European nettle trees that form part of the Nordic Pavilion in Venice Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Being and Thinking with(in) the Pavilion Space. Curatorial Notes

Piia Oksanen, MA, curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Also published in Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen (eds.), Weather Report: Forecasting Future. Ane Graff, Ingela Ihrman, nabbteeri. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 169/2019. Milan and Helsinki: Mousse Publishing and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Silja Kudel

Dead Hedge is a two-metre diametre structure packed with twigs and branches gathered from around the Nordic Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. It is a work by the artist duo nabbteeri and is situated on an elevated section behind the pavilion, blocking human visitors from accessing a shortcut to the building. The work offers a suitable home, however, for many non-human species inhabiting the Biennale gardens – or at least, this is the proposal of the artists.

There are bird spikes attached to the beams under the pavilion’s eaves. The spikes are there to deter pigeons, unwanted guests. The built environment often draws species boundaries. Here, the exterior wall indicates the beginning of territory reserved for human activity.

The demarcation between the Nordic Pavilion and the Giardini[1] is both radical and virtually imperceptible. The rectangular building is distinct from the lush gardens, yet it opens directly onto the Giardini via its wall-high sliding doors. The spikes are installed to drive away birds, but it is otherwise difficult to prevent non-humans from entering the open space. Furthermore, wind, heat and humidity flow freely through every pore of the pavilion, undeterred by the spiked obstacles and built barriers. There is, moreover, no mechanical air-conditioning sealing off the building as an inward-looking, mechanised system.

In front of the pavilion, there is another work by nabbteeri, Compost, which consists of organic matter routinely removed from the exhibition premises and its grounds. The vegetation generates a steady stream of garden waste. By means of composting, this organic material is transformed into nutrient-rich humus, both as part of Compost and in the peripheral areas of the gardens behind the exhibition pavilions: thus, waste is only its temporary status. The Nordic Pavilion’s porous travertine tiles must be kept clear of rotting leaves, but the very same waste is transformed into life-sustaining fertile matter as part of nabbteeri’s works. How any given material is defined is contingent on the space or place it occupies, and attempts to designate separate spheres of human and non-human agency.

[1] Garden in Italian.

Featured image: European nettle trees that form part of the Nordic Pavilion in Venice
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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The roof of the Nordic Pavilion in Venice, 2018 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

The Moment of Reckoning: On Forgetting and Remembering the Air

Hanna Johansson, Professor, Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki

Also published in Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen (eds.), Weather Report: Forecasting Future. Ane Graff, Ingela Ihrman, nabbteeri. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 169/2019. Milan and Helsinki: Mousse Publishing and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Silja Kudel

The threat of global warming[1] has recently risen to the forefront of political, ecological, scientific, artistic, and humanistic discourse and action around the world. The debate revolves around two core issues: first, how are we to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to prevent temperatures from rising beyond the decisive 1.5 degrees defined as the ‘safe’ limit of climate change? The second issue, which ominously underlies the first, is an even deeper source of concern: is it even possible to sustain (human) life on this planet, particularly in the form that we enjoy today?

In order to nurture and safeguard life on Earth, we must identify modes of representation that allow the claim of life to be made and heard. This idea proposed by philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler links together media and survival. In short, what we recognise as valuable is contingent upon its claim of life being made perceptible as a thing of value, as something worthy of preservation.[2]

Climate and weather-related events, changes, and fluctuations have made their presence felt more tangibly in recent years. Humanity has woken up to the fact that global warming is among the greatest threats to its survival. Butler’s ideas about making visible the claim of life are difficult to apply to global warming, however. It is far easier, for example, to comprehend the value of a plant or animal under immediate threat of extinction. When a rare insect species that is normally invisible to the human eye is made perceptible, its claim of life becomes something we can readily grasp.[3] Where climate is concerned, however, the issue is more complicated. Not only is climate a more abstract entity than an insect, it is also omnipresent. Furthermore, its core material component, the atmosphere, is virtually invisible.

With this in mind, both art and other media, indeed all who work with any form of representation, have a special responsibility to make visible all those living beings and life-sustaining entities that are otherwise invisible to the human eye.

