Sari Palosaari, Time is out of Joint 1, 2018: By your Side, stone and double seat, and Atmospheric #1, railing, pole, light, poly bag, light and colour sensor; stone, soundless cracking agent Finnish National Gallery / Finnish State Art Deposit Collection Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Time out of Joint – Temporality and the Anthropocene in Contemporary Art

Saara Hacklin, PhD, Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Also published in Saara Hacklin and Satu Oksanen (eds.), Yhteiseloa / Coexistence. Human, Animal and Nature in Kiasma’s Collections. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 166/2019. Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Silja Kudel

A large rock rests upon one of two blue seats. Another waits on the floor. When the viewer enters the room, they might observe a crack in the first rock – or not. A flickering light bulb wrapped in a plastic bag is attached to a metal railing above. Time is out of Joint 1 (2018), by Sari Palosaari (b. 1974), emulates the atmosphere of an anonymous waiting room, possibly in a hospital or railway station. The static environment belies a hidden tension. Inside the rock is a silent cracking agent that does its work with simple efficacy: a hole is drilled, the cavity is filled, and the agent slowly expands, eventually splitting open the rock.

This article looks at issues of temporality raised by works in the ‘Coexistence’ exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki – exploring perspectives on the past, present and future, and also ideas about decelerated and accelerated time. The notion of accelerated time is associated with a modernist faith in progress, yet also, to a growing degree, with a rising concern about climate change and discourse on the Anthropocene that raises salient questions about the future and the role that humans will play in it.

Featured image: Sari Palosaari, Time is out of Joint 1, 2018, Finnish National Gallery / Finnish State Art Deposit Collection
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Terike Haapoja, Yhteisö – Community, 2007, five-channel video installation, duration 180min Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

From Speciesism to a Possibility of Coexistence

Sanna Karhu, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, Gender Studies, Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki

Also published in Saara Hacklin and Satu Oksanen (eds.), Yhteiseloa / Coexistence. Human, Animal and Nature in Kiasma’s Collections. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 166/2019. Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Soili Petäjäniemi-Brown

Animals and the politics of violence

The relationship of humans to other animal species is contradictory. We think of ourselves as animal-loving and our lives abound with different animal images, whether in clothing, the emojis in text messages or in the everyday entertainment offered to us by cute cat videos. On the other hand, our entire postindustrial way of life is founded on widespread killing of animals: the greatest part of animals living in our society ends up on our plates.

The ‘Coexistence’ collection exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma nudges us to revisit how we perceive our relationship with other species. The exhibition calls into question the place habitually accorded to human beings as above nature and other animals and as their sovereign. In this article I approach the relationship of humans with animals from the perspective of speciesism. I discuss speciesism in the light of climate change but also as a problem of violence. I engage in particular with the relation of factory farming of animals to the history of capitalism and the ensuing need to question naturalised notions of the status of animals in our communities. The questions brought up here concerning communality and coexistence intertwine with my aim of outlining the conditions of a new kind of relationship with animals.

Featured image: Terike Haapoja, Yhteisö – Community, 2007, five-channel video installation, duration 180min. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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paintings, book, plants) on the terrace of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Museum-as-Compost – Matter, Rhythms, and the Nonhuman

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

Also published in Saara Hacklin and Satu Oksanen (eds.), Yhteiseloa / Coexistence. Human, Animal and Nature in Kiasma’s Collections. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 166/2019. Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Silja Kudel

The reconciliation of divergent rhythms – that of a museum and non-human life – is a key issue raised by the display of Immigrant Garden[1], an installation by Kalle Hamm (b. 1969) and Dzamil Kamanger (b. 1948). The work comprises living plants that are governed by the rhythm of nature and conditions determined by the weather and climate. The work unfolds on the museum’s balcony at its own unhurried pace.

The living component in the installation challenges established conventions of displaying art in a museum. With rare exceptions, exhibition dates and museum schedules are carefully planned and locked in. Visiting hours are inflexible, and guided tours adhere to an agreed schedule. The museum is a hermetic space with its own self-regulated rhythm. The presence of plants, however, injects an element of autonomous will. When more-than-humans are brought into the mix, the exhibition of artworks is no longer solely dependent on artists, curators, conservators or technicians.

Posthuman theory renounces established hierarchies in favour of the egalitarian coexistence of all beings. Entrenched anthropocentric notions and habitual patterns of thought have been challenged by feminist theory, but also by postcolonial theorists and environmental activists. Little by little, the idea that plants and other non-human agencies exist solely for the purpose of sustaining human life has correspondingly been deconstructed. The philosopher and feminist theorist Rosi Braidotti argues that all species originate from ‘nature’ and are hence equal: humans are part of the material world just like non-humans. Braidotti uses the term zoe to define the vitality and energy that flows through all matter. Zoe is distinct from bios, which represents an anthropocentric viewpoint on life. Zoe thus offers a conceptual tool for subverting anthropocentrism and embracing interspecies equality.[2]

[1] Immigrant Garden, by Kalle Hamm and Dzamil Kamanger, also includes 26 watercolour paintings of plants, a map, written texts and sound recordings of illustrated botanical samples. The plants in question are commonly assumed to be native Finnish species, but they all originate from different parts of the globe. This article focuses on the organic component of the installation and its relationship with the museum.

