Editorial: Art and the More-than-human World

 Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery


23 July 2019


Artists have always been in the forefront of tackling important questions of life and the world, and one of the roles of museums and researchers is to make these issues visible both in contemporary society and in art and history.

The latest collection exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, ‘Coexistence’, explores a hot topic that stretches way beyond the realms of art –– the relationship between humans and nature, including climate change, between humans and more-than-humans, but also between humans and humans (minorities). In this edition of FNG Research we publish four articles connected to the exhibition, all studying the above mentioned themes – all very topical in academic research, too.

Sanna Karhu writes about the contradictory relationship of humans to other animal species, ranging from speciesism to the possibility of coexistence. Saara Hacklin’s subject is temporality and the Anthropocene in contemporary art, while Satu Oksanen explores the challenges of reconciling the divergent rhythms of a museum and non-human life. Kati Kivinen’s article reflects on how people feel an increasing urge to connect with the past, to unite ancient customs and rituals with today’s digitised existence, and how this has given birth to a global interest in local heritage, traditions, and alternative belief systems, also in contemporary art. Hacklin, Kivinen and Oksanen work as staff members at Kiasma and are curators of the ‘Coexistence’ exhibition.

Our research intern programme at the Finnish National Gallery has once again produced excellent results, which we publish in this issue. MA student Emma Lilja, who worked as an intern this spring, writes about artist Outi Pieski and her installation, Our Land, Our Running Colours (2015). From one artwork Lilja widens her study of the artist to include many focal issues: landscape, environment, Sámi handicraft tradition and identity, tradition and art museums, and the rights-of-nature debate.

In this issue we also have an opportunity to a reconsider a period in Finnish art history from a totally new angle, shedding fresh light on some very well-known art works in the Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Collection as they are studied from an esoteric and occult point of view. Occulture is a current trend both in art-historical research and exhibitions. In June, Gill Crabbe from FNG Research attended an international conference on wide-ranging themes of esoteric influences on culture at the University of Turku and writes about two of the presentations on subjects connected to art history given by two Finnish researchers, Nina Kokkinen and Marja Lahelma. This new gaze gives fascinating insights into artworks by Ellen Thesleff, Pekka Halonen, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Hugo Simberg.

A call-for-papers is now open for an international conference that the Finnish National Gallery is organising in January 2020 at the Ateneum Art Museum. The conference with the theme ‘Art, Life and Place: Looking at European Transnational Exchange in the Long 19th Century’ concludes the international research project ‘European Revivals’ that the Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum began in 2009. We are looking forward to receiving a great number of interesting proposals, so remember to submit yours by 30 September 2019 (please see https://research.fng.fi/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/european_revivals_call_for_papers.pdf).

I wish you all a nice and warm summer with a photo from our archive collections depicting the summer life over a hundred years ago: the Finnish artist Hugo Simberg with the family spending a cheerful day by sea at their summer paradise Niemenlautta in Säkkijärvi, Karelia, in 1905.

Featured image: Finnish artist Hugo Simberg (far left) and his family by the seaside at Niemenlautta in Säkkijärvi, Karelia, in 1905. Hugo Simberg Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery