Cultural and political geography is a major point of reference for the Finns, who are deeply conscious of their intermediate position between two realms, the East and the West. It has been said that Finland is at once the easternmost country in the Western Europe and the westernmost country in the Eastern Europe.

In Finland's political history,  after the long Swedish rule, Finland became in 1809 a Grand Duchy of Russsian Empire for just over a century, yet retaining its Swedish laws and Swedish-language administration. After the second World War, Finland managed to remain independent, outside the Soviet empire. However, the influence of the neighbouring eastern superpower was strongly felt in Finnish political reality throughout the Cold War.

Through this historical background the artists are building dialogue between past and present. They are delving into references that strongly resonate also in our current time: the northern location and general environmental boundary conditions, the small population size as well as the concept of origin – all major denominators that effect conditions of constructing ’locality’ in a specific cultural context. These perspectives, however, can neither be mutually consonant nor all-encompassing.  Sometimes the artists are mixing fact and fiction in their works, sometimes there is a very strong dimension of improvisation and intuition in the works.  Each of the artists have their own specific sense of humor – even in their works depicting the mentally shared feelings of deep loss and sorrow.

A screening program of video works includes works by Adel Abidin, Veli Granö, Marja Helander, Laura Horelli, Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, Jaana Kokko, Raakel Kuukka, Hanna Ojamo, Pilvi Takala, and Roi Vaara.

Video screenings

Friday, 16th of February, 7 pm

A compilation of short films:

Adel Abidin. Love Song, 2006, 2’33”

By using humor and irony to articulate cultural alienation and the marginalization that he has felt, Adel Abidin’s video works, photographs and installations encapsulate topics that arise from his personal experiences and memories, reflecting them on a general level through sharp-sighted irony and sarcasm.

Love Song reflcts the feelings, when Abidin came to Finland and tried to learn the Finnish language,which he found very challenging. Since the language sounded so rhythmic, he started to wonder whether singing would make it easier for him to pick it up.

Adel Abidin was born in Baghdad (1973) and currently lives in Helsinki and Amman, Jordan. He received a B.A. in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad (2000) and an M.F.A from the Academy of Fine Arts in Time and Space Art in Helsinki (2005). Since his representation of Finland at the Nordic Pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007), his work has been the subject of major solo and group exhibitions and biennials worldwide. He has been represented in galleries including: Hauser & Wirth Gallery, London, Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai, Anne De Villepoix Gallery, Paris and Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul.

Adel Abidin. Love Song, 2006, 2’33”

Marja Helander. Trambo, 2013, 4’00”

Marja Helander, often through her own identity, handles in her works the tensions between Western and indigenous Sámi culture. Traditionally Sámi people have lived by reindeer-breeding, hunting and fishing in the northern parts of Scandinavia and Russia. Helander's father is a Sámi, but she was brought up in the South of Finland, far away from the Sámi culture and tradition. In Trambo the theme is the contradiction between urbanity and an indigenous identity. It is a sort of tragicomic self-portrait of the artist, an indigenous Sámi person wandering on a mountain: "I am dragging a big trampoline, a burden I hope will bring a bit of joy to the monotonous journey and life. The trampoline is a reference to the modern age, but can also be seen as a prison or a wall that is hard to see through."

Marja Helander (born 1965) lives in Helsinki. She graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 1999. After originally training as a painter she pursued her interest in photography and video art. She has widely presented works in solo and group exhibitions both in Finland and abroad.

Raakel Kuukka. Drummer, 2003, 08’28”

Raakel Kuukka’s works often focus on her family history and close community as well as questions of intercultural encounters in the globalised world.

For Drummer – The Spirit of Life the artist got the idea when spending a weekend in a motel in summer 2002. She saw her 60 years old sister Regina playing drums after a karaoke night. As she sat within a meter from her in a cramped motel room, she saw emotions flying across Regina's face. It inspired the artist to make a speechless and slow-tempo living portrait, reflecting feelings and thoughts. The only sign of the setting is the rug under the drum set. On the soundtrack we hear a Russian polka being played with the drums and an accordion. It is a catchy tune easy to vary, and it seems to express the zeal and joy of life. Because the sound loop is never ending, it also has an undertone of nightmarish compulsion.

