The principal theme of The Present is forgiveness, summarised in the closing statement of each of these five short stories: ‘Give Yourself a Present; Forgive Yourself’. The work is loosely based on interviews Ahtila conducted with a number of women who had developed psychosis at some point in their lives. In each case, the mental breakdown takes a different form, for some more overt than others.

The five stories were originally part of a longer film. Ahtila has also made 30-second cut-down versions, designed to be watched on television during commercial breaks.

Each episode focuses on a specific moment in the life of its protagonist. In Underworld a patient is seen in the clutches of paranoia, hiding beneath her hospital bed to avoid imagined killers. In Ground Control a teenage girl is on the point of entering her house, when she hesitates and lies down in a muddy puddle instead. The Bridge shows a mother who is only able to cross a bridge on her hands and knees; while in The Wind a young woman’s anger takes the form of a hurricane. The House features a woman’s futile attempts to block out the sounds in her head.

To accompany the films, Ahtila has produced a series of blankets, which she sees as a metaphor for warmth and protection, as well as being a traditional form of handicraft and symbol of women’s industry.