photography

19.1.20

#2 Soft Power

Bombay Bicyle Club (Madrid, Spain 2014)
According to Wikipedia soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. SFMOMA’s exhibition SOFT POWER is about the ways in which artists deploy art to explore their roles as citizens and social actors. For me the concept simultaneously represents an ambiguity and a particularity. 

Editors (Helsinki, Finland 2017)
While delivering concrete results the use of (hard(er)) power can often leave many feel powerless. Power doesn’t belong to all. It has been collected and canned and is being stored for the selected few. The ones who may visit their power pantry daily or hardly ever, but it’s their power panty and no-one else’s. The ones who do not choose to make an extra key even for family and friends, not to mention the next door neighbour who yet again has painted their front door the wrong shade of blue. 

Au Revoir Simone (Madrid, Spain 2013)
Soft power seems to counter its ironclad sibling. It’s like a warm blanket you can wrap yourself into, the hygge of power games. Perhaps naively so I believe that soft power cannot be canned and hidden away, it only really works if left laying around in a public space available for all by-passers. The more people pick it up the more strength it gathers and instead of bringing people down it empowers them. It’s like a pile of shiny slime - attractive, addictive, shapeshifting. 

The National (Helsinki, Finland 2018)
In my teens I fell in love with a Latvian band who sang many of their songs in Latvian - a language I didn’t speak. A language I still don’t speak, but can sing in (leaving aside a discussion about my musical skills). A time that made me learn more about the country, learn some of the language and meet other people with similar fire in their bellies. Many of whom I can still on this day - odd 20 years later - call friends. 

The Latvian band - BrainStorm - and yours truly (Pärnu, Estonia 2001)
I used to be glued to television watching ‘Gilmore Girls’ like so many others around the Globe. The quotes, the jokes, the references - they’re all like the super-short-cuts in creating meaningful connections with like-minded strangers. All this to me is like soft power anti-punch-in-the-gut. The music, the movies, the paintings. To name a few. They all weave a web between us. Its full shape and size will always remain a mystery. The lines running through can push and pull us in unknown directions. Always connected. 

St Vincent (Helsinki, Finland 2018)
I stand corrected. Soft power can be canned, but the moment you take off the lid it runs in its own direction leaving behind spots, swirls and marks. Its course cannot be premeditated and the influence measured with common tools. To those who like to can and store their power and use it with great precision and calculation this is not an attractive choice. For the rest it could be the tool to build a more understanding and connected, curious and educated community. It could be a power tool to empower others around us as opposed to leaving many people powerless. 

Foals (Madrid, Spain 2013)



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