In some sick way i would like to fail — Interview with Pekka Toivonen (Helsinki)
I called up a seriously hungover Pekka, the Art Director of the Kasino Creative studio in Helsinki. I was very happy to find out that I was not alone with my complicated relationship with perfection. While leaning up against a huge hippo, Pekka gave us a peek into his sharp mind...
Pekka, what‘s your relationship to perfection?
I used to be a perfectionist, but I think nowadays I’m not. At least I’m trying not to be, because it’s really a pain in the ass. You get your stuff done but it’s really hard on yourself. I think it has changed a lot lately, although I might still be a perfectionist.
Your relationship sounds like being very complex. A constant fight against perfectionism, would you say?
Yes, it‘s super complicated. I think it’s a disease that shouldn't exist. I used to think it's a really cool thing, because nothing is perfect. It has changed a lot. This one colleague of mine, Timo, he‘s a copywriter, and he used to do his stuff a bit wrong all the time. At the time we were working together at the same agency, and I was really annoyed by it. But then he told me about his philosophy (he actually made his master thesis about it), how making mistakes is the key element of producing something new and something nobody else can make. That changed a lot in me, because I understood that making mistakes is actually a pretty cool thing.
Also this colleague of mine, Jussi Puikkonen, he‘s the kind of guy who makes mistakes and his photography is all about it. He wants to have mistakes in his photos, so that they look more real. And in that way, it cannot be perfect, because if it’s perfect, it is not right. And then it’s not perfect. So perfect doesn’t exist, but mistakes exist, and making mistakes is perfect. And that‘s what I’m learning at the moment. Or at least trying to.
I‘m really nervous about not shaking the screen, because then it wouldn’t be perfect, but now I really try to free myself in here (shaking the screen).
So, you were already a perfectionist as a kid, but grown up, have you come to terms with this tendency towards perfection?
Yeah, indeed. I used to be a real perfectionist... It’s all about doing every single detail way too well. I remember when I had to get in to the university of Art and Design, and we had to do this pre-work. So I designed all the labels for the envelopes that were sent there and that kind of stupid stuff. My father was totally nervous, because the deadline was pretty soon and he was shouting like „What the hell are you doing? Nobody cares about the labels!“ And I was like „Of course they do“, cause you know, „it has to be perfect!“ So, I got in but I think my dad was right.
Also, I just moved in with this nice girl called Laura... At the moment I should not be giving an interview, but be fixing our stuff into the closet, because now there‘s this huge amount of boxes all around us -as you can see- (giving me a peek in the room packed with boxes full to the ceiling). All this has to be empty soon, but I think she‘s doing fine at the moment, because she‘s also a perfectionist. And I’m trying to learn ourselves out of the system by doing an interview about perfectionism, and not be emptying the boxes way too well.
This is a free therapy session. What do you think made you a perfectionist? Is there a reason for you to be a perfectionist?
I don’t know.. I‘m so sharp. That‘s my problem. Even if I‘m drunk or in a terrible hangover, I can still immediately sense all the mistakes. My eyes and my hands are way too sharp, so I can detect all the stuff that is wrong. I don‘t know why, maybe it‘s something to do with the childhood, but I don‘t remember anything in detail.
Maybe it’s all about this culture I’ve been living in. Playing the piano, and not making any mistakes at that. Making mistakes used to be a horrible thing in our culture. Maybe it has changed a bit, or maybe not, but somehow I have inherited that and that‘s the problem.
It’s purely a society thing?
It’s a society thing I guess and for people who are quite bright it might become a problem. I‘m not saying I’m bright, but I’m sharp. I can tell you a joke like this! (snap!)
Did you know that talented children usually become perfectionists? If you’re talented at something already as a kid, you turn out requiring yourself to be better than others..
Yeah, totally, that‘s the problem.. being too good in too many things.. because then you can’t fail, and failure is the worst thing you can do in this society. In some sick way I would like to fail, but again, that would be horrible too. So... (hands up)
Do you ever do things wrong on purpose? Can making mistakes help to control the need for perfection?
Maybe not like making mistakes on purpose, like driving some granny over with a car, but... Yesterday we had this exhibition opening (Helsinki Design Week), and we were supposed to do one more sign for this one piece of work, but I decided not do it, just to leave it like that, without a sign. Nobody cares. And it’s still in the news, so.. It‘s releasing yourself from every single detail. Everything doesn‘t have to be perfect, because then it would SUCK, I think. And of course nothing will ever be perfect, in a way. It’s a battle against yourself. Of course, it‘s a process, and it brings the thing you do forward, but then again —it will not be perfect anyway.. all you people: skip the phase! Let‘s not be perfect, because that would be boring.
Do you think perfection is something divine, something not with us humans; or something we COULD possibly reach one day?
It‘s just sick. You cannot be perfect. In any sense. In the end. In the very end. So its unreachable because I’m never going to be happy anyway... (laugh) .. the thing is that perfectionists are like that, never satisfied. As we (Orson) first released the EP, we mastered it four times in the best mastering studio in Helsinki, only because I was thinking, it still could be a bit better, it was not quite right yet. So we almost broke up, the whole band. He was like ‚It’s not going to get any better‘. I still have all those four versions with me, and one day I’m going to listen to them and find out if there‘s any differences. But I don‘t think there is, because it’s all up here (pointing to his head). Don‘t do it.
Can you show me something perfect? Visualize your concept of it a bit?
Definitely, I don‘t know how you want to see it —don‘t worry, its not going to be my body parts— but this place we just moved into with Rabar, he‘s our friend living with us here- (tapping a full size hippo head smirking behind his back) I think this place is just fucking perfect. There are some mistakes, like the guy who painted the floor painted it bright white, but there‘s hair in it. And then I painted this wall white, but I was so lazy I painted it only once, so its not quite 100% white, but its enough... It‘s a pink house, an old Jugend style building, 1906, top floor… It‘s the place to be! So in a sense this place is almost.. or at least.. at the moment it feels perfect.
So perfection is something that fills the needs of the moment?
Yeah, and more. I‘m like 110% happy. It cost like hell, we paid so much, but it still is 110% good. And the mistakes are included, they are just perfect. But there‘s this old Finnish government woman living underneath, and when I start making our next album, it‘s going to be a pain in the ass. Then this dream of perfection might turn into a nightmare, but let’s see about that then. So, I think perfection can only be in a moment.