© Henriikka Kontimo 2020

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an artist's book
32 pages, 21x10,5cm

The Most Meaningful Thing I Have Ever Used My Hands For is a hand-printed, hand-bound, leather-covered book. It contains 28 anonymous answers to the question “what is the most meaningful thing you ever used your hands for?”.

I asked people I know to answer the question and to send me their anonymous answers to me in a letter by mail. During two weeks I received 45 answers. When I had asked people for their answers I didn't know what to expect. When the letters started to arrive and I had read some, I started to realize that quite many people had really taken time to reflect on their life to come up with personal, honest, funny, touching and even painful answers. I felt quite privileged that people did this for my work.

Of most of the answers I still don't know to whom these things happened, or whose values they reflect. Most of these people are a part of my everyday life. And even though I don't know more about them as before as individuals, I know them much more intimately as a group.

Some of the answers were quite similar, so for the book I have made the choice to edit the answers by combining some answers together, I have also left some longer answers out, not because of their content, but because of wanting to give all the included answers the same form. The question was originally asked and answered in Finnish. There are two copies of the book, one in Finnish and one in English.

Thank you to all the participants for coming up with the answers and and sending them to me.

Here are the answers.

I have made mayonnaise.
I have delivered a baby.
I have set a Christmas dinner table for my loved ones.
I have caressed my spouse.
I have taken care of cattle.
I have cut my son's umbilical chord.
I have touched breasts.
I have taught my child traditional skills.
I have sown and created new growth.
I have stroked my child's hair and consoled him in moments of sadness.
I have held my dying husband in my arms.
I have touched my lover for the first time.
I have helped a person who could not move her own hands.
I have drawn.
I have petted an old cat.
I have dressed my dead mother into her her own clothes for her funeral.
I have packed my former life into cardboard boxes.
I have written a news cable about hundreds of thousands of refugees in despair.
I have masturbated.
I have prevented myself from falling off a roof.
I have said my goodbye to my dead father.
I have written my first scholarly article.
I have warmed up a sauna just for myself.
I have written an apology.
I have touched people I didn't know before.
I have held and let go.
I have turned pages.
I have applauded a lot.

Thank you to all the participants for answering.