[1] In the spirit of Timothy Morton, I specifically use the term ‘warming’ to preclude the notion that the climate has always been subject to ‘change’. Morton even suggested that we should start calling global warming ‘mass extinction’, which is the net effect. Timothy Morton, Being Ecological. London: Penguin Books, 2018, 45.

[2] Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? London & Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2009, 181.

[3] See e.g. The Beetle, by Henrik Håkansson.

Featured image: The roof of the Nordic Pavilion in Venice, 2018
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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The environs of the Nordic Pavilion in Venice, showing Dead Hedge (centre), part of the installation Ethnographies of a homespun spinelessness cult and other neighbourly relations, 2019, by nabbteeri, at the Venice Biennale Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Abstractions – and How to be Here and There at the Same Time

Jussi Parikka, Professor, University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art

Also published in Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen (eds.), Weather Report: Forecasting Future. Ane Graff, Ingela Ihrman, nabbteeri. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 169/2019. Milan and Helsinki: Mousse Publishing and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Silja Kudel

Predictions and forecasts are good for multiple things. You can assume something might take place, you can prepare. You can give warnings, or gentle nudges. You can make money, or ensure someone loses money. Predictions can work in everyday life, and they certainly do work for the military; you can survey and you can pre-empt; you can convince and build an argument about things that do not even yet exist, except perhaps as forecasts.

Traditionally, forecasts had to be separated from prophecies. Prophecies were, after all, the foremost technique for telling the future, long before the advent of modern technologies that combined observation and statistical reasoning. Forecasts offered a tool for trying to understand the dynamic nature of such things as the weather.[1] Meteorology and climatology emerged as part of a systematic attempt to think across scales: these disciplines highlighted how local observation is informed by, and can in turn inform, global patterns.[2] Weather, early on, became technological, based on statistics and data, management and knowledge. And being technology-based, it was also enabled by and integrated into the latest network media of the 19th century, namely telegraphy.[3]

As far as telegraphy and weather go, synchronisation is a key underlying principle at play. But it is not just about synchronisation across a distance measured as space, like when a flock of birds draws patterns of movement in the sky, when trains connect on schedule, or when geographically separated observation towers are able to compare data. Predictions and forecasts synchronise as technologies of time. Synchronisation across time establishes a link that is insecure, yet necessary, not merely here or there, but connecting the two based on the assumption that there is a comparable unit of time, too. Predictions as synchronisation convince us that this, here and now, is somehow related to that, there – what might happen, perhaps, if the statistical probability sticks to its tentative promise. Aesthetics and time go together nicely. At best, they gel, produce, synchronise, cut across a multiple of existing registers, enforce decay and produce qualitative leaps. An invented new threshold of time is like a form of seeing, a fresh form of experiencing, a way of stepping outside one’s own body. Both, also, are speculative.

[1] Katherine Anderson, Predicting the Weather. Victorians and the Science of Meteorology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

[2] On early phases of scalar thinking and climatology, see Deborah R. Coen, Climate in Motion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

[3] John Durham Peters, The Marvelous Clouds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015, 251.

Featured image: The environs of the Nordic Pavilion in Venice, showing Dead Hedge (centre), part of the installation Ethnographies of a homespun spinelessness cult and other neighbourly relations, 2019, by nabbteeri, at the Venice Biennale
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Fanny Churberg, Winter Landscape, Sunset, c. 1878, oil on canvas, 26,00cm x 40,50cm Gift from Arvid Sourander. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Examining the Acquisitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland 1939–46: A Case Study of Arvid Sourander’s Donations

Eljas Suvanto, MA student, University of Helsinki

Introduction

During the first few years of the Second World War, the art collector Arvid Sourander[1], who was also a lawyer, made two major sets of donations to the collections of the Ateneum, which was a museum governed by the newly established Fine Arts Academy of Finland.[2] He had already gifted three works in the 1920s but the first major donation occurred in 1940, when Sourander donated 35 works by the Finnish artist Fanny Churberg (1845–1892); the second major gift took place in 1941, when he donated a selection of 23 works, mostly by Finnish artists from the turn of the 20th century. Then, almost a year after Sourander’s death in 1946, his widow Aina Sourander donated two artist self-portraits to her late husband’s collection, bringing the total number of works he gifted to the Academy to 63.[3]

