Teemu Mäki

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Teemu Mäki, by Anni Hanén 2011, MakiTeemu 02.jpg

Teemu Tuomas Mäki (born 14 October 1967 in Lapua) is a Finnish artist, theatre director and writer. He was one of the first Finnish artists to gain a doctorate (Finnish Art Academy 2005). In 2008–2013 he was the Professor of Fine Arts in Aalto University. Before and after that he has worked as a freelancer.

As a visual artist Mäki started out as painter, then expanded his practice to include photography, installation, performance and videos. Since his doctorate (Academy of Fine Arts, Finland, 2005) Mäki has spent less time with visual arts and more with theatre, literature and artistic research.

In recent years Mäki has concentrated on writing books and directing theatre pieces or films or pieces for radio. His most recent book is Taiteen tehtävä (2017), a collection of essays on art and on art's philosophical and political potential and function in society. The book is a kind of sequel to the written/theoretical part of his doctoral dissertation, Taiteen tehtävä – esseitä taiteesta, filosofiasta ja politiikasta / Darkness Visible – Essays on Art, Philosophy and Politics (2005/2007).

Mäki sees himself as a moral relativist, atheist, vitalist and socialist. There seem to be certain pet themes that he keeps on returning to both in his artworks and also in his non-artistic writings and public speeches. Critique of consumer capitalism is certainly of them. Defending extreme freedom of speech is another. Demanding quick reduction of consumption of goods and natural resources in order to stop ecological catastrophe is third. Gender politics is maybe the fourth, as can be seen for example in the photo series How to Be a Woman or Man? and its accompanying text, in which Mäki writes that:

"That gender roles are products of culture is potentially both an oppressive and emancipatory fact. The oppressing side is that as gender roles are created and defined in by social and political forces, they can be – and usually are – as unequal, as unfair as any other structure in society. A stereotypical gender role in this sense is almost automatically a prison, that restricts a person's personality and/or enables him/her to restrict other peoples personalities. The benign and emancipatory side of the same thing is that a person is not at the mercy of his/her biological or cultural gender, one is not 'born to become a man (or a woman)', but can instead understand that his/her gender identity was and continually is formed by culture and s/he can and should take the steering wheel in this process – to be an active subject, not a printout of cultural prejudice."[1]

A more complex and perhaps the most important theme (to him) seems to be mortality. Mäki claims that all meaning and passion that human beings can attain is derived from and made possible by death. All of these themes are easy to detect both in Mäki's visual artworks, theatre works, poetry and also in his doctoral dissertation and in his non-artistic, regular column that he writes for the Finnish Voima-magazine. The 'mortality as the source of life and passion' theme returns again in Mäki's "Art and Research Colliding" -text, which was published in May 2014, on the internet in Journal for Artistic Research.[2]

Mäki's artworks, writings and newspaper columns have provoked heated public debates. He has for example campaigned against criminalization of prostitution and claimed that as long as sex work is voluntary it's not worse than many other jobs in capitalist labor market. He also claimed that the only way to guarantee that sex work is voluntary enough is by providing a good enough social security for all – instead of trying to criminalize and ban sex work.[3][4]

After his doctorate Mäki has been quite active in the field of artistic research. In addition to his own research he tutors doctoral students, was first a member of the board in TAhTO (Doctoral Programme in Artistic Research) and then a member of the program's steering group (2012–2015). He is also a member of the editorial team of RUUKKU (Studies in Artistic Research).

Books by Teemu Mäki[edit]

  • Taiteen tehtävä. Essays. Helsinki: Into, 2017. ISBN 978-952-264-835-8.
  • Äidin oma. A collection of poems. Helsinki: Like, 2016. ISBN 978-952-01-1413-8.
  • Maalarin silmin (pakko ei oo ku kualla), a book about painting. Helsinki: Into-kustannus & Lapua Art Museum 2014. ISBN 978-952-67716-7-0 (PDF). ISBN 978-952-67716-8-7 (EPUB).
  • Rääkypönttö, a collection of poems. Helsinki: WSOY 2010. ISBN 978-951-0-36752-0.
  • Kuolevainen, a collection of poems. Helsinki: WSOY 2008. ISBN 978-951-0-34537-5. Estonian translation, by Taavi Eelmaa: Surelik, ZA/UM 2015. ISBN 9789949338443.
  • Darkness Visible – Essays on Art, Philosophy and Politics, (doctoral dissertation). Helsinki: Kuvataideakatemia / Finnish Art Academy 2007. ISBN 978-951-53-2975-2.
  • Näkyvä pimeys – esseitä taiteesta, filosofiasta ja politiikasta, (väitöskirja). Helsinki: Kuvataideakatemia & Like-kustannus 2005. ISBN 952-471-417-5.
  • Teemu Mäki, Helsinki: Like-kustannus 2002. ISBN 951-578-943-5.

Articles by Teemu Mäki[edit]

Theatre Works (as Director)[edit]


As a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, in 1988 Teemu Mäki became notorious in Finland for a video art work titled Sex and Death, which includes a segment in which he killed a cat and masturbated over the cat's dead body.

In 1991 Mäki was convicted of fraud and animal cruelty due to his giving an affidavit to a local animal rescue center, that he would treat the animal well and would not kill it without the rescue centre's permission. The court of appeal concluded, that the cat did not die quickly enough due to the poor quality of the axe used. The controversy was renewed in 2004, when the modern art museum Kiasma bought the video for its collection. After the second uproar in 2004 Mäki wrote an essay about the subject.


  1. ^ http://www.teemumaki.com/teemumakiphotography.html
  2. ^ Society for Artistic Research (SAR)
  3. ^ Mäki, Teemu: Oikeus huoruuteen Voima. February 2006. Retrieved 10.5.2014. http://fifi.voima.fi/voima-artikkeli/Oikeus-huoruuteen/1309
  4. ^ Mäki, Teemu: "Seksi ja työ – essee huoruudesta", teoksessa Minän ja maailman liha (toim. Inkeri Sava, Mika Hannula, Pirkko Anttila, Karolina Kiil), ISBN 978-952-5378-20-7. Akatiimi 2009.

External links[edit]