[2] Rosi Braidotti, ‘Four Theses on Posthuman Feminism’, in Richard Grusin (ed.), Anthropocene Feminism. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2017, 21–35.

Featured image: Kalle Hamm and Dzamil Kamanger, detail from Immigrant Garden, 2006-18, shown on the terrace of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, plants (the complete art work includes paintings, book, plants). Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Paavo Halonen, Shaman Drag, 2014, mixed media: sleigh, antlers, textile shreds, swan herald, 260cm x 80cm x 6cm Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Shamans, Star Charts, and Ecological Lore: Towards Nature-centric Thinking

Kati Kivinen, PhD, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Also published in Saara Hacklin and Satu Oksanen (eds.), Yhteiseloa / Coexistence. Human, Animal and Nature in Kiasma’s Collections. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 166/2019. Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019. Transl. Silja Kudel

A figure wearing a white garment threaded with colourful beads and mystical embroidery slowly treads a fern-lined path. The figure carries a small creature that looks half-human, half-animal – somewhat wolf-like. It lies motionless in the figure’s arms, its flesh pink and raw, as if it had been skinned. The surrounding primeval forest is silent. When I Go Out I Bleed Magic (2015) is a video by Norwegian artist Ingrid Torvund (b. 1985) fusing sci-fi and fictive mythology. The artist’s imagined world is interwoven with elements of pre-Christian religious ritual and the folkloric practices of western Telemark, the location of the film. Torvund is interested in how local pagan traditions have, over the centuries, become intermixed with Christian heritage in the region where her parents grew up.[1]

This 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 spurred newfound global interest in local heritage, age-old traditions, and alternative belief systems. For instance in northern Europe, established notions about nationalism and the supposed hegemony of mainstream culture are being challenged through the inclusion of local folkloric elements in music, visual art, literature and handicrafts. Many practitioners are also taking a special interest in indigenous peoples and cultures.[2] Current discourse additionally emphasises human dependence on the wellbeing of nature, prompted by a rising concern about the threat of climate change.

[1] Torvund has said that one of her main sources of inspiration is an ancient book of spells and enchantments, Norske Hexeformularer og magiske opskrifter. Edward Picot, ‘Blood and Magic: An Interview with Ingrid Torvund,’ Furtherfield, 2015. http://archive.furtherfield.org/features/interviews/blood-and-magic-interview-ingrid-torvund (accessed 27 November 2018).

[2] A good example is ethnofuturism, an aesthetic and philosophical movement that celebrates the unique character of a marginal cultural or language group, enriching its archaic folklore – such as ancient legends and incantations – with elements of world culture and experimental art and technology. Ethnofuturism is principally found in the Baltic countries and Russia, particularly among Uralic groups. The movement has its roots in Estonia. Ville Ropponen, ‘Tulevaisuus on merkitty marginaaliin’, Kulttuurivihkot, 31. vk, nro. 2–3/2003, 48–51. There is also newfound interest in the cultural heritage of the Sámi, the only indigenous group surviving in the European Union. The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) honoured the 100th Sámi Jubilee and dedicated its 2017 programme to ‘A year of Indigenous art and thought’ (Tråante 2017). Also the Lithuanian Nida Art Colony’s Inter-PAGAN research network for Baltic and Nordic cultural organisations dedicated its summer symposium ‘Inter-Format Symposium on Rites and Terrabytes’ (20–24 June 2018) to discussing how artists examine and harness local cultural heritage, traditions and belief systems in their art.

Featured image: Paavo Halonen, Shaman Drag, 2014, mixed media: sleigh, antlers, textile shreds, swan herald, 260cm x 80cm x 6cm
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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‘Coexistence. Human, Animal and Nature in Kiasma’s Collections‘ is open until 1 March 2020, with an expanded display opening from 23 August 2019

Outi Pieski, Our Land, Our Running Colours, 2015, Sámi shawl thread, wood, 300 x 300 x 170cm. Detail. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen§

Hand-Knotted Landscape – Reflections on Outi Pieski’s ‘Our Land, Our Running Colours’

Emma Lilja, MA student, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery

Introduction

One day I overheard a discussion that some teenage boys were having about an artwork exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. One of the boys said: ‘No fell is pink. They are white in winter, and brownish-green in summer.’

