Curriculum Vitae Ecce Homo – Bare Thy Flesh! My Life as an Artist

Ecce homo – bare thy flesh!

Seppo Salminen’s performance art combines the vigour of his own body and flesh with the materiality of an object. Feminine flesh meets masculine sculpture. The artist’s works can be taken in as sculptural events, fusions of two complementary elements with surfaces and shapes of different kinds: cold, lifeless iron and ice, and, on the other hand, living human flesh appearing in contact with this material. Salminen’s pieces reach out and touch the spectator’s subconscience, for everyone has a personal relationship to materials akin to the fundamental substances. Johannes S., the conceptual protagonist in Salminen’s art, serves as a surrogate figure. His task is to experience and suffer – and set images astir in the spectator’s subconscience.

Salminen’s works are bald, they are acts of taking off and laying bare, not performing. He blends extremely private aspects and personal confessionalism with minimal, even modernist sculpture, stripped to the bone yet rich in implication. This may be seen as a comment on the myth of the hero artist and the self-sufficient modernist tradition. Flesh stands for communication and reciprocity, while minimalist sculptures represent autism and muteness. Salminen makes use of both.

Fear is embedded in Salminen’s works. Upsetting and startling to behold, their soul penetrates into the spectator’s subconscience, its abhorrence/fear of flesh. The soul conveys primal messages, immediate knowledge from beyond words and knowing. Art must smell – “the nose is quicker than the eye”, as Seppo Salminen himself puts it. The artist’s works draw on his personal history, yet the tradition of western culture is also present.



Beauty always springs from the deep wound each human being bears deep within. Just like the history of Europe, the history of western art reads as a record of martyrs’ bodies. Salminen shows the male body, the only body recognized by the state. “The purpose of man’s body is to become mutilated. It is never private property, it belongs to the state or anyone executing the sacrifice.” The performance shows a man biting off his suit, gobbling down his father, and discovering his own flesh, only to punish himself afterwards. Searching for his own flesh underneath his clothes, Johannes S. gnaws through cultural strata of time. He marks his body by biting, he leaves traces of his presence, he makes new prints of himself. The sacrifice is offered on an altar.

Seppo Salminen makes this male body his stage. It is the suffering man’s body on which a punishment was inflicted. The mind, however, retained its purity. Cosmetic slag from our culture has tainted people’s minds, soiled them with endless confessions and judgements passed on intellectual grounds. The body is forever subject to the exercise of power it makes little difference, whether violence is done to body or mind. Submission has been internalised by everybody. The art world turns out similar explanatory doctrines. Throughout his life as an artist, Salminen has kept himself detached from this (verbally) masterable rational communication, and the dictatorship of various sets of codes. For him, being an artist means spiritual kinship, acts carried out by a small and dedicated friarly order. Seppo Salminen’s works appeal to the spectators’ metaphysical sense perception from an ethical angle. In them ethics is experienced as a bodily responsibility for other people. The human body we see is vulnerable, often passive, exposed to injury and pain, and open to erotic movement.

Text by
Hanna-leena helavuori