A conversation with Jukka Huitila
Jukka Huitila is a working light and video designer, whose projects involve buildings, public spaces, events and the performing arts. Huitila is equally at ease working on intimate performances for small stages or lighting up massive edifices like the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. He has a sharp artistic sensibility which he shares generously with his collaborators, always putting the work first--he says his job is to keep honing ideas until they reach the shape that the work requires.
What’s the first thing you do in a new project?
“I start by coming up with wild ideas, nothing is too crazy at first. Oh, and I shave my head.
Visuals are born out of a series of mental images or impressions. Ideas for images take time to form and I challenge myself to really think about details. One idea leads to the next and then a bigger picture begins to take shape.”
What gets you excited when taking on a new project?
“Challenges turn me on. A goal that requires serious effort to reach it gets me going.”
What do you need when you work on a project?
“I usually long for a hot shower, the sound of water, being naked. Sometimes a drink of whisky will do the trick. Sometimes I need time to be not-thinking. I don’t need ideas for making light. Music is often a stronger force than light in creating atmosphere, so if the music has an important role and powerful, following the music makes it easier for me to design light.”
What’s your most ambitious goal?
“My greatest goal is to have light, and light design, be recognized as an expressive element in the performing arts and as an independent artistic discipline. This takes constant effort.”
What’s your dream project?
“My dream project? It has all the colors in the world. I ride to work on a unicorn. There’s foie gras for lunch and a bottle of Mouton Cadet. To live like the king’s cat!”
Speaking of lunch, when people ask you to join a project, what do you bring to the table?
“When I join a project, I bring with me my own way of working, which is a conversational, discussion-based approach. My way of working is centered on taking ideas and giving them the shape that the work requires. The most interesting projects happen when the people are interesting and there are risks to be taken. Premiere is always a risk.”
If you had to compare light or light design to another art form, what would come close?
“Creating light is very much like listening to music for me. There is a similar rhythm you can create with light. If there is poor rhythm in lighting, it’s like playing music out of time, or out of tune. You can paint images with light, create architecture in the mist.”
You have worked with an astonishing number of talented artists, both Finnish and international, and the pieces you have created in teams or by yourself are almost too numerous to count. How do you continue to find inspiration?
“I usually get inspired by other things than making art. Changing the scenery sharpens my senses and clears my mind, it clarifies my thinking. The world is beautiful, nature is beautiful, sacred, holy. The elements inspire me. We humans are only visiting here. Sunlight, blue hour, rain, wind, fog, ocean, lake, river, rapids, trip, journey. In the imaginary world time stands still, and when it starts running again, I find myself in a kayak, going down a stream.
I am very satisfied with life right now. I get to work with wonderful people. Geniuses. Now that I know what I want, I want to work on a pretty narrow sector. If I’m only creating light, I will do it with style, and with expertise. If I decide to add in some video then I can do away with some of the light and so on. Recently I have realized that I can leave space for movement, or for costumes, or music. I don’t have to carry it all. I suppose it’s a conversation without words and you can really make a point when you do less. Less is more, right, but I wouldn’t be able to gauge the less/more if I didn’t have dozens of premieres under my belt. I do light for a profession and that’s kind of anathema today, when everybody needs to be multi-tasking. Just to do one thing, now there’s a thought. On the other hand, if I need to use video, then only too much can ever be enough. Art is not a serious thing, but I make art seriously.”
Interview by JP Manninen