Birmingham –

Over 5 days I will be travelling across Finland to learn more about the Bioarts Society, a community of artists who produce and facilitate activities around art and the natural sciences. Based in Helsinki, and with over 80 members from all over the world, the Bioart society exemplifies Finland’s strong interdisciplinary spirit. Finland’s Universities have strong pedagogies around art and science collaboration, fostering many interdisciplinary connections between a plethora of practices. To better understand the benefits of these models I will be visiting internationally renowned bioartist Kira O’Reilly, who currently teaches a pilot course in Ecology and Performance at the Arts University Helsinki. Kira is also a board member of the Bioarts Society, which is directed by Erich Berger, a visual artist whose practice engages with hybrid spaces and ecologies. I recently had the opportunity to meet and work with Erich during a Bioart conference at Bioclub Tokyo, hosted by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre. I look forward to catching up with him, and learning more about what projects the Bioart Society are involved in, such as Ars Bioarctica Festival, the Field Notes Artist Residency at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station, and much more

I will spend the first two days in Helsinki, where I will meet with Kira and Erich, as well as exploring the city and visiting the Arts University of Helsinki and Bioart Society. From there I will take a domestic flight to Oulu, to visit the University of Oulu Biocentre, and the Oulu Museum of Art. Finally, I will travel north to Rovaniemi, to Arktikum Science Centre and Museum, and University of Lapland Galleries and Archive, before finally flying back to Helsinki. The aim of the research trip is to better understand how interdisciplinary practices can benefit people in education, work, and society; and secondly, to access archives in Universities and galleries for research relating to microorganisms for a new body of artwork being developed at Birmingham Open Media. Many thanks to a-n for making this research trip possible by offering this bursary. More details about this project and what I learn on my trip to follow.


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Helsinki –

On the morning of my first full day in Helsinki I visited the Temppeliaukio Church – walking distance from where I was stopping on Iso Roobertinkatu, Helsinki’s oldest pedestrian street and situated on the edge on the Design District. Temppeliaukio Church sits inside a circle of excavated rock, with the altar wall inside a split in the rock dating back to the Ice Age. Opened in 1969, the church has become an impressive attraction and fixture for not only weddings and sermons, but also performances and music due to the acoustic qualities on the rock walls. A natural underground stream runs beneath the church, and grated holes run along the edge of the polish concrete floor which allow the sound of trickling water to echo throughout the building. Suspended in the roof is a giant coiled tape of copper, which hangs almost ominously above the congregations seating. The rich and varied hues running throughout it gave a sonorous quality to the ambience of the room, yet I could not help feel all too aware of the shear weight of the disc right above my head. This feeling I think mirrored may of the design choices on the church, including the thin struts which held the ceiling up whilst allowing for the most light to enter in, and the gap which ran around the entire room separating the floor from the walls. These choices I believe subvert the idea that modern architecture remove humans from the dangers of the outside natural world. Temppeliaukio is an extension of that world, one we have survived it far longer than we have been living indoors, and where our bodies really feel more at home.

That afternoon I took the underground Metro from Kamppi, discovering more interesting ways in which design and nature collaborate in Finland through these artworks of city signposts presented as subterranean crystalline growths. Helsinki has only one Metro line, shaped like an upside down tuning fork, splitting at the last few stations. I headed for Hakaniemi Station, and onto the Theatre Academy part of the Arts University of Helsinki. There I met with artist Kira O’Reilly, a London based internationally renowned artist known for her ‘movement works’ which investigate movement and embodied thinking, who currently teaches an interdisciplinary course on Ecology and Performance at the academy. I was interested to talk to Kira about what I gathered was a strong advocacy for interdisciplinary practice in Finland’s educational system, and the biophillic relationship between nature and society which seemed ever present throughout the city. I knew from prior research before arriving in Helsinki that Finland had just been voted the happiest place to live (four of the top five being Scandinavian countries at the time of writing), and wondered if this was all connected in someway that an outsider may be able to attest to first hand. Kira replied that in her experience this accolade actually made most Finns quite unhappy (an observation that I found was repeated by others throughout the journey), as generally Finns do not like to be in the spotlight and are quite a modest people. Nonetheless, Finland boasts an impressive work and family lifestyle, progressive policies, and good economy, but it seems that actually the root of this happiness is in a quiet sort of satisfaction with life, something which I would argue is linked to the interdisciplinary mindset of its citizens.

