Exploring Age, Beauty, and Identity: Terhi Marttila’s ‘Gray Hairs’

The realm of interactive technologies is not only a platform for innovation and creativity but also a canvas for artistic expression and social commentary. Terhi Marttila, a Finnish researcher and artist, delves into the intricacies of human experiences, identity, and ageing through her thought-provoking work ‘Gray Hairs’. As a member of the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI) community, Marttila’s exploration of societal norms and personal introspection sheds light on complex themes that resonate with audiences across the globe.

A Journey with the Interactive Technologies Institute

Terhi Marttila’s connection with the Interactive Technologies Institute goes back to her time as a doctoral student under the guidance of Prof. Dra. Patrícia Gouveia. Having defended her thesis in 2022, Marttila’s engagement with ITI continued to flourish. She made her first physical appearance at the ITI/LARSyS annual meeting in 2022, immersing herself in the projects and endeavours of fellow researchers and students. In April 2023, Marttila embarked on a new project, eGames Lab (PRR), under the mentorship of Dr Pedro Campos and Dr Luciana Lima. Collaborating predominantly with Dr Luciana Lima, she contributed a voice-over for an animation centred around the women of TIMEX Portugal. The animation premiered at the Assembly event in Helsinki, providing Marttila’s insights on a global stage.

Unveiling the Message of ‘Gray Hairs’

Marttila’s work ‘Gray Hairs’ was born from a simple observation during a bustling morning bus ride in November 2022. The realization that most women dye their hair struck her as a curious phenomenon. This discovery was akin to being granted entry into a clandestine club, where the secret act of hair colouring was shared amongst the members. Jotting down her thoughts, she pondered, “How will I feel when it comes time for me to dye?” This moment of introspection laid the foundation for her creation.

The core concept of ‘Gray Hairs’ revolves around representing each thought as a black circle that gradually fades to white, simulating the transition from coloured hair to grey. By clicking on the circle, users not only hear the corresponding thought but also reverse the color change, akin to plucking or dyeing a white hair. The user’s sole interaction is the symbolic act of embracing or resisting the ageing process, revealing fragmented narratives and poems. This minimalist interactivity prompts users to engage with their perceptions of ageing, beauty standards, and societal expectations.

Engaging with the ELO Experience

Terhi Marttila’s ‘Gray Hairs’ was part of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) exhibition, inviting visitors to engage with its profound message. However, her involvement with the ELO encompassed various facets, showcasing her multifaceted talents and dedication to interactive art. Additionally, she conducted a live reading of ‘Gray Hairs’ at the Teatro Académico Gil Vicente on July 14th, combining her literary prowess with a captivating live experience, and led a workshop in collaboration with Dr Celeste Pedro from the Philosophy Department of the University of Porto, further highlighting her commitment to fostering dialogue and creativity. Beyond her creative contributions, Marttila’s scholarly expertise earned her a place on the scientific committee, further enriching the academic discourse.

Crafting a Multidimensional Experience

As an artist and researcher, Terhi Marttila’s ‘Gray Hairs’ encapsulates the intersection of technology, introspection, and societal exploration. Through her engagement with the Interactive Technologies Institute and her participation in the Electronic Literature Organization, she not only elevates the discourse surrounding ageing and identity but also demonstrates the potential of interactive technologies to evoke thought, emotion, and introspection. Marttila’s work stands as a testament to the power of art and technology to inspire conversations that transcend boundaries and resonate with diverse audiences worldwide.

Photography by Nuno Pessoa