Physical Realities of Death: A Memoir of Toivo Laukkannen

Tristan Cai

2009 - 2011

Tristan Cai, 2009- 2011

Archival Giclee on Aluminium & Wood, Video, Box of Medals, Vinyl Text

Dimensions Vary


I remember the first time I met Toivo, he was walking frantically, taking big strides, his neck perched out and his hair in a mess. I knew I had to photograph him, as he has so much character. It was outside the Central Railway Station where I met him. I had approached him and said " Hi", while he responded immediately by shoving his hand into my face, signaling his disinterest to converse with me. Intuitively, I followed him to a nearby shopping mall. After awhile, he was done with shopping and I approached him again... We soon began to meet every couple of weeks. It was a privilege to be able to document his life, although unexpectedly to its end.

This installation is dedicated to my friend Toivo, whom I have learnt much from.

Artist’s Website:


I have always been fascinated by the complexity surrounding the philosophical terminals of death, creation and religion, especially how these subjects are interpreted and negotiated by popular visual culture. Drawing inspiration from academic research and first-hand interaction with individuals, I create parodies in the form of photography and mixed media installations. Physical Realities of Death interrogates the archetypes of the journalistic tradition and the paradoxical relationship we have with photography.

In reflecting upon photography, I am at once attached and repulsive towards the medium due to the special ontological relationship we have with it. Since I can claim to hold a memory of my own, the process of creating photographs for most people including myself, come from an ritualistic tradition, mostly taking place during family festivities. The resulting photographs are of familiar events and people. It has since been embedded within humanity, that it is a medium that is overly nostalgic, yet a medium we automatically use as a reference for the construction of our memory.

The repulsion towards photography is exacerbated when this idealistic and trusting relationship we have for the medium is being eradicated in our visual culture, which exist only almost to support capitalist and political agendas.

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