I continued to ask Kira more about the course she was teaching and about her own continuing artistic practice. Having run for the last two years as a pilot MA degree with the University of Arts Helsinki Theatre Academy, the Performance and Ecology course consists of small student groups, with an aim to explore different forms of performance stemming from the partnership of arts and science practice to try and answer some of the pressing ecological issues of our time (issues of human, animal or climate threat) . Kira surmised her philosophy of creating work in the maxim: ‘Pressure and constraints lead to tension which create velocity.’ Such a formula seems appropriate to Kira’s previous teaching in both performative and time based art at different Universities world wide. The meeting was transformative for my limited understanding of performance practice, and Kira introduced me to many of the theories around embodiment; how our bodies are disciplined by the environments, buildings, and spaces they live in; how the body is always in a state of flux, comprised of a series of biomes of different species of organisms, known scientifically as a holobiont (assembly of taxonomies); and how the body may be extended, and where these extensions may end (at your feet, a chair, the sky or floor?). Most interestingly for me was the idea that materials themselves can perform, that the a human body is not necessary. This I believe evoked an underlying desire in my own sculptural practice, especially in my use of living material such as bacterial cellulose and slime mold; the frustration of breathing life into an artwork inflated more so where the piece is already physically living. Where living materials can seem dead, and dead materials can be animated said a lot to me about humans basic distinctions between the animate being living (simple robots seem sentient when performing basic scripted movements), and the inanimate as being dead (many sessile lifeforms are treated with little to no consideration because they do not move such as coral and sponges, but there are also organisms which we do not perceive as moving because they are too small to observe, or even larger organisms who have lost the ability to move through medical conditions eg: coma). I asked Kira if she considered herself a bioartist, to which she replied that she did not, but sees herself more as an artist part of the bioarts world, a position which I felt I could relate too, and she provided me with a list of other thinkers such as Scott Gilbert and Adam Zaretsky, “who so enthusiastically invites consideration of aesthetic possibilities via the newer technologies being accessed by artists, biohackers and scientists.” All in all Kira presented to me the idea of the bioartist (or artist part of the growing bioarts movement) as one who questions censorship and who is critical of biological scientific studies ethically and aesthetically. Most poignantly though, possessors of a “moral inventory”, which speak up for non-human as well as human species in turn. I left Kira and the Theatre Academy and headed for what I had been lead to believe was the best burger in Helsinki just around the corner at Cafe Talo, which is worth the visit if for nothing else other than the Twin Peak inspired bathroom,  playing the iconic opening theme exclusively on repeat.

That evening I arranged to meet with Erich Berger, director of the Bioarts Society, at Myymälä2 gallery back in the Design District. Speaking at an event hosted by the University of Arts Helsinki Theatre Academy were activists John Jordan and Isabelle Fremeaux from the ZAD (Zone of Defense), a 4,000 acre area of wetlands near the city of Nantes, France which has come to be populated by farmers, activists, squatters, artists, and hundreds of other people of different collectives who have built homes and buildings on the land in protest of a proposed airport since 2009. The talk complimented a workshop John and Isabelle ran for the MA Performance and Ecology called ‘Think Like a Forest’, which blended art, science and activism to explore how art can be used as a tool for creative resistance and not simply as a symbolic gesture. John and Isa’s belief is that we have become “violently separated from the world we live in”, and are in the process of losing the knowledge to grow our own food, build our own houses, and to heal ourselves. In the past they have peacefully demonstrated using disobedient bike rides, and also used the destructive power of nature to destroy computer circuits in banks who fund fossil fuels using ants. Together they co-founded the art activism and permaculture collective The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination which brings artists and activists together to design tools and acts of disobedience. Their most recent endeavours focused on the ZAD, and its development into a hamlet governed by the people who choose to inhabit it. What started as a Climate Camp in 2008 of 100 people protesting the building of a new airport on the land grew into a 40,000 person strong mission to establish a new way of life after having being destroyed by 1,500 police officers the previous month. The types of homes and way of life for different residents reflect their political diversity; communists use combine harvesters; antispeciests refuse animal domination; and primitivists who don’t farm the land. The talk ended on a note of hope for recent news that the French government had cancelled all plans for an airport to be built on the wetlands, but also a declaration that the ZAD had been branded an ‘outlaw zone’ which would undergo eviction. The ZAD stands for a way of living outside of capitalist living, trying to keep diversity alive by operating outside of the monoculture regime. The last quote of the talk by Allan Kaprow surmised the objective of everyone who was and continues to be involved in the project, “we may see the overall meaning of art change profoundly from being an end to being a means, from holding out a promise of perfection in some other realm to demonstrating a way of living meaningfully in this one.” (Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life p.218)

