According the people who run it, Helsinki’s Sorbus gallery formed by accident. Beginning with one month’s notice when a co-operative that was renting the building on Vaasankatu Street called out for an art occupation, a team of volunteers produced an event in 2013. Called simply ‘Opening Festival,’ that programme would define the start of Sorbus and its mission as an interdisciplinary art space from then on. It featured music, performance, poetry, ‘live cinema’ and vinyl record cutting, kickstarting their all-in approach to an art programme that has since put on countless events and exhibitions, even expanding into becoming an art collective in its own right.
It’s nearly five years on and Sorbus is at an important juncture. Boasting an already impressive resume of shows — which includes their Fucked Up in a Bad Wayseries that surfaced at SIC Gallery, KASKL and Jupiter Woods — the artist-run space launches the Veranda open-air festival, running June 8 to June 18, with a self-proclaimed “metaphor for calming down.” Its members, Otto Byström, Henna Hyvärinen, Jonna Karanka, Sakari Tervo, and Tuomo Tuovinen, have removed rather than smashed through the window of their Helsinki storefront, turning the gallery into a stage and extending their art and music invitation to the general public. The event will run Thursday to Sunday for two weeks, with no entrance fee or age limits. It will feature all manner of artist, musician, writer, doom metal band, open to everyone and anyone within earshot.
AQNB chatted to the collective about who they are, what they like and some of the Veranda acts to look out for:
** Regarding the ‘removal of the big glass window that separates the gallery from the street’ from the Veranda press release, it feels metaphorical in a way, whats the intention of the project?
Sorbus: From the beginning, there has been an idea of trying to make fine arts more accessible to everyone. Also, with Veranda there’s the idea of trying to get more in touch with the local community, and to see how it works out. Yesterday we went around Vaasankatu Street and taped notes on all of the doors apologizing for the possible disturbance. So getting more in touch with people who wouldn’t necessarily involve with an art space otherwise is one of the ideas, and mixing different audiences by programming such different acts for each day.
Of course, one could ask if we are kind of forcefully exposing people to art that they wouldn’t otherwise involve with. Maybe people want there to be glass between them and the art, or at least the kind of art they think they are not into? The original idea was to break the window from inside but now we ended up having a company removing it. This feels like a metaphor for us calming down.
**Does this project mark a shift in your curatorial aims, will you be hosting events that move away from strictly art-based projects and audiences?
S: The aim of reaching and trying to engage with people from outside the art world has been there from the very beginning of Sorbus. Starting from the times of our opening festival in 2013, arranging concerts has been one way to do this – music attracts different audiences. Many of us have also been involved in different music scenes before and during our practice in fine arts. In fact, we are hosting way fewer concerts than a couple of years ago.
We are now on our last year of a three-year funding from Kone Foundation, so we should start discussing what we actually want to do next year. It might be something different than what we’ve now been doing. It really felt that this is the last chance to do this kind of summer festival event. What comes to the curatorial aims, instead of just providing exhibition-after-exhibition we might just spend some time figuring out the as yet unknown possibilities of an artist-run space and the new ways of collectivising as we proceed.
**Why are interdisciplinary events so important right now, does it come from a place of dissatisfaction with how things are currently run?
S: As said before, for Sorbus, a sort of interdisciplinary approach has always been there. Maybe, it’s also partly due to our strong background (in music). We have not seen any reason to exclude that side from our program, and vice versa. It’s good for arts to be in touch with things outside the art sphere.
**What are some of the events over the coming at Veranda to look out for?
We are excited because Veranda will also function as a premiere for new writing. Writer-dramaturg Minn reads her monologue about gorillas, aliens and motherhood. It’s a text that she has wanted to write for long time, but haven’t had the time or place for it before.
Anna Torkkel and Masi Tiitta are dance artists with a strong ties between contemporary dance and art scenes. In their collaborative piece, an everyday act — standing up — is being stretched into a temporal performance. In this way, the minimalistic performance problematizes the seemingly simple nature of everyday functions.
Two hours of next gen. Finnish rap, put together by Edicti. In a Facebook event of a gig by Oukkidouppi, a local rap project, we got a message: “Is there an age limit?” A seventeen-year-old guy shows up at the gig and clearly enjoys the party. Later, during another event, he joins us backstage saying how much he liked the concert by a performative music duo Echo+Seashell. We find out about his own music project, Edicti, making poetic rap in Finnish, with beats by “young ug producers.” Soon we send him a message on Instagram: “Would you like to arrange a concert at Sorbus?”
“Lithalsas occur when ice forms beneath the ground and lifts the earth above it. Lithalsa are F, J and V who live together and play metal.”
When Vappu Jalonen curated an exhibition at Sorbus in 2015, she mentioned her queer feminist post doom metal band Lithalsa. From then on, we have wanted them to come and play at Sorbus. But in the usual conditions, a loud band, with a drum set and all, is out of limits for our small gallery space. Now the opening up of the space to the street made the gig possible. Lithalsa will probably be one of Veranda’s loudest performances.**
LM Salling is presenting solo exhibition, MIKI: Scene 39 at Helsinki’s at Sorbus Galleria,opening July 12 and running July 30.
The event comes hand-in-hand with an interview held between Sorbus and the Finnish artist and posted in full on the FB event, acting as a form of information, or a distraction, perhaps, that circulates the exhibition, which comprises of a sculpture featuring an image of Disney’s Mickey Mouse, as well as some new paintings.