The aim of this article is to dive deeper into the ideas behind the acquisitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland during the Second World War, and to understand the formation of the collection through correlations and variations between purchases and donations. The aim is also to focus on the factor of a specific private donor, who has not yet been the subject of academic research and is mainly discussed in the memoirs written by his brother and daughter.[4]

[1] Arvid Sourander (2 January 1873–1 July 1945) was born in Vaasa but in 1887 moved to Helsinki, where he later made his career as a lawyer. Sourander’s art collection was considerable, containing over 300 works. See Ingwald Sourander, Arvid Sourander: Minnesteckning av Ingwald Sourander och Eva Horelli (S.l., 1947); Joensuu, ‘Lakimies kerää aarteita’, Suomen Kuvalehti 21/1938: 808. Times of birth and death, Uusi Suomi, 3 July 1945.

[2] The museum was sometimes referred to as the collections of the Ateneum and vice versa. The Fine Arts Academy of Finland is one of the predecessors of the current Finnish National Gallery, and the museum is nowadays called the Ateneum Art Museum.

[3] Sourander donated two paintings by Fanny Churberg in 1919, and one byKarl Emanuel Jansson in 1921 to the museum. The collection is called ‘Gift of Arvid Sourander’, ‘Arvid Souranderin lahja’ in Finnish, ’Arvid Souranders gåva’ in Swedish. The collection was exhibited at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in 1990, where 42 out of 63 works were shown. Exhibition ‘Arvid Souranderin lahja.’ Sinebrychoffin Taidemuseo 8–25 February 1990 ([Helsinki,1990]).

[4] See Sourander, Arvid Sourander; Camilla Hjelm, Modernismens förespråkare: Gösta Stenman och hans konstsalong (Helsingfors: Statens konstmuseum / Centralarkivet för bildkonst, 2009), 113, 170; Max Fritze, ‘Unstill Life – Mikko Carlstedt’s Correspondence and Art, 1911–21’, FNG Research no. 1 (2018): 20, https://fngresearch.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/fngr_2018-1_fritze_max_article1.pdf (accessed 2 May 2019).

Featured image: Fanny Churberg, Winter Landscape, Sunset, c. 1878, oil on canvas, 26cm x 40,50cm
Gift of Arvid Sourander. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1946, oil on cardboard, 77cm x 68cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Rooted in New Research

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

The new Director of the Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, Marja Sakari, discusses the importance of research in taking the museum forward both as an international player and at home

When Marja Sakari heard she had been selected to be Director of the Ateneum Art Museum, last Autumn, her response was unequivocal: ‘It’s great to be appointed as the Museum Director of Finland’s most well-known museum. I will follow the road paved by my predecessors, with a firm confidence in the experts at the Ateneum.’ The Ateneum is one of the three museums that together constitute the Finnish National Gallery, which is responsible for expanding and maintaining the largest art museum collection in Finland, owned by the state of Finland. The other two are the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

In an age where globalisation is speeding up the trajectories of change exponentially, it is heartening to hear a major player in the international art museum field place her trust in the considerable benefits that have already been built up through dedicated practice and patiently won skills developed at the museum now entrusted to her care. In her opening post for her blog on the Ateneum website, she wrote: ‘I recently came across a quote by Hundertwasser when I was visiting the Kunst Haus Wien Museum: “If we do not respect our past, we will lose our future; if we destroy our roots, we cannot grow.” This idea also supports my own perception of the importance of the Ateneum’s art.’

Sakari’s own long career has seen her develop and deepen her skills, planting seeds both at home and internationally. These include major roles across both academia and the museum world, ranging from lecturer and acting Professor of Art History at the University of Helsinki, to becoming Director of the Finnish Institute in Paris, and Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, where she presided over innovative projects that placed the museum at the forefront of presenting and collecting online and digital art. Now she has returned to the Ateneum  building, where she started out in the 1990s working in the Central Art Archives as a researcher with a project on ephemeral art. This research formed the basis for her PhD thesis on conceptual art in Finland from the 1970s until the postmodern 1990s, with reference to international conceptual art.