After the talk I had the chance to talk to Erich more about the Bioarts Society, what they are currently working on and future projects and opportunities to keep an eye out for. At the time of visiting The Bioarts Society had just finished an open call for artists, scientists, and other practitioners to take part in a field laboratory at Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in northernmost tip of Finland, above the arctic circle, called ‘Field Notes: Ecology of the Senses’. Outcomes from this laboratory are now being developed at the station until the 23rd September 2018. Together with this research station, run by the University of Helsinki, the Bioarts Society run Ars Bioarctica, where residency opportunities are provided each year, along with talks and exhibitions. Erich also told me that the society were at the time applying for a new space to run activities such as seminars, workshops and exhibitions. In late August they were successful in securing that space with SOLU Helsinki, a very exciting development and a testament to all the important work the Society has been doing in the field of bioarts over the last 10 years. For a relatively small organisation the Bioarts Society continue to commision and produce exciting, experimental, and rigorous work around the arctic climate and more, and I felt very excited at the prospect of returning when this space is up and running. At the end of the evening I travelled up to my accommodation north of the city in Vantaa, nearby Helsinki Airport, where in the morning I would fly to Oulu to visit the Museum of Art, and then continue by train onto Rovaniemi.


Oulu –

Flying from Helsinki airport (Vantaa) – en route to Oulu, the capital of Northern Finland, and notably the home of the World Air Guitar Championships – it is possible to see how the country earned its reputation as “the land of a thousand lakes”. From my bird’s eye view, it is possible to see the many islands, lakes, and vast stretches of woodland that are interspersed between cities across Finland; and spot small, remote lodges, hidden in small clearings.

Upon arriving in Oulu city centre by bus from the airport, I headed directly to the Oulu Museum of Art. I became aware of the museum through the Bioarts Society – a previous exhibition entitled ‘Splice‘ in which Kira O’Reilly and other Bioarts members had exhibited, examining changing environments and human relationships with nature.

Anni Kinnunen – Big Bang (2018)

Oulu had by this point become a place synonymous with many working contemporary artists, from conversations I had with the Bioart Society members, and this was perfectly illustrated in the ground floor of the museum in an exhibition by Oulu based artist Anni Kinnunen. Drawing on the vibrant, shifting, ethereal qualities of the Finnish landscape, ‘The Great Escape‘ makes comment on our relationship with nature and our experiences of the real and virtual environments humans now inhabit. This photographic series presents us with our human protagonist, abstracted into some heightened version of herself; transmutated, golden, and with shifting forms.

Exhibition curator Veikko Halmetoja notes, “We have strong preconceptions on what is natural and what is not. Despite this, the concept of naturalness is always culture-specific.” I believe this is a true and interesting point. Historically, the natural has always been conflated with the ‘true’, and similarly, the unnatural with the ‘false’, or even heretical. In Kinnunen’s photographs, I see her human figure representing our species, Homo Sapiens, the same species which first evolved on this planet 300,000 years ago. But today, we are not the same as our ancestors all those millennia ago, we are different, yet the same genetically. With our own metamorphosis, we have also altered the very world around us, to that point that finding something truly natural has become rarer than finding a mythological creature.

In the upper floors of the museum is a sprawling exhibition ‘The Hype in the  Arctic Silicon Valley’. The group show displays artworks of various artists, all connected through a singular narrative, the technological boom that saw Oulu become a global player in the Information Technology sector. The story charts the very real events surrounding the success of the Nokia Corporation in Oulu, the influx of money and jobs which spread out across Finland and provided the country with the revenue for schools, roads, and city halls. However, things start to become increasingly odd as the show goes on, and the history of inventor-engineer Toivo Ruokko and his Raakku device (Written by local author and communications consultant Antti Leikas) starts to make you as a reader question the full validity of the tale. You soon discover that the Raakku device allows users to read one another’s brainwaves, and that the fictional narrative of Tovio is being intertwined with factual accounts which lead into an interesting artistic commentary around technology, science, and globalisation.

Alvar Gullischsen – The Great Quantum Leap (2002)

After leaving the museum I walked back into the city centre and was at once greeted by the Toripolliisi guarding the market square. Positioned around the Market Hall and wooden granaries which have been converted into shops, three policemen statues stand to attention, ever vigilant, and have become a staple for tourists to visit and greet when arriving into the city of Oulu. The Toripolliisi sculptures refer to three policemen who used to guard the market square in the mid 20th century. Inside the market hall are dozens of souvenirs bearing the Toripolliisi’s image, and it was there where I stopped for at the locally recommended ‘Pannukakkutalo’, or Pancake House, although I did not try the Reindeer pancakes as suggested. Early that evening I headed onto the Oulu train station to travel 3 hours north to Rovaniemi, where I would stay for the next couple of nights.


