New Directions May Emerge
June 12–September 17, 2023
Helsinki Biennial 2023 reveals New Directions May Emerge as the title of its second edition, which will bring together around 30 established and emerging artists and collectives from Finland and across the world. Curated by Joasia Krysa, the biennial reflects on some of the major issues of our time that appear irresolvable, such as environmental damage, political conflict and the effects of technology.
Working with both human and nonhuman agencies, Krysa has invited five arts, research, and technological entities as curatorial collaborators: Critical Environmental Data, a research group at Aarhus University, exploring nature as data and the many possible futures that might emerge; Museum of Impossible Forms, a cultural centre located in East Helsinki, and the coming together of communities of art and cultural workers working to build anticolonial, antipatriarchal, and non-fascist practices and futures; TBA21–Academy, a contemporary art organization and cultural ecosystem fostering a deeper relationship to the ocean through the lens of art to inspire care and action; ViCCA @ Aalto Arts (Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art), a transdisciplinary major at Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture; and an A.I. Entity created as a collaboration between HAM Helsinki Art Museum Collections and Digital Visual Studies, a Max Planck Society project hosted at the University of Zurich.
Comprising of over 50% new commissions and site-specific works, the first participants to be announced include:
Matti Aikio (Finland), Dineo Seshee Bopape (South Africa), Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (UK), Sasha Huber (Switzerland/Finland) & Petri Saarikko (Finland), Keiken (UK), Sonya Lindfors (Cameroon/Finland), Lotta Petronella with Sami Tallberg & Lau Nau (Finland), Tuula Närhinen (Finland), Diana Policarpo (Portugal), Sepideh Rahaa (Iran/Finland), Emilija Škarnulytė (Lithuania), and Adrián Villar Rojas (Argentina).
For 2023, the biennial expands beyond the island of Vallisaari to the city of Helsinki—the world’s northern-most metropolitan area—to embrace its position in the Gulf of Finland. With an emphasis on outdoor spaces on the island, the biennial additionally sprawls across the mainland. Other biennial locations include HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki Central Library Oodi, Cultural Centres across the city, and online, with more sites to be announced.
“As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds—and new directions—may emerge.” —Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing.
New Directions May Emerge adopts its title from a quote by anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, who proposes learning from (the art of) “noticing.” With close attention to other people, animals, plants, environment, data, and other entities around us, the biennial explores how we might find new ways of living in, and understanding, the world.
The biennial unfolds through multimodal acts of noticing, sensing and sense-making. Moving from humans to non-humans and between varying scales—a spectrum spanning data as the smallest scale, through to islands and speculative new worlds denoting the largest—the biennial invites audiences to consider how recognising small or otherwise invisible details might prompt possibilities to act, to imagine differently, and reconcile the impact of human intervention, environmental and technological damage.
The biennial introduces three main conceptual threads: contamination, regeneration and agency. The Baltic Sea is one of the most contaminated waters in the world, subjected to waste from regimes of violence and unregulated industrialism. Yet, Helsinki Biennial proposes new layers of productive contamination as a cross-pollination between practices and ideas. Recognising that biennials have often been founded on principles of urban regeneration, in terms of tourism and the economy, it additionally proposes how exhibitions can be a force for healing and repair. Finally, the concept of agency explores how human life, the environment and technologies can evolve together to produce new and unforeseen results. Krysa elaborates:
“How might contamination be a force for positive change? How can we use biennials for the wider regeneration of things? How might agency extend beyond humans to other nonhuman entities and assemblages, including artificial intelligences? How might these threads be channelled into rethinking the ways that practices and future worlds might be conceived?”