Mikael Siirilä – Here, in Absence


Mikael Siirilä’s Here, in Absence, published by IIKKI in an edition of 500 copies with a soundtrack, is one of 2024’s finest photobook offerings thus far. It was lodged between the somnambulist type of photography previously found in Ralph Gibson and Duane Michal’s dream-state work. The book explores singular images in monochrome that have been bleached, reduced, and tea-stained, which present a sheen of hazy memory. There have been a few other contemporary artists working in this vein recently: Paul Cupido, Masao Yamamoto, Elizabeth Alderleisten, Thomas Manneke, Sally Mann, Margaret Lansink, plus a few others.


This type of work stems from an interest in looking past the serial explorations that the market often enforces on artists to see past a body of work that is book-ended by finite means. Instead of pursuing “bodies of work,” there seems to be an interest in examining the singular use of imagery that can be tied up into one book when necessary, but that is on a continuum with an artist’s practice, wherein there is not a definitive shift toward new bodies of work. Still, instead, there are never-ending extensions of the same stylization. This is important. One of the gifts that I believe Wolfgang Tillmans has given contemporary photography is that we do not need to close chapters of our works to make them more palatable and package-able for gallerists and the market. These singular images become a subjective continuance of growth for artists, and with the market being as fickle as it is, why should they pander?

What makes Siirilä’s book particularly striking are the images first, but also that the artist has gone to pains to ensure that the book is seen as an object, as something physical and audible. Working with  The Humble Bee & Offthesky, a musical association, the collaboration results from an audio experiment meant to be played with the book. One does not have to listen to the album to get the experience of the photographs, but it is there as a soundtrack to add to the ambiance of its reading. The exploration of sound and photobooks is relatively new, but people are looking into the crossover appeal. Tillmans has yet to cross the two worlds completely, but he has been a vocal exponent of the importance of music and has released several albums. Jan Phillipen operates similarly. In 2022, I released Mondo Decay with members of Algiers (Nun Gun), a book and album that was the soundtrack to the photobook I produced. Witty Book’s Eye/Ear award has significantly contributed to the crossover appeal in recent years, the award from which Nun Gun and I won. More and more people are adding sound to their books, and I believe it is a rich valley worth exploring.


In the case of Here, in Absence, the strength is down to the images, which are melancholic in some respects but are also open-ended. I am reminded obliquely of some of Fan Ho’s pictures and can see a heavy penchant for relating image-making to 1930s Modernism. I am reminded of Florence Henri. This is seen in Thomas Manneke’s work and several other contributors presently. As we rear up on the 100th anniversary of that movement, coupled with the face of an ever-increasingly digital and AI world that analog forms, a deep-rooted desire to return to analog form will reign. I could be wrong, but something feels palpable in the air. Siirilä’s book is a prime example of this motivation. With its crossover to audio, one cannot help but be reminded of the spirit of the Bauhaus and the crossover of previous generations’ creativity when it comes to medium exchange. The book’s design also reminds one of Bauhaus trends in design, but with the spin that the book design itself acts as a sort of recall for pushing a play button, which further activates the charisma of the audio intention.

This is a singular book full of beautiful images with lots going on its subtextual arrangements. I consider it thoughtful, progressive, and one of the more rounded examples of photobook production in recent times. All elements, however seemingly incongruent (medium exchange), are thoughtfully aligned to give an ultimate experience for the work to be seen and understood. You have to appreciate work like this. Highest Recommendation!


Mikael Siirilä

Here, in Absence




Photobook “Here, in Absence,” published by IIKKI, is now available in a limited one-time edition of 500 copies.

The 18 x 24 cm hardcover book has 80 pages with 51 photographs spanning several years of work and exhibitions in 2022-2023. It is printed on Munken Lynx 150g/m² with embossing, selective UV varnish, and an exposed seam. The books are hand-numbered and stamped. A special edition is available bundled with the original print used for the cover.v

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