Rovaniemi –

Around 9pm my train entered into Rovaniemi station where I had arranged accommodation close by. Although it was night-time it was still very much light, and as I was soon to discover being this close to the arctic circle, it would remain light until around 2am at that time of year. I had already experienced this seemingly perpetual daytime in the capital of Helsinki, but here in Rovaniemi sunrise was around 4am, and so after 4 days of going to bed in sunlight and waking up in sunlight, I was starting to forget what nighttime even looked like. Opposite my flat was a small shop bearing a strikingly similar name to my own, and I took this as a good omen for my journey.

The next morning I went for a walk around the town while I waiting for two museums I planned to visit to open up: Korundi House of Culture – Contemporary Art venue, and Arktikum – Museum for Arctic Studies. Near the edge of the city centre, I came across a huge river – the Kemijoki, which I would learn is the largest in Finland. Running from Lapland, south into the Baltic Sea, the river boasts a diverse amount of freshwater life, from Trout to Crayfish, and along its shores sit 15 Hydroelectric plants which produce 4.3TWh, roughly a third of Finland’s hydroelectric output, once again emphasising the country resourcefulness and when it comes to nature working in harmony with the city. (For perspective, Scotland with a population of roughly 5 million people, uses around 25 TWh each year – source)

By late morning the Korundi House of Culture was open, and so I walked back through town, stopping in a local supermarket to buy some souvenir Moomin biscuits. At Korundi I visited the galleries and came across several pieces of modernist ceramic works by Rut Bryk. Previously unknown to me, Bryk was a well established and celebrated Finnish designer and ceramicist. Her work on display in the gallery consisted of two giant ceramic tiles, as tall as the walls they were hung on,  and which across thousands of tiny, perfect geometric prisms, cylinders, and squares, inverted and in relief, camouflaged themselves on a pristine white surface. The tile was mesmerising in its scale and minute attention to detail. It appeared to read almost like a language, and I believed it drew upon some of the most ancient means of human communication with spiritual beings, from Aboriginal dots to Egyptian pyramids. These, however, were devoid of any colour, and probably spoke at once of the beauty and bareness of the Finnish environment, especially in times of winter.

Rut Bryk – After the Rain (1985)

Bryk’s ceramics provided me with many ideas for a new series of works exploring modular porcelain ceramics for, taking inspiration from nanoscale structures found in nature, especially in viruses such as the Bacteriophage, where similar geometric forms make up the very shape of tiniest forms of life. Earlier in the year I had begun research into clay 3D printing, and through a residency at Modern Clay, I had developed a clay 3D printer which used compressed air to extrude slip from a glue cartridge. This was all thanks to the open source schematics made available by artist Jonathan Keep, and other artists in Birmingham such as Ben Harding. Bryk’s artworks provided me with the idea to use these geometric forms to further examine nanoscale structures, their effects on the human body from human and non-human cells, on nano and macro scales.

This linked with the conversations I had with artist Kira O’Reilly, around a project involving nanotextures found on dragonfly and cicadas. Protruding out of these insects wings are millions of finger-like pillars, which eviscerate bacteria as they land on them. Scientists had studied this antibacterial phenomenon and had replicated the structures through biomimicry. The result was a surface covered in these nanotextures which bacteria could not survive on. The possibilities of the technology included the production of textiles which would have antibacterial qualities, and could clean surfaces without the need for environmentally harmful chemicals. This relationship between bacteria and the human body has fascinated me for a long time, and our perceptions of bacteria as being bad for us, when in fact many bacteria in our bodies are good for our overall health, and without which we could not survive.

Laurie Ramsell – 3D Clay Printer footage, printing simple repeated patterns in complex shapes using porcelain.

The following day I visited Arktikum Science Museum to learn more about the extreme environments that life had shown it could still survive in, and try to find out more about some of the earliest known life trapped within arctic permafrost. The name ‘Arctic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Arktikos’, meaning the land of the Great Bear, in relation to the constellation which can be seen in the Northern Skies all year round. From the museum I learned that the sea organisms, which have evolved to thrive in the inhospitable cold and darkness below the arctic ocean, hold bacteria which has never seen the light of day, and many species are that are unknown to science could contain molecules which may hold the secret to fighting super resistant bacteria. The seawater itself has rarely been studied at depths of more that 4000m, and could contain further bacteria floating freely which produce compounds of some pharmaceutical antibiotic use.

One of the more curious sets of items in the collection included three pairs of wooden Inuit snow goggles. Used to prevent the effects of ‘snow blindness’, the goggles are carved to fit a wearers face, and the two slits increase visual acuity when the suns rays are reflecting off the white snow and ice into your eyes, causing immense pain due to dangerously strong ultra-violet solar radiation. The effect of snow blindness is the temporary loss of vision, essentially caused by sunburned eyes. What I like most about these objects is the almost futuristic aesthetic of them, and as an example of the way technology in its broadest sense has been the key component to Homo Sapiens evolution, extending and enhancing our physiology from some of the earliest of times in human history, and use our intelligence to reshape our bodies, effectively evolving ourselves through technology at breakneck speed.

That evening, on the way to the airport to fly back to Helsinki, I made one final pitstop at Santa’s post office. Santa Claus Village is situated right on the perimeter of the arctic circle – coordinates 66° 33´ 39″ – “…denoting the dividing line for the suns rays. North of it the sun does not set at night for at least part of the summer. Correspondingly, the sun remains below the horizon for at least part of winter.” Running through the gift shop this line is demarcated for visiting tourists to take photographs of themselves crossing into the arctic circle, whilst remaining relatively warm indoors. Visitors can also purchase a certificate to commemorate the journey, and you can see mine below.


Helsinki –

Flying back from Rovaniemi, I returned to Helsinki for the final day of my research trip. It was the first Friday of a new month, and this permitted me free entry to Kiasma Gallery, Helsinki’s flagship contemporary arts venue. But before then, I planned on making a visit to the Aalto University to see the Hybrid Lab Symposium accompanying exhibition, and the MFA Fine Art University Helsinki Degree show, taking place across three venues in the city. The standard of all these shows was exceptionally good, and I have chosen to highlight some of the artists whose work connected with my research trip and my artistic practice in general.

I started by catching the underground train to Aalto University Station, where the ‘Oslofjord Ecologies Extended‘ exhibition was accompanying the Hybrid Labs Symposium. The symposium itself explored hybrid practices between art, design and architecture; and the exhibition is the outcome of the “…art and research project that is focusing on climate, environmental and social changes in the Nordic and Baltic region. This project combines contemporary art approach with technologies, biology, pedagogy and the cultural and historical heritage, in order to create and display innovative artworks that aspire to offer new experiences in a performative manner.”

One of the pieces exhibited was a video installation by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits. The artwork comprised of a monitor playing looped footage of wetlands that would occasionally ‘glitch’, and containers filled with soil that I presumed had been taken from the ecosystem. Further reading revealed that the containers in fact contained bacteria from the wetlands (Kemeri Marshland – Latvia), which through a process known as MFC (Microbial Fuel Cell) technology could generate electrical energy. This was made evident and explained the fluctuations seen on screen; as the footage was being glitched by spikes in electrical charge from the bacteria. The artworks research “explores local ecosystems for envisioning renewable future scenarios, by reconsidering our relations with nature and technology, biological and social systems, human and microorganism worlds.” Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits are key founders of RIXC the Center for Art and Science located in Riga, Latvia – I noted that bacteria battery cell technology and RIXC would require further reading as new and exciting research leads in my own upcoming projects around nano scale mechanisms and their applications in society.

Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits – Swamp Battery (2017)

Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits – Fluctuations of Microworlds (2017)

After travelling back into the city center I made my way between the three venues advertised for the ‘Kuvan Kevat’ MFA Degree Show from Uniarts Helsinki; Project Room Gallery, Exhibition Laboratory, and the former venue of the Amos Andersonin Art Museum.  Across the venues there included work from 35 emerging artists, from all four subject areas of the Arts University; Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture and Time and Space Arts. With no unifying theme for the degree show, it instead presented the artists in the manner that I had come to expect from the Finnish mindset: the necessity for collaboration in all creative fields to address political, societal, and environmental sustainability.

“In our current neoliberal society, art has the power to bring topics into public discussion which are rarely spoken about, to explore different landscapes for the future. Although art rarely produces immediate health benefits and has no purchasing power, it is not removed from society; rather, it is an integral part of it.”

– Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Professor of Exhibition Studies and Spatiality at the Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki

The work of Christian Langenskiöld I saw in the former Amos Andersonin Art Museum I felt attested to this ideology. In a series of photographs we see what I read as a visual essay in ‘being human in the 21st century’. These photo tableaux depict cleverly arranged scenes where modern human life and the natural world seem to reconcile, and achieve almost mutual balance. In the first photo a human hand can be found laid out on a table of fruits, nuts, and sea shells. Its apparent lack of importance is demonstrated by its presence on this table of items regarded today as mere curios. The vanitas feel of the photo harks back to a time when these items may have been a newly discovered item, precious by nature of their newness, and therefore there value. The hand would be reduced to nothing more than an organic piece of matter, which will wither along with the rest of the table. Except this hand will not decay as with the other organic items, as it is a prosthetic hand judging by the rest of the series, a product of very recent technology and material research.

Similarly, the other two photographs present us with a wooden prosthetic leg adjacent a houseplant, and a weight lifter who’s metal arm prosthetic allows him to life the iron dumbbell just as well as his other hand. The human body and nature here become biocompatible through technology. Domesticated plants, grown and kept indoors in artificially lit buildings; metal wrought out of the earth and cast into tools that help us stay fit, because we no longer need to hunt or run from predators. The series makes interesting comparisons between the Anthropocene world humans have created, and the natural world we have removed ourselves from, but are forever connected to. In previous centuries machines and metal robots epitomised the future for Homo Sapiens, now, organic computing and gene crafting set to become the next great leaps in human evolution.

Christian Langenskiöld – Untitled #1 (2018)

Over at Kiasma Art Museum, five floors displayed five exhibitions by various artists locally and internationally. On the third floor, the show ‘There and Back Again’ presented 26 contemporary artists from the Baltic Sea Region, including; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Russia. “The Baltic Sea countries are united by geography and history. The area is a cross between many economic, political and cultural interests. The Hanseatic cities, the Soviet Union, Via Baltica, the gas pipeline and nature conservation have united and separated regions and people.”

One of the largest pieces in the show was a boat built by Estonian artist Karel Koplimets. “The artist travelled from Porkkala, Finland, to Tallinn, Estonia, on this homeward boat in August 2016. The craft is made of a wooden frame, an outboard motor and some five thousand beer cans filled with polyurethane. The cans were connected in Helsinki with the help of social media. Almost all the cans are Estonian. Crossing the Gulf of Finland on the barge took eight hours. Videos documenting the construction of the craft and the journey form part of the work. Koplimets has described his beer-can barge journey as a symbolic story of the homecoming of one Estonian worker. The artist is interested in the monetary flows and trade between Finland and Estonian. Finns go to Tallinn for cheap alcohol, while Estonians come to Finland for jobs and better pay. The artists points out that the funds obtained from alcohol taxation in Estonian are used, among other things, for promoting culture. In other words, Finnish booze cruisers help to support Estonian art.”

Karel Koplimets – Case No 13. Waiting for the Ship of Empties (2017)

On the fourth floor was an extensive show by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen, who represented Finland at the 2017 Venice Biennale with their video installation The Aalto Natives. The Biennale, which is organised every two years, is one of the most significant art events in the world. Kiasma’s exhibition features the video installation that was shown in Venice and a selection of new works by the artist duo. Using humour, The Aalto Natives reflects on themes such as national identity, creation myths and nationalism. It tells the story of two aliens named Geb and Atum who return to explore a place they created millions of years ago, Finland. The new installations in Kasma continue the story of the video, with many of the animated puppets being featured in the show.

The Aalto Natives –  The Transcendental Accident (2018)

The Aalto Natives –  The Builders (2018)

On the final fifth floor was an exhibition of works by Grayson Perry, many of which I had not seen before. Grayson Perry explores subjects that are universally human: identity, gender, social status, sexuality and religion. He is a chronicler of contemporary life, yet he favours traditional materials and techniques such as ceramics and tapestries. His exhibition, titled ‘Folk Wisdom‘ spanned two decades of his career, and Grayson Perry is quoted as saying about folk wisdom ‘They are not necessarily rational or scientifically proven, but in them, more often than not is a grain of truth”. In the ‘Artists Robe’ and ‘Map of Nowhere’ the human body is extended out, into clothing, and across the city of London, commenting on how cities and fashions have become part of our identities, our bodies inform them, and they inform our bodies. This perfectly summed up, what I felt in part, my original meeting with Kira O’Reilly had instilled me several days prior.

Grayson Perry – Artist Robe (2004), Map of Nowhere (2008)