Essay

From tools to tentacles 

Finish artist Sonja Jokiniemi reflects on her performance “Howl”. 

by Sonja Jokiniemi
Published on 04/08/2021


© Sonja Jokiniemi

In my work, I search for ways to extend semantics and language, challenging the normativity of language, expression and communication. There is the idea of resistance to mainstream aesthetics, working with language differently and imagining human and non-human relationships with complexity, playfulness and imagination.  

Multi-textuality as a linguistic practise has evolved through working with materials, alternative languages and communities with diverse communication practices.  Howl started with an exploration of loss. Loss of connection, loss of language, loss of meaningful images. And from this basis grew a room with self-made drawings, textile lacings and a collection of live matter: woods, lichen and spit.    

© Drawing by Sonja Jokiniemi


I often use self-produced drawn images as a creation tool. These drawings then dribble into embodiment and the unconscious; they set the mounting for composition.

While I was drawing images for my piece Howl, I bumped with images of Carol Rama. Her work is an inspiration at large because, for me, i goes beyond the “understandable” message. It works with textures of bodies that fail to embody the aesthetics of the appropriate, the constructed and the meditated. In Carol Rama’s drawings, bodies are raw, bare and unfit. They are fragmented bodies, like fragmented minds, in a fragmented world - something with which I connect deeply.



© Dorina by Carol Rama, 1940



Another influence was Kalervo Palsa’s work, a Finnish artist from Lapland that disturbed society with his works, especially the bourgeoise. He lived isolated in a very rural area with harsh nature and made his art deviant and challenging.  As an artist myself, I believe it is essential to challenge people with my art. 

As orality has been a long-term interest to me, in my drawings, mouths, tongues, orifices, and phalic figures are very prominent. They are a kind of tentacles.


© Artic Passion by Kalervo Palsa, 1940


In Howl, I wanted to work with the idea of a beast. One that embodies the unwanted in society while evoking feelings of empathy, fragility, and repulsion.  In this sense, Howl is a very humanistic work: an invitation to look at, engage with and pay attention to the unwanted, urging us for subjective and alternative understandings of what it  means to be human.


© Drawing by Sonja Jokiniemi  




Sonja Jokiniemi (Helsinki, 1983) is a choreographer, performer and visual artist based in Helsinki, Finland and Lausanne, Switzerland. In her work, Jokiniemi engages the practice of drawing, human and non-human actors, textile making, questions of language and communication and exploration of bodies and sensations as a way to think around networks of things and beings and their ordinary and uncanny relationships. She graduated from the Performing Arts programme at DAS Theatre in Amsterdam in 2013. Before this, she has completed a degree in Contemporary Dance at Laban Centre in London. Sonja’s work has been supported by many performing arts venues in Europe. She has recently exhibited at Den Frie Centre for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen and Dr Guislaan Museum in Ghent. Her latest performance work ÖH premiered at Zodiak Centre and Moving in November festival 2020, in Helsinki. 


© Something Great, 2021. All rights reserved.  

The contents of this article are protected by German copyright law and they cannot be used without our permission.


Related Content