they learn from this?
Y: If you create some controversies, people would be interested. Of course there will be haters, everybody has haters. Push your own limits, be controversial.
W: You wear many hats. You are an artist, a producer, an organizer, what advice would you give to the young international creatives in Finland in terms of what to pursue?
Y: First you need to know what the best thing you can offer is, because it is what people would buy, and with that money you would survive. I would say I live on my creativity. I use everything that comes to my hands to develop something. I know I can be useful for the society. And find your own inspiration. People have religions, I have art. I find inspiration from philosophies. I just finished reading the Review of Zygmunt Bauman’s Culture and Art: Selected Writings, Volume 1. It is an inspiration for my career.
W: We know you don’t talk about your next step. But what is your current project?
Y: I want to find a group of artists to do an exhibition, whose practices I know but not what exactly they will produce for the show. I have done it once before, there were one artist from Poland, one from Brazil, some from Finland, and me. I told them not to tell me what they would show until the installation day. The exhibition was amazing. The gallery trusted me.
Yvapurü is a visual artist working in a range of mixed media. He has been trained between Asunción, Barcelona, New York & Helsinki, exhibiting since 1996. Has studied in Arts in Paraguay, and at the New York Institute of Photography, USA. His expressive versatility unfolds as a draftsman, painter, sculptor, photographer and performer. He has a long working experience in interior and furniture design. Yvapurü has created several artistic projects and workshops for Design District Helsinki, Swedish Culture Institute, Goethe Zentrum, Ihana Helsinki Festival, Kolibrí Festivaali and Latin American Film Festival. He lives and works in Helsinki.
ABOUT WENA HO
Wena aspires to be an empathetic museum educator. Her interests revolve around participation and human connection among the versatile contemporary art practices. Having worked as an art researcher and educator at K11 Art Foundation, she has curated educational programs and developed learning materials, in collaboration with creatives in Hong Kong, Japan, the US and UK. She received her Master’s in Education in Finland. She finds joy in connecting with open-minded, like-hearted people and indulging in conversation that inspires. She is the facilitator of the GAP Peer-to-Peer Program (2022-2023).
ABOUT GAP PEER-TO-PEER PROGRAMME
The GAP Peer-to-Peer Program is a 6-month program designed for emerging international artists based in Finland, who strive to deepen their connections and knowledge within and beyond the arts and cultural field Finland. The program consists of hands-on workshops and moderated conversations with industry professionals, touching on topics such as artist resume and application writing, grant applications, professional networking, art entrepreneurship and personal branding. This programme is supported by Moniheli ry and Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse sr.