rma Optimist (real name Luhta, née Yliaho, b. 1952, Vaasa) is performance artist and mathematician living in Helsinki. Optimist has graduated from the University of Oulu and completed her doctor’s thesis at the University of Vaasa in 1997. She has been a researcher of chaos theory and mathematics teacher at the University of Vaasa (1984–2001) and a senior lecturer at the University of Turku since 2001. Students of economics of the University of Turku chose her as the Teacher of the Year in 2013.
Optimist began performing in 1989 (under the name Irma Optimist since 1991). Initially, in her works, mathematics was merged with feminist action in such a way that the audience was not sure if it all was fact or fiction, even though all the mathematics employed was fully valid. Threshold to doing performance art was low for a university lecturer and without the burden of art education, her performances were different from anything she herself or anyone else had ever seen. Optimist rose quickly to world wide fame in the 1990s with performance works such as Only for the Money, After the Orgy, Cannibal Baby and Private Pythagoras. Since then Optimisti has performed hundreds of times in important Finnish and international forums of performance art – art museums, galleries, festivals, conferences, symposiums and also in scientific and philosophical contexts.
Since 2000, Optimist has organised, with her son Lauri Luhta and other collaborators, Là-bas→ events, which have been a permanent forum for performance and other forms of living art and experimental culture. The original Studio Là-bas was born in Irma Optimist’s work space at Cable Factory, Helsinki. Because of her work as a performance artist and co-organiser of Là-bas→ , she received the Finnish Art Society life-time achievement prize in 2012 and the Finnish State Prize in 2013. At present, her whole body of work is being collected into a digital archive, which will make possible the construction of Optimist Museum, a project that has been in planning since the late 1990s,.
Irma Optimist’s performances are descriptive functions from real world into performance space, conceptual and critical commentary of phenomena, predictions of the future on macro and micro levels. At the event Là-bas→ Self as the Third, she formulates René Descartes’s ideal triangle with woman, mathematics and art as its angles. Presumably the triangle will be rectangular.