Camilla Edström Ödemark: Exposing White Voids

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Camilla Edström Ödemark is an artist from Åland who moved from her native Mariehamn to Sweden after she graduated from high school. Her artwork hits a sensitive spot especially if you’re in that sometimes challenging situation of adapting to a new country. 

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Ödemark says that her work focuses on what or who is “abnormal” or “alien” to a group identity and how they help maintain the status quo. In the White Voids exhibition, which opens on April 2 in Helsinki at 6pm at the Third Space Gallery (Tarkk’ampuanktu 18), Ödemark takes us on a journey to white hegemony.

The journey may surprise some while others may immediately identify with the narrative landscapes she places before us.

Camilla Edström Ödemark (Photo by Philippe Beer-Gabel)

White Voids is her first solo exhibition in Finland. Her work has been exhibited in the Moderna Bar at the Museum of Modern Art and the Multicultural Center in Sweden and in Finland (Vapaan Taiteen Tila and Aine Art Museum).

One of the first questions that springs to mind about Ödemark’s work is how a woman from a provincial place like Åland became interested in the “abnormal” and “alien.”

“Moving from Åland to Sweden wasn’t a problem but it’s my relationship with Finland and the Finnish language that raises a lot of questions in me,” she says. “I’m ok about being Scandinavian but maybe not with being in Finland as a Finn. I don’t speak the Finnish language as a native.”

Ödemark said that personal matters like her unforgettable visits to her Finnish-speaking grandmother in mainland Finland as well as hearing stories about how some Swedish-speakers are harassed in Finland for speaking Swedish sensitized her to this ‘abnormal’ and ‘alien’ world.”  

“There are symptoms of an oppressive undercurrent in our societies that doesn’t accept Others and we have to challenge it,” she says. “I’m also aware that I’m part of the power structure because I’m white. For this reason I find it very important that different voices other than the norm are brought forth. This is what White Voids is all about.”

Looking at the different video clips of her work makes you feel like a spectator that is rooting in a game where the opponents are social exclusion and loss of identity. That narrative in her work is closely linked to colonialism and capitalism.

In her Satumaa video she exposes who the opposing team is:

In Ödemark’s art Others are the underdog victims, the voices that are not supposed to be heard.

“In order to suppress you need to mask yourself as a true underdog,” she wrote in an email to me. “It must be your rights that are threatened, your words that are silenced. No one likes a bully. When in public, you need to make sure to hide your true intentions.”

“It is your culture that is being suppressed,” she adds. “They might or might not have an agenda. You are in minority. They are mocking you. Make sure people know that war is coming. In order to suppress you need to prepare.”

If there is something that stands out in Ödemark’s work and her persona it’s a bold promise and commitment:

“I made a decision in my life not to oppress others but this is sometimes easier said than done,” she said. “Due to the cultural, economical, political, social and other power structures it’s difficult but I believe that my place in the system can be best described by those that have not yet been pacified.”

Ödemark said that in order to achieve her goal of not oppressing others, she works hard to make room for new spaces for minorities where there is a very important message: equality and justice.

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Camilla Edström Ödemark’s White Voids art exhibition will open on April 2 at the Third Space Gallery, Tarkk’ampujankatu 18, Helsinki. 

Grand opening at 18.00-21.00 on April 2

Opening hours: 15.00-16.00, April 3-9

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