by Professor Anne-Karin Furunes, Academy of Fine Art Trondheim (KiT), NTNU
Associate Professor Simon Harvey, Academy of Fine Art Trondheim (KiT), NTNU (2016)
In 2004, the Academy of Fine Art in Trondheim decided to initiate an undergraduate programme about ‘Art and Common Space’. It was a time when the very notion of public art, and the ‘common’, urgently needed re-addressing and, with her vast experience of curation and working with projects beyond the gallery space, Maaretta Jaukkuri was the ideal person for the job. She was already a familiar presence in the Academy as she had been a guest teacher on several occasions and had also curated a degree exhibition. She very quickly expanded the topic to address the questions: What are our common spaces in the world today? What is left, and what is new? The programme soon became a bridge between architecture and art students. It led the way in Scandinavia, and soon after other universities followed suit.
Maaretta brought to the Academy areas of inquiry dear to her heart: among them new engagements with nature, the possibility of alternative artistic dialogues, an interest in process thinking and flow, and a twist on public space to include ‘public time’. While insisting on the importance of practice-led theory, she has nevertheless introduced students to a range of theoretical tools for reflecting upon and understanding the world and time that we are living in.
But beyond this, she has always speculated, usually ahead of others in the artistic field, on alternative, counter-intuitive directions for art practice and theory – inviting guests to talk on broad subjects like quantum physics and the Anthropocene, as well as more everyday things like food and exercise. And this is the core of Maaretta: she has a passion for the larger issues, but also understands that it is the smaller things that bind us together and that allow us to approach these important topics in a more human way. Never stagnating, never resting on comfortable topics in her teaching, she would always address new possibilities and bring new themes to the table with characteristic energy and curiosity.
Her approach to teaching continues to be an empathetic one. Maaretta has always sought to understand each student through their work and through their eyes, but at the same time to inspire and open up a discussion within a larger group. She has always managed to establish common ground in class, to create a climate wherein everyone in the group might feel encouraged, energised and eager to participate and speak up.
For me [Anne-Karin Furunes], “working with Maaretta has been a steep learning curve. She teaches together with colleagues and students and, based on everybody’s participation, she is able to bring the discussion and understanding to a new and higher level.” Maaretta has always been supportive of her students, guided by her strong belief in freedom of expression within the field of art. She has a unique sensibility, often combining a Finnish pragmatism with a mischievous sense of humour.
One of Maaretta’s former students, artist Randi Nygård, has written:
Maaretta was very important for the students and the Trondheim Academy, introducing her unique social commitment and belief in art. She was both highly sensitive and very sharp. With her tremendous theoretical knowledge and large international network, she was able to arrange visits by guest teachers of the highest international standard. Maaretta would approach each individual student and their project with special attention and sympathy. Grounded in reality, she was able to connect complex theories to what we were working on at the time. In addition, she had an unusual eye for aesthetics. The trips she arranged were inspiring and were a revelation for us students; she knew people everywhere, we were welcomed everywhere and came into contact with people you otherwise only read about in international art magazines.
On the above-mentioned study trips, Maaretta would take students and colleagues to visit the studios of artists that she had worked with over the years. Her horizons have always been broad: both trans-discipline, across the Nordic context, and also further afield towards diverse international art and architecture contexts and scenes. But even after departing Trondheim to take up a key job at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, she would return to teach and bring new guests to the Academy.
Be the context local, regional or global, Maaretta Jaukkuri always applies herself diligently to the issues, and with wonderful enthusiasm and skill. She has been, and continues to be, a great person to have around.