Niina Tervo (b. 1983 in Oulu, Finland)
Two entangled photons separated by 144 kilometers. When one is disturbed, the other responds.
Even the smallest of particles are imprinted with memory. Most people navigate life
thinking of their bodies as finite systems. It feels safer. But energy continuously enters and exits
our bodies. Electricity activates our nervous system and our cognitive activity. If bodies are
porous vessels constantly being enacted upon from within and without, Niina Tervo asks where
the boundaries of selfhood lie. What defines us as human and where are its contours?
She works in these interstices. Tervo reflects on scientific principles but describes her sculpting as emotional. She employs organic materials like electricity and bacteria, as energies that course endlessly through the universe, to find ways to intervene in these cycles. Through sculpting matter, she tries to create a momentary pause in the flow of energy or feeling it evokes so as to have a better look at it. Her actions, the energy she invests creating sculptures, all become part of the transformative process.
Tervo creates intuitive shapes out of wax, latex, stone, or jute filled with sand. The sand
slowly seeps out and the sculptures collapse. She positions them touching the ground; or on stairs
returning the observer’s gaze; or outside the gallery, to simply bump into. Forms made of wax
invite insects and other living creatures to take part in the installation, while latex slowly hardens
and turns to dust when exposed to air and light. These responses and the energy Tervo invests in
creating her sculptures, all become part of the transformative process. The energy endures, even
if the artist’s impression on her materials is only fleeting.
Text: Amanda Sarroff