Raakel Kuukka (born 1955) lives in Helsinki. She graduated as a Master of Photography in the University of Art and Design in Helsinki in 1988. In addition to her artistic activities, she has worked as a teacher, curator and in several positions of trust. Her works have been exhibited widely in solo and group shows and biennials in Finland and abroad. She received the State Prize for Photography in 2013. 

Raakel Kuukka. Drummer, 2003, 08’28”

Hanna Ojamo. Wintergames, 2006, video, 2’35” (English subtitles)

Hanna Ojamo's video and film based media art deals with topics such as history, politics, public space and and the way these affect the individual and the collective memory are crucial to her work.

Her video Wintergames combines in its montage old black and white sports and war documentaries, drawing parallels especially between their underlying nationalistic messages. The footage from the original archive material from the Finnish Film Archive is taken from two events of the history of the Finnish Republic which helped assert its existence, the Second World War 1939-45 and the Olympic games in Helsinki in 1952.

Hanna Ojamo (born 1978) is a media artist and director. She holds MFA degree from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts (2003) and a Master of Music in Arts Management from Sibelius Academy (2013). In 2002–03 Ojamo studied film and interdisciplinary arts at Städelschule in Frankfurt. She has shown her works in solo and group exhibitions as well as screenings both in Finland and abroad.

Hanna Ojamo. Wintergames, 2006, video, 2’35” (English subtitles)

Pilvi Takala. The Announcer, 2007, 5’50” (English subtitles); The Angels,  2008, 2’15”

Pilvi Takala is known for her video works that investigate different social situations and human behaviour. These narrative works are based on site-specific performances and interventions which in a subtle way reveal and question the social norms and rules that guide our actions.

In The Announcer an elderly woman pushes the limits of customer service at an up-market department store by continuously requesting announcements for interesting-looking men. In order to try and establish a connection with handsome strangers, the woman convinces a reluctant customer service employee to go beyond her job description.

The Angels is based on a performance set in a department store. ‘An angel’ dressed in a staff outfit takes care of people’s sense of security in a suspicious way.

Pilvi Takala (born 1981) lives and works in Istanbul and Amsterdam. She graduated with MFA degree from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 and also studied in Glasgow School of Arts. Takala’s works have been widely seen in international contexts. Takala won the British Emdash Award in 2013.

Pilvi Takala. The Announcer, 2007, 5’50” (English subtitles)
Pilvi Takala. The Angels, 2008, 2’15”

Roi Vaara. Artist's Dilemma, 1997, 3’36”

Roi Vaara's critical point of view is to challenge the way we are looking at things. Vaara’s performances and interventions and their video documentations often deal with social and ecological themes.

Artist's Dilemma is a performance made to be filmed with a 16mm film camera in one take. It took place on the frozen sea about 50 kilometres east of Helsinki in 1997, in temperatures of minus 30 degrees Centigrade. The chilling beauty of the landscape is undercut by the absurd figure of the indecisive artist in a tuxedo trying to decide which road to take — art to the left or life to the right.

Roi Vaara was born in 1953 in Moss, Norway of Finnish parents, brought up in Finland and currently living in Helsinki and Budapest. He studied at the University of Arts and Design in Helsinki during 1972–75 and at Jyväskylä University 1976–77. Since 1982 he has performed over 300 performances and his works have been presented in exhibitions in over 30 countries, currently being one of the most internationally recognized performance artists in Scandinavia. Vaara was awarded with Ars Fennica Award in 2005 and with Pro Finlandia honorary medal in 2010. Vaara is a member of the famous performance group Black Market International since 1988. He has acted as curator in art festivals as well as  lectured and held workshops in art colleges, universities and academies since 1989.

Roi Vaara. Artist’s Dilemma, 1997, 3’36”

Saturday 17th of February, 5 p.m.

Jaana Kokko. Haven, 2015, 29’32”

Jaana Kokko's artistic practice is fuelled by Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on political space. She is interested not only in the exploration of the expressive and historical aspects of art, but also in the understanding of the political act of making and displaying it publicly.

