Taking place in the summer of 2020, Helsinki Biennial announced the 40 artists and groups of artists participating in the inaugural edition, The Same Sea. Located on Vallisaari, an island in the Baltic Sea, the biennial presents over 75% new commissions and site-specific works, sensitively positioned across this remarkable maritime setting. Responding to, whilst safeguarding, Vallisaari’s natural environment, The Same Sea reflects upon the ever-pressing notion of interdependence.
Helsinki Biennial Vallisaari Horizon 05
Curators Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola, head curators of Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), invite a dialogue between artists and collectives from Finland and Australia, Cambodia, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Poland, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the UK and the USA.
Its location on an island creates a truly unique setting where the art is in continuous dialogue with the surrounding nature
Welcoming both locals and visitors, this major moment in Helsinki’s cultural trajectory affirms its position as a city of arts and culture; “Art and culture form an essential part of Helsinki’s story. We recognise how investment in the arts positively adds to the development of the city, but also directly to the wellbeing of our citizens. Helsinki Biennial will both provoke and inspire audiences by confronting significant global issues. Its location on an island creates a truly unique setting where the art is in continuous dialogue with the surrounding nature, and importantly it is open, free of charge, to everyone,” says the mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori.
New commissions embrace diverse themes ranging from relations to nature, borders, identities, human traces, time and empathy. As a physical manifestation of interconnectedness, Jaakko Niemelä’s large-scale wooden construction Quay 6 greets visitors as they disembark at the northern quay of Vallisaari. Referencing the melting of Greenland’s northern ice sheet, the construction reaches six metres high – mirroring the rise in sea level should the glacier vanish completely.
Christine and Margaret Wertheim bring their Crochet Coral Reef project to Helsinki, The Helsinki Satellite Reef, one of the world’s largest participatory science and art projects. Made of recycled plastic, including disused plastic bags, the handmade reef is created with residents of Helsinki, calling attention to the extensive plastic waste threatening the world’s oceans.
Other commissions have also involved local Helsinki communities, such as Paweł Althamer’s collaboration with the nearby Suomenlinna Open Prison for Seven Prisoners; a two-part documentary and VR film which invites viewers to join seven inmates (including Althamer himself) on an escape from prison, via open waters and changing, seasonal landscapes.
Utilising recycled materials, Tadashi Kawamata’s Vallisaari Lighthouse is a temporary landmark comprised of found material from Vallisaari. Sitting atop a bunker-like elevator shaft, jutting skywards to a height of several metres, the lighthouse can be seen from various viewpoints out at sea, the neighbouring island of Suomenlinna and the Helsinki waterfront.
Marja Kanervo’s work similarly draws from the island’s existing infrastructure. Working on-site across three floors of Block A of the Pilot House, Kanervo’s site-specific interventions – forms and marks imprinted across the space – merge with the traces of former residents, straddling the space between real life and fiction.
Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring. Coral Forest at Lehigh University Arts Galleries (PA). Their new commission, The Helsinki Satellite Reef, will be presented at Helsinki Biennial 2020. Photo courtesy LUAG by Stephanie Veto.
Positioned outside of the Alexander Battery – one of the main biennial venues – Laura Könönen’s large-scale sculpture depicts an explosion of broken shards of rock. Appearing as though the structures were at one point a complete solid, the work forces us to revisit our ideas of stability and permanence. The sculpture forms part of the larger work No Heaven up in the Sky, which will be placed on permanent display in Helsinki’s Hyväntoivonpuisto Park after 2020.
Katharina Grosse’s large-scale, in-situ painting masks the exterior walls of Vallisaari’s former school building, converging with the surrounding landscape. Rather than a conventional painting, the result of Grosse’s painting process is more like a sculpture that emerges from a geographical location.
Echoing Helsinki Biennial’s commitment to inspiring public debate around the relationship between humanity and nature, the BIOS Research Unit will establish the Vallisaari Research Station within the island’s former fire-fighting depot. Hosting seminars and lectures from visiting scientists throughout the biennial, BIOS’ project specifically focuses on the lost, severed connection between the environment and the economy.
Uniting the maritime island with the city, Helsinki Biennial also extends its presence to the mainland; works by EGS, Janet Echelman, Rirkrit Tiravanija & Antto Melasniemi and Zodiak, as well as a solo exhibition from Gustafsson&Haapoja at HAM (3 April–16 August 2020), will be complemented by a special collaboration with the Facebook Art Department. Moreover, throughout the summer a programme of exhibitions, events, workshops and educational activities take the form of Helsinki Biennial Inspired.
The Biennale of Sydney has revealed details of the program for its 22nd edition, titled NIRIN. Under the artistic direction of acclaimed Indigenous Australian artist, Brook Andrew, NIRIN, is an artist- and First Nations-led endeavour, presenting an expansive exhibition of contemporary art and events that connect local communities and global networks.
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Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk | V&A
29 February—21 June 2020
On 29 February, the V&A opens Europe’s first major exhibition on kimono. The ultimate symbol of Japan, the kimono is often perceived as traditional, timeless and unchanging. Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk counters this conception, presenting the garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion.
GR Gallery is pleased to announce Apnea, the first solo exhibition of Johan Van Mullem with the gallery. Exploring the artist’s unique creative practice the 25 original pieces on display will showcase the artist’s signature gestural technique and striking early Rembrandt-like style.