Featured image: Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1946, oil on cardboard, 77cm x 68cm.
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

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František Kupka, Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colours 1912, oil on canvas, 211cm x 220cm. National Gallery in Prague

František Kupka: Sounding Abstraction – Musicality, Colour and Spiritualism

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

Also published in Anne-Maria Pennonen, Hanne Selkokari and Lene Wahlsten (eds.), František Kupka. Ateneum Publications Vol. 114. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2019, 11–25. Transl. Tomi Snellman

The art of František Kupka (1871–1957) has intrigued artists, art historians and exhibition visitors for many decades. Although nowadays Kupka’s name is less well known outside artistic circles, in his day he was one of the artists at the forefront in creating abstract paintings on the basis of colour theory and freeing colours from descriptive associations. Today his energetic paintings are still as enigmatic and exciting as they were in 1912, when his completely non-figurative canvases, including Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colours and Amorpha, Warm Chromatics, created a scandal when they were shown in the Salon d’Automne in Paris. It marked a turning point in many ways, not least in the decision of the Gaumont Film Company to use Kupka’s abstract works for the news in cinemas in France, Germany, the United States and England.[1] And as we will see, Kupka’s far-reaching shift to abstraction was a long process which grew partly out of his childhood interest in spiritualism and partly from Symbolist and occultist ideas to crystallise into the concept of an art which could be seen, felt and understood on a more multisensory basis. Kupka’s art reflects the idea of musicality in art, colour and spiritualism. The transition period in which these ideas influenced his art, from 1907 to 1912, reveals a process which led to Kupka’s contribution as a member of the important group of artists who followed a spiritual path to produce non-figurative, abstract art.

[1] Markéta Theinhardt and Pierre Brullé 2012, ‘František Kupka’s Salons.’ In Helena Musilová (ed.), František Kupka: The Road to Amorpha. Kupkas Salons 18991913. Prague: National Gallery Prague, 41–43, 115.

Featured image: František Kupka, Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colours 1912, oil on canvas, 211cm x 220cm. National Gallery in Prague

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Alma Heikkilä, 2019

One Among Many. Alma Heikkilä’s Work for the Kiasma Commission by Kordelin

Satu Oksanen, MA, Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

This is an edited version of Satu Oksanen’s article, ‘One Among Many’, in Satu Oksanen (ed.), Kiasma Commission by Kordelin: Alma Heikkilä. Nykytaiteen museon julkaisuja / A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 165/2019. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma 2019 (published April 2019). Transl. Silja Kudel

Through painting, Alma Heikkilä (born 1984) strives to reach out to organisms that are undetectable by the human senses due to their microscopic size, or some other kind of inaccessibility – microbes, spores, algae, the interior debris of dead trees, or colonies of lichen growing inside a rock. Heikkilä alerts our senses to the tiniest, most invisible array of life forms that can usually be perceived only with the aid of devices like microscopes. In her paintings Heikkilä enlarges these organisms and their worlds to such an extreme, that they diminish the human viewer with their vast scale.

The surfaces and motifs of paintings provide habitats – bodies – for various life forms: sea, decaying wood, intestines and forest ecosystems. In turn they inhabit the space of the museum.

Heikkilä collaborates with various co-beings – scholars, artists, organisms and materials. She reflects on multi-species’ coexistence by fusing scientific knowledge with personal experience. Her approach is rhizome-like, pulling together multiform modes of thought, producing knowledge through dialogue, and allowing materials to interact spontaneously with each other, with ongoing back-and-forth movement between these domains.

Featured image: Alma Heikkilä, installation view of the exhibition‘ , ’ /~` mediums,.’_ ” bodies,.’_ ” ° ∞  logs,∞ ‘ , ‘ /~` ‘ holes, .’ `-. ` .’ — °habitats / /`   ‘ * ‘-‘ . ’ , ’ /~`want to feel (,) you inside \| * . . * * \| * . . *./. .-. ~ .’ ‘ , ‘ /~` ❅ ☼ ~
Kiasma Commission by Kordelin, Kiasma’s Studio K Gallery, on view from 15 March – 27 July 2019. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

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Alma Heikkilä: the Kiasma Commission by Kordelin, is open 15 March – 27 July 2019, at Kiasma’s Studio K Gallery, Helsinki