3 Facts about the Helsinki Biennial

19 Oct 2021

3 Facts about the Helsinki Biennial

19 Oct 2021
In September, a group of members jumped on a private boat with Captain Mikko to Vallisaari Island as part of our art trip to Helsinki, to tour the inaugural Helsinki Biennial. 

No amount of rain and arctic winds could dampen this experience which saw our members trail through the beautiful natural reserve with a curator encountering site-specific works such as Finnish artist Jaakko Niemelä’s foreboding scaffolding structure Quay 6 built as high as the sea levels would rise if Greenland’s northern ice sheet were to melt; Katharina Grosse’s colourful painting that swept across an old schoolhouse and its surrounding vegetation; and Tadashi Kawamata’s lighthouse structure, made from waste material found on Vallisaari.

Lush nature, the historical batteries and gunpowder cellars, and the sea views created a unique setting for a memorable art experience. 

Here’s what we learned:

  1. The title ‘The Same Sea’, a metaphor for interconnectedness implying every action has an impact on something else and supports the entirety, was imagined long before the COVID-19 pandemic. It refers to the ecological crisis which many spokespeople argue, much like the Pandemic, our survival relies crucially on all others around us in a united response.
  2. Installing was a careful process as the island, a decommissioned military base, is vast but only part of it was suitable for placing works as huge swathes still carry the risk of explosives. The government spent years converting the island into a natural reserve and it now boasts the most diverse ecological system in the metropolitan area, thriving with rare butterflies, bats and fern among many species.
  3. Three works won’t travel far now the Biennial has closed, finding permanent sites in public spaces across the city of Helsinki for visitors to enjoy for decades to come. Alicja Kwade’s works Big Be-Hide and Pars pro Toto will be placed in the Helsinki neighbourhood of Kalasatama, and Laura Könönen’s No Heaven Up in the Sky will be placed in Hyväntoivonpuisto Park in the Helsinki district of Jätkäsaari. 

Image credit: © Ella Tommila/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021