News portraits (school shooters)
Project info

Portraits depict perpetrators of the ten most fatal school shootings since Columbine massacre in 1999. Five of the shooters are from the USA, two from Germany, two from Finland and one from Brazil.

Portraits of American school shooters are constructed from photographed cut outs from American newspapers and Internet news. Similarly, portraits of Finnish school shooters are constructed of Finnish news, German portraits of German news and Brazilian portrait of Brazilian news. All articles are gun and shooting related, and each portrait contains 1050 different news. The series is, then, multilingual in its nature. This quality refers not only to observing and analyzing media practices from critical perspective but also to virtual social connectedness that these young men have through Internet ? as relevant research has found out, through social media and other web based communicative practices these shooters constitute a kind of imagined community.

Although school shootings is a highly complex phenomenon, research has been able to point certain similarities in the perpetrators. For instance, school shootings are acts that are motivated by individual troubles rather than explicitly political reasoning. Also, shootings are never totally impulsive acts. Rather, the shooter, a young man who is a student or former student in that particular school, will slowly become excluded from his peers. Often he faces bullying at school. His family circumstances may be normal but the young man himself feels alienated. Normally there is some sort of serious drawback in his close history and he is feeling rejected. His final attempt to redeem his position as an outstanding alpha male, which he often dreams of, is to commit an act of so horrific in scale that it gives him eternal fame.

School shootings are vastly mediated phenomenon. Mediatisation has both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, media presentations of the shooters can construct a myth around the shooter, constitute an idol of him. This sort of heroizing may suggest copycat behaviour and celebration. On the other hand, through media presentations of violence people can confront the horrible act from the safe distance. Like Susan Sontag reminds us, photographs of agony not only remind viewers of the explicit issues presented in the photographs, but also of the existence of a culture of violence in general. When one connects this to the ethical considerations, the images of violence in general invites the viewers ‘to pay attention, to reflect, to learn and to examine’ not only the images and their aesthetics and ethics, but also the culture of violence of which they are a part and one's relationship to that culture.

Project has received support from the Arts Council of Finland, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Alfred Kordelin Foundation and Helsinki Art Museum.