Book launch: Semi Private Life in Helsinki by Aiwei Foo

Private vs. public

Book launch: Semi Private Life in Helsinki by Aiwei Foo
Multi-disciplinary artist Aiwei Foo is now branching out to your shelves with her first book, Semi Private Life in Helsinki

If you're one of Aiwei Foo's 110,000 followers on Instagram (@awfoo), you'd already be familiar with her cryptic, reflective musings and observations on everyday life in Singapore. For the uninitiated, the artist is more than just another Instagram celebrity. The 37-year old Borneo native writes, draws, photographs, designs, and produces music and videos in her signature, offbeat aesthetic that's seemingly part Lana Del Rey, and part Wes Anderson.

Semi Private Life in Helsinki is a journal in four parts, documenting the every-other-day life of the artist during her years in Finland from 2011 to 2013. The first two issues, Spring and Summer have been released for a few months, but will be making their official debut tonight at BooksActually. We steal a few minutes with Foo ahead of the launch to find out more.


How did the concept of the book take shape?
I guess partly because of social media. The life in Helsinki was coined as 'semi private' because I feel that different types of social media platforms available now may have disclosed too much of our private life to friends or non-friends of different levels without us noticing. It has become a social phenomenon where so much news is circulated each day, possibly causing an overflow of information to some people. So 'semi private' pretty much served as a commentary to deal with privacy in the context of a book.

Which part of Helsinki was particularly notable in the execution of these photographs?
The area I used to stay at — Herttoniemi. Somewhere behind my apartment are sea and woods, which connects Herttoniemi to my university in the Arabia district. I cycled through those woods to the university during summer, and during winter I'd walk on the frozen sea from my university back to where I stayed.

What aspect of this book are you most proud of?
I feel grateful that Finland has given such a physical and mental space for me to do my thinking. This has all been translated into words and visuals. Some were random; some were situational, but all were born out of spontaneity.

You say the role of an artist is hard to be identified or categorised, but in turn, what role would you say this book has played in your life?
It's good that I have done this now so that I can proceed with my exploration of different mediums, or even within the same medium — there are still so many possibilities how the form or format of a 'book' can be done. I hope people would take a closer look at their own semi private life too.


Semi Private Life in Helsinki launches tonight at BooksActually. More details here.

Text: Adibah Isa

  • Image:
    Aiwei Foo
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