Kokko's experimental documentary Haven was filmed in Tallinn, Estonia in 2013–2015. It draws on the simplicity of everyday life and the politics of a woman’s body and her work in a present-day post-socialist, neoliberal society. Women featuring in the film play several roles, as they do in reality. The film shows portraits of each of the film’s protagonists in relation to their line of work or their family life. The questions for the women were purposely made to resemble those rather normal questions about everyday life in order to find out if the ideal of a woman was different during the socialism compared to contemporary times.

The film begins with black and white photographs that the artist took in 1999 in the fishing harbour of Tallinn, capturing a woman’s dream to build her own house out of bricks from the ruins of Soviet factories. (She found out only later that director Andrei Tarkovsky had filmed the opening scenes of his film Stalker in the same place in 1979).

Jaana Kokko (born 1972) is living in Espoo, Finland. She graduated as a Master of Arts in 2002 and is currently a Ph. D. Student at Art Department at Aalto University, University of Art, Design and Architecture in Helsinki. Her works have been seen extensively in international festivals and screenings, as well as in solo and group exhibitions in Finland and abroad.

Jaana Kokko. Haven, 2015, 29’32”

Veli Granö. Prophet, 2011, video, 23’00” (English subtitles)

The subject of The Prophet is poet-augur Markku Mäkinen whose life was changed by a lighting, when he was a child. A fireball burst from the radio and hurled out of the window. In the brightness of the lightning, the invisible creatures in the room were revealed to him. Mäkinen says that the world was opened to him and he started to see things others could not. Since then the child played only with elves and fairies. As a youth, he escaped the narrow-minded world into a small wilderness cabin and lived in seclusion for years. Mäkinen’s relationship with nature is still atypically intensive. When the film was shot, he left to the wilderness, wishing to submerge in the northern forests that have sense of neither time nor place. The film makes a comparison between Markku Mäkinen’s struggle to keep his own view and the fate of Finnish painter Oscar Parviainen (1880–1938).

Veli Granö is known for subjects who are often real people: They share the need to create their own, alternative worlds and an interest in unknown realities. Changing one’s course of life in socially closely controlled small communities has meant standing out from others, or even exclusion.

Veli Granö (born 1960) is a photographer, filmmaker and visual artist, who has studied at Lahti Institute of Design and Fine Arts in 1983–86. He has worked as a teacher at the Aalto University of Art and Design as well as the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, where he has also worked as a professor in Time and Space Arts in 2011 and 2014. His works have been exhibited widely in solo and group exhibition, biennales and festivals in Finland, Europe and USA since 1983.

Veli Granö. Prophet, 2011, video, 23’00” (English subtitles)

Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen. Dreamland, 2009–2011, 60’ (English subtitles)

Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen interact reciprocally with different groups and people in their community-based, participatory works.

For Dreamland, through a broad media campaign in spring 2009, they invited people in Finland to describe their dreams in which President of Finland, Tarja Halonen appeared. They received 87 dreams, out of which 21 were dramatized and filmed. The President was played by four professional female actors, all other roles were acted by volunteers, partly with the persons who had submitted their dreams.

In  the film, all staged dreams are shown in one sequence. Just like in dreams themselves, the viewer cannot be sure where one dream ends and where the next dream starts. The video also shows that single dreams don’t have fixed boundaries but are part of a collective flow in which a similar subject can be experineced in many different ways.

Tellervo Kalleinen (born 1975 in Lohja, Finland) graduated as MFA from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2003. She works with video, performance, intervention and events. Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen (born 1971 in Dresden, Eastern Germany) graduated from the Art Academy of Hamburg in 2000. He has also studied at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts MHI 1996–97 and the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts 1998–99. Beside their individual projects, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen have worked as an artist duo since 2003.

Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen have participated in exhibitions around the world, including Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria (2010), MoMA P.S.1 in New York (2008), Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2010) and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki (2014). Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen won the Ars Fennica Award in 2014.

Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen. Dreamland, 2009–2011, 60’ (English subtitles)