August Joensalo is a Karelian-Finnish filmmaker, writer and artist living in Sipoo. Joensalo is interested in memories, time, embodiment and playfulness in the context of trans narratives. In their practice, Joensalo uses images and text to break the binaries of language, bodies and identities, and to create relatable queer utopias. August’s gaze is heavily shaped by an early obsession with cinema as an escape from a world where they didn’t feel safe or that they belonged. Horror, sci-fi and everyday fantasy provided them with a safe way of feeling, and sparked a desire to understand their own life through storytelling. With tenderness, self-irony, and playfulness, August wants to create spaces for feeling held, loved and understood, even when experiencing difficult emotions.
Joensalo's practice celebrates trans narratives, resilience, joy and existence. It centers on building a personal archive of queer communities. August’s current project for M_itä? Biennale has helped them understand their desire to create and work with archives as a means for activism, awareness and resilience. This is a meaning-making process for August –“a constant desire to understand myself and my roots as an artist who is both trans and Karelian, in a society where both of my histories from these intersections have been blurred, obscured or erased completely.” The work is a personal diary of Joensalo’s own lost Karelian identity and tradition through dialogue with August’s late grandfather – the last in the family to speak the Karelian language. By following a close relationship between grandfather and grandchild, the work discusses and re-examines the many losses experienced during the violent integration of Karelians into the Finnish society.