The work at stake here was Outi Pieski’s Our Land, Our Running Colours. It is an installation from 2015. In 2017, it was acquired for the Kiasma’s collections from the ‘Greetings from SUOMI’ summer exhibition by ONOMA, the Cooperative of Artisans, Designers and Artists in Fiskars, Finland.[1] A little later, in the spring of 2019, this work was installed as part of the exhibition ‘Coexistence. Human, Animal and Nature in Kiasma’s Collections’[2].

The materials used in the installation include wood and thread – more specifically stripped rowan twigs and polyester fringe thread that is used in making the shawls of traditional Sámi dress. The fringes have been tied to rowan branches hanging from the ceiling. The work occupies about 3m x 3m x 1.7m and can be approached from all sides. The colour scheme of the threads is very rich: from basic colours such as red and yellow, to burgundy, pink, light blue and bright green.

Outi Pieski (b. 1973) is a Helsinki-born visual artist of Sámi origin, who divides her time between Numminen in Southern Finland and Utsjoki in the far north of Lapland. She graduated from the Painting Department of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. Pieski works mainly with painting, collage and installation. In recent years, she has also participated in various (environmental) community art projects.[3] Her works have been featured in various private and group exhibitions both in Finland and abroad.[4] She is also represented in several public and private collections. Our Land, Our Running Colours is the artist’s first work to be acquired for the Finnish National Gallery / Kiasma’s collections.

[1] To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Finnish Independence, the exhibition (curated by artists Minna Suoniemi and Petri Ala-Maunus) focused on multicultural Finland and the Finnishness of our time. See ‘Greetings from SUOMI’, 2017.

[2] The exhibition will be open at Kiasma until 1 March 2020.

[3] See for example Rájácummá / Kiss from the Border (2017–2018) by Niillas Holmberg, Jenni Laiti & Outi Pieski.

[4] Pieski is also one of the founder members of the Miracle Workers Collective which hosts the Pavilion of Finland at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019.

Featured image: Outi Pieski, detail from Our Land, Our Running Colours, 2015, Sámi shawl thread, wood, 300cm x 300cm x 170cm. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Ellen Thesleff, Self-Portrait, 1894–95, pencil and sepia ink on paper, 31.50cm x 23.50cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Hidden Influences

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

The esoteric interests of Finland’s fin-de-siècle artists have been brought out of the darkness by two ­researchers, as Gill Crabbe discovered at a recent conference at the University of Turku

The Finnish painter Pekka Halonen stares intensely out from the canvas in his Self-Portrait of 1906, his face glowing with light; in sketches for the Jusélius Mausoleum near Pori, built by his friend the industrialist F.A. Jusélius to lay his young daughter to rest, Akseli Gallen-Kallela designs frescoes featuring vibrational waves in vivid orange and blue; Hugo Simberg paints a child enchanted by strange forms emerging from the darkness in Boy from Säkkijärvi (1897); Ellen Thesleff materialises herself from a deep sepia chiaroscuro resembling the spirit photography of her day. All highly regarded, even revered, artists from Finland’s Golden Age, all interested in esoteric influences that were part of a wider fascination in fashionable fin-de-siècle society across Europe.

Art-historical research has sometimes had an uneasy relationship with the theme of occultism in art. Esoteric influences on many artists in the art-historical canon have remained largely at the margins of academic research, or at worst ridiculed as flights of fancy. Now, however, with recent successful exhibitions such as that of the Swedish artist and medium Hilma af Klimt (1862–1944) at the Guggenheim Museum New York – the museum’s most popular exhibition to date – and with the current resurgence in interest in esoteric subjects by contemporary artists, as seen in some of the works in the Kiasma exhibition ‘Coexistence’ (until 1 March 2020), the presence of occulture in artistic output is something that researchers are starting to take more seriously.

Featured image: Ellen Thesleff, Self-Portrait, 1894–95, pencil and sepia ink on paper, 31.5cm x 23.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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Ane Graff, Ingela Ihrman, States of Inflammation, 2019. A Great Seaweed Day, 2018–2019 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial: Weather Report – Voicing a Call for Nordic Responsibility

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

24 May 2019

 

Last year, when Kiasma and the Finnish National Gallery took responsibility for co-ordinating the Nordic Pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennale, we decided to focus on the main global concern of our times. The Nordic Pavilion’s exhibition, Weather Report: Forecasting Future, is themed around the complex and varied relations between the human and non-human in an age when climate change and mass extinction are threatening the future of life on Earth.

From this year on, the Nordic Pavilion’s exhibition will be co-commissioned by a Nordic Committee representing the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / Finnish National Gallery, Moderna Museet, Stockholm and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway. Together, these three institutions will select the curator and review the proposed themes and artists, and we will jointly provide institutional support for efforts to raise the profile of Nordic contemporary art.

The multiple components of climate change are anticipated to affect all levels of biodiversity. Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on our natural environment.

It is often difficult for we humans to notice life forms that exist on a scale different from our own. When imagining the future, we face the responsibility of acknowledging multispecies entanglements.

According to a recent report in Finland, 12 per cent of all species are under serious threat of extinction. As Ane Graff, the Nordic Pavilion’s Norwegian artist, reminded me the other day: ‘Our human guts are the interface to our environment: the extinction of bacteria in our guts reflects directly the extinction of other species in nature.’ Biodiversity affects our food, medicine, and environmental well-being.

At its most interesting, contemporary art engages in public discourse through questions, proposals and provocations put forward by individual artists and, to a growing degree, also cross-disciplinary projects. Art enriches our vision of the future by casting light on its many dimensions and opportunities.[i] While voicing a call for responsibility, future-sketching is often a collective process that brings people together. The Nordic Pavilion provides a forum for reflection on the future in various formats: in our curatorial notes, in the selected exhibits, and in a series of scholarly discussions.

Along with Ane Graff, the other artists invited to exhibit in the Nordic Pavilion this year are Ingela Ihrman from Sweden, and nabbteeri, an artist collective from Finland. They all work across a wide range of media, including sculpture, digital media and text. Their practice is interdisciplinary and often produced collaboratively or in dialogue with experts from specific fields.

The work of artist duo Janne Nabb and Maria Teeri is context-specific, engaging in close interaction with the venue and its immediate location, materials, and multispecies neighbours. Their new intervention, Ethnographies of a homespun spinelessness cult and other neighbourly relations, consists of three parts: a 3D-animation and plant installation, Gingerbread House, displayed in an enclosure of sandbags; Compost, a compost heap growing herbs and vegetables outside the pavilion in a container made of discarded mooring dolphins partly digested by naval shipworms; and Dead Head, a wire sphere, also outside the pavilion, that contains twigs collected from the immediate environs. Together, they constitute an endeavour to create a self-maintaining, life-producing ecosystem in front of the pavilion.

Ane Graff employs a wide-ranging multidisciplinary approach incorporating perspectives ranging from feminist new materialism to microbiology and chemistry. In her Cabinets of Inflammation, Graff focuses on the environmental toxins in our daily environment and their destructive effect on vital microbes in our bodies. Graff’s works make connections between climate change, Western societies driven by economic growth, the extinction of immune-modulating intestinal microbes and the spread of inflammatory diseases. The three beautiful glass vitrines and objects on display refer to the human body and its current inflammatory state, emitting signals from the past and hinting at possible future scenarios.

Ingela Ihrman comments on the environmental wave of the 1970s, while also drawing from queer theory and ethnobiology. In the exhibition Ihrman highlights colourful species of algae in her multipart installation A Great Seaweed Day, which reflects on the direct, near-bodily connection between humans and other species. Ihrman’s algae installation tells a story of the liquid origins of human bodies and the existing connections between diverse lifeforms. Silent, large-scale seaweed sculptures invite the exhibition visitors to partake in a bodily experience. I believe that a growing interest in the energy stored in seaweed also yields a promise of a viable renewable alternative for our future post-fossil age.

In this edition of FNG Research we republish three newly commissioned catalogue essays from the Weather Report. Forecasting Future exhibition catalogue. In her contribution ‘Being and thinking with(in) the pavilion space’, co-curator of the exhibition Piia Oksanen writes about how ‘the exhibition is a temporary guest that must adapt to the space’ with its three European nettle trees (Celtis australis) growing inside the pavilion. Hanna Johansson, Professor of Contemporary Art Research at the Academy of Fine Arts/University of the Arts Helsinki, writes a critical reappraisal of climate issues from the perspective of air and the atmosphere, within the context of art and philosophy. A new media theorist Jussi Parikka, Professor in Technological Culture & Aesthetics at the Winchester School of Art/ Southampton University, analyses the challenges of forecasting the future, both throughout history and in this age of climate crisis, in his essay ‘Abstractions – and how to be here and there at the same time’. The catalogue is co-published and distributed by Mousse Magazine and Publishing.

We are also delighted to publish a new article by our recent research intern Eljas Suvanto. In his article ‘Examining the acquisitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland 1939–46: a case study of Arvid Sourander’s donations’, Suvanto focuses on the ideas behind the acquisitions of the time of the Second World War. His motivation is to understand the formation of the collection during that time of crisis through correlations and variations between purchases and donations, especially from the perspective of a specific private donor, whose donated collection contains 63 works now in the Ateneum – a museum governed by the newly established Fine Arts Academy of Finland at that time.

[i] Renata Tyszczuk and Joe Smith, Culture and climate change scenarios: the role and potential of the arts and humanities in responding to the ‘1.5 degrees target’, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2018, volume 31, 56–64.

Featured image: Installation view of works by the artists at the Nordic Pavilion exhibition, Venice Biennale, 2019
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen