Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union said in the Soviet Union magazine in 1962: Our battles and all our actions are dictated by only one purpose – to build, to create, and to work for the people to be able to always live better and more beautifully. Erich Honecker, the one with the most powerful position in the GDR, said fifteen years later: Our German Democratic Republic will become more beautiful and socially secure.

The rhetoric was beautiful, but the actual results had a different echo. Intrigued by such drastic dialectics Kalle Lampela wanted to examine the utopia of a beautiful and happy life that was produced during the cold war era in real socialist publications (mainly GDR-Review and Soviet Union magazine). He was fascinated by the conspicuous discrepancy between the happy representations in the propaganda, and the harsh and cynical every day conditions in the real socialist states, and its similarities to contemporary political turbulences. The work with the magazines became an artistic research process during which he analyzed real socialist imagery by drawing different variations of it on paper and cardboard with pencils and colored pencils in a large scale.

There was an optimistic belief in purpose – or pretense of it – in the expressions of the people Lampela drew. Their gazes were directed towards horizon, where something that was possibly becoming true was waiting. They are looking towards the highest political ideal: the realm of freedom as politically highest good and as the power of transition. We cannot know what kind of paradise that is, and Lampela’s drawings do not tell about it directly either. His drawings refer to a utopian, abstract, but from time to time tangible movement and political pressure, the power of hopes and dreams. As a conclusion, his drawings presents the dialectical dynamics that the real socialist utopia during the stagnation years existed only in the photographs and texts printed in the propaganda magazines, but, nevertheless that was a real utopia, printed, distributed, and shared.


Kalle Lampela (b.1973) was born, lives and works in Rovaniemi, Lapland, in Northern Finland. His artistic practice is based on research and visual interpretations on social and ideological issues that include power and utopia, especially in imagery of real socialism. Lampela´s primary visualizing medium is drawing.

In 2012 Mr. Lampela earned a Ph.D. from Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland. The doctoral dissertation addressed attitudes visual artists take toward utilizing art socially and economically, and addressed the question whether art has a socio-critical function. This doctoral thesis is comprised of written research and two exhibitions and one intervention as an art production.

Kalle Lampela currently teaches and does research in the arts as a university lecturer in visual arts at the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland.