Questions on environmental and economical future, at both local and global levels have been discussed almost to the point of exhaustion, yet there is still a gulf between promblem and solution. I have chosen to represent two artists, sculptor Jouna Karsi and photographer Ilkka Halso, along with a cross-diciplinary artist collective Mustarinda, who all in their artistic pratice comment critically on the contrast between the urban and natural environments in Finland and beyond.
Nordic nature and the perceptions of it are a common frame to all of these artists and their practices. Nature and forests have been at the centre of establishing the national project of Finland since the turn of the 20th Century. Not only culturally, but also economically Finland has been closely tied to forests and forestry. However, Karsi, Halso and Mustarinda members are not stuck with cultural stereotypes but bring the discussion on nature into a global context. Thematically they comment on subjects such as climate change, natural resources, consumerism, capitalism and urban planning.
In Karsi's sculptings and Halso's photographs the contemporary, urban world collides with nature in a visually mesmerizing and thought-provoking way. Their work focuses on man-made structures, devoid of a human presense. Karsi and Halso's scenes share a common feeling of isolation, providing almost apocalyptic glimpses at what the future could look like.
Mustarinda is a collective and an organisation that runs Mustarinda house in North-Eastern Finland. Mustarinda brings a fresh and critical voice to the discussion of ecological and cultural diversity. Mustarinda's activities are based on combining art, research and education from different disciplines. They also have a very practical take on local cultural and political planning, and are, for example, participating in developing regional nature protection and nature tourism.
Jouna Karsi is a visual artist based in Turku, Finland. In his artistic practice Karsi combines sculpting, painting and video, working mainly with delicate, miniature sized installations and mirror cubes. Karsi portrays urban landscapes and constructions, such as suburbs, warehouses or city scenes.
Karsi's works are carefully crafted, often using perishable, earthy materials, like moss or branches. Each individual art work adds to the world Karsi is creating, a surrealist world which resembles our own but upon closer inspection somehow seems out of place. Karsi's sculptings and installations are thematically multi-layered, they may comment sharply on climate change one moment while lightly flirting with popular culture the next.
”The reoccurring element in my sculptures is the absence of a human figure. My works carry the same feeling of a photograph taken with a long exposure time, that cannot capture a rapidly moving subject. The mirror cubes I mainly work with, are based on the idea of creating two-dimensional images out of three-dimensional forms. The mirror cube is simultaneously both a sculptural object and a vessel to enter the scene I've constructed inside the cube. The scenes within the cubes reflect the depths of our mental landscape by multiplying images from history, nature and technology.”
In Halso's photographs nature has been completely reduced to human purposes only. Technological developments and urban building have conquered the space from nature. The aesthetics of Halso's photographs is based on careful editing that pays attention to detail. The photographs are at the same time realistic yet fantastic, and leave you entangled in a feeling somewhere between beauty and absurdity. Ilkka Halso is based in Orimattila, Finland. His work has been vastly exhibited Finland and abroad, most recently in Helsinki Photography Biennial in Spring 2014.
“My work deals with people’s ambivalent relation to nature. It’s typical for human beings to mould nature, justifying their actions with their aesthetic and economic aspirations. But nature can’t endure everything. In my photographs, control over nature has acquired a concrete form. The elements of nature have been rethought and have, for logistical purposes, been packed into modules that are easier to handle.
The whole of nature is stored in a gigantic warehouse complex and the most common types of nature, from soil and flora to fauna can be easily assembled into working ecosystems. What’s happening? Has nature been evacuated to await better times, or has it been simplified into merchandise and absurd tableaux? I’m looking into the future. I don’t like what I see.”
“Mustarinda is a non-profit organization founded in 2009 in Finland to foster ecological and cultural diversity and the status of different disciplines of art and science, especially contemporary art. Mustarinda investigates the cultural and socio-economical structures of society, largely dominated by different aspects of the ecological crisis. Already during the first years hundreds of artists and researchers have taken part in the residency program and in the variety of events and exhibitions organized by Mustarinda.
The Mustarinda Association was established as we became worried about decreasing ecological and cultural diversity all over the world. The members of the association represent a variety of societal sectors such as law, political science, economics, the majority however working in the field of contemporary arts.
The core activities of the association consist of independent and critical art, research, and education. The activity is centred in Mustarinda House, which is located next to the Paljakka Nature Reserve in the Kainuu region. There are facilities for artists/researchers-in-residence as well as art exhibitions and different types of events. The surrounding old-growth forests offer a rare opportunity for observing nature’s own form of language, structure and operation. It provides a wealth of topics of interest for researchers and artists alike, and we support an exchange of ideas between these two groups. In addition, the association develops regional nature protection, nature tourism, and culture.
In addition to the members running the association and main activities at the house, there are numerous groups and individuals who have contributed to the activity and operation of Mustarinda since the beginning. Recent Mustarinda activities include Off the Grid-energy project, Mustarinda Garden, annual summer exhibition at Mustarinda house, Helsinki Photography Biennial, taking part in Focus Finland Madrid.”
Find out more about Mustarinda www.mustarinda.fi
Mustarinda Garden www.mustarindagarden.wordpress.com/category/english/
Mustarinda annual publication www.mustarinda.fi/en/publication
Mustarinda exhibitions www.mustarinda.fi/en/node/80
Frontiers in Retreat Project (2013-2018) www.frontiersinretreat.org
Annukka Vähäsöyrinki is the director for artists' association Arte in Turku, Finland. Arte runs contemporary art gallery Titanik and Titanik A.i.R. residency programme for international sound artists. Vähäsöyrinki also works as a freelance producer. Her current projects include Sculptor 2015 exhibition, fascilitated by the Association of Finnish Sculptors, and cross-diciplinary artist collective Anna Breu's exhibitions and performances. In 2014 Anna Breu will be performing as part of Manifesta10 Biennial of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg, among others.
Vähäsöyrinki's background is in literature research, though currently she is doing another MA in Visual Culture at Aalto School of Arts and Design in Helsinki. Vähäsöyrinki's main interests lie in art mediating and managment. She has been working within art export, focusing in literature, co-developing the first ever non-profit literature export agency in Finland, Burning Bridge.
Arte is an artists' association founded in 1960 by visual artists based in Turku, Finland. Today Arte’s membership is open for all visual art professionals, such as artists, curators, researchers, producers and art critics. The number of members has risen up to one hundred over the past decades.
The association is best known for running an independent and experimental contemporary art gallery, Titanik, founded in 1988. Along with exhibitions Arte also fascilitates international Titanik A.i.R. residency programme, that focuses specifically on sound art during 2013-2015.
Arte plays an active role in local cultural policy, promoting the status of art professionals on a regional and national level.