As the interview discusses, MIKI has been elsewhere, in LM Salling’s MFA degree show for one, and there is a sense that the coming exhibition in the Helsinki space —that has recently hosted Jupiter Woods and artist Anna Zett —is investigating the endless potential, and its variants, in symbolic values and materials that may be used and found in a single art work, or indeed symbol.
The press release includes two quotes that talk of the death of punk and alternative culture, and of the usefulness if humans could distill alcohol in their bodies in the cold and dark times, like the crucian carp fish found at the bottom of anoxic seas. The trailer for the exhibition (below) features a startup group that plans to use the alcohol produced by the Northern European as a business enterprise.
A solo exhibition by Jaakko Pallasvuo, Kuin puuton ranta, jolle istahdit (‘Like the treeless shore that you sat upon’) ran from November 19 to 29, 2015, at Helsinki’s Sorbus-Galleria, combining painting, objects and text. The room embraces the chaos of a studio, where one idea threads into the next, each building on top of what was made previously.
Bright orange, pink and blue paint covers the walls in abstract shapes and brush strokes. Drawings and other immediate pieces are placed on top. ‘Wistful Watson’ (2015) is a sharpie pen drawing of a muscular man, using an A4 sheet of paper. The homemade jewellery ‘Divining Rod’ (2015) and ‘Mockingjay Pendant’ (2015) hang down from the ceiling. ‘High School Painting 2’ (2015) looks like it has been plucked from a doodle made in a school notebook and the two bits of clothing hung on the wall are titled ‘Dropout Sweater’ (2015). The one finished-looking work in the show is titled ‘Picasso Hopeful’ (2015), and has a humorous presence in the context of the rest.
Rooting itself in a consciously masculine approach to art making alongside references to fandom and popular culture, Kuin puuton ranta, jolle istahdit suspends itself between irony and sincerity. There is no press release revealing further information, except the trailer (above) featuring footage from the installation and soundtracked by ‘Nord Amor‘ from French DnB-heavy metal band VLN (Very Long Nightmare) featuring epic EDM drops and bagpipes. There is also an accompanying text taken from a Finnish poem, also referenced in the exhibition title, with its English translation that reads:
Soi korvissani runot. Kaikki, kaikki. Alue, valtatie ja etäisyys ei enää ole raja askelille. Tie luokse pois
ei johda. Läheisyys on sama tosi: uni molemmille. Rakastit vettä – vesi laulaa nyt. Suluton, vapaa, ääriänsä vailla. Kuin puuton ranta, jolle istahdit kestävät aallot tänään kiven lailla.
– Mirkka Rekola
Poems sound in your ears. Each one, each one. Region, highway and distance can limit the footsteps no longer. The road to you doesn’t
lead away. Closeness is the same truth: a dream for both. You loved the water – now the water’s singing. Without dams, free, without limits. Like the treeless shore that you sat upon the waves endure today like stone.
The London and Vienna-based space will take up residence in the Finnish capital for ten days, as a collective off-site project by four of Jupiter Woods’ six founding members: Hanna Laura Kaljo, Lucy Lopez, Carolina Ongaro and Cory Scozzari. The time-based exhibition and events programme will include artists Sanna Helena Berger, Rob Chavasse, Maria Gorodeckaya, Emily Jones, Josip Novosel and S E I D among others and draw on the titular geographical process involving the movement of sediments along a coast at an angle to the shoreline: “swash and backwash”.
The aim of Longshore Drift, opening on the Friday April 22, will evolve over the following weekend with a series of commissioned objects, gestures and acts by the 10 participating artists —also including Viktor Timofeev, The Mycological Twist, Matilda Tjäder, and Holly White —and focus on the “embodied experience” of curators and visitors within the installation that draws on “the physical infrastructure of Jupiter Woods’ London and Vienna locations.”
Mikko Kuorinki‘s Skitsystem exhibition is on at Helsinki’s Sorbus gallery, opening January 15 and running to January 31.
The Helsinki-based artist currently runs collaborative platform for programming, exhibiting and publishing, Ruler, with Diego Bruno, which has show at HIAP and SIC gallery and works with the likes of Ola Vasiljeva, Hito Steyerl, Kimmo Modig, Lisa Holzer among many more familiar names.
Taking its title from the Swedish crust punk band, Kuorinki claims no other connection with the Skitsystem exhibition other than that, instead recommending the writing of Robert Creeley, Lisa Robertson, Robert Grenier and Hannah Weiner and other as supplementary reading. The press release also comes with a quote from Japanese Zen Buddhist monk ‘Ikkye’ (see: Ikkyū):
Through both Zett and Vaahtera’s scientific research, Research Drama explores the entanglements of “science and fiction, bones and imagination, entertainment and politics” through their respective subjects, or characters, of prehistoric dinosaurs and the recently discovered fossil of a ‘fishapod’ called the Tiktaalik roseae.
Sorbus Gallery will be hosting a five-day video and film screening series called Sorbus Video Week at their Helsinki space from May 20 to May 24.
The program is compiled by curator Attilia Fattori Franchini, artist Jaakko Pallasvuo and the Sorbus working group, and is divided into five evenings of screenings, many of which will have their Finnish premiere.
The line-up brings video and film work by around 20 different artists and artist groups, including Pallasvuo, who has programmed the opening night on May 20, with ‘Self-Accusation’ (2015) and Keren Cytter with ‘The Victim’ (2006), both screening on May 20, as well as Ben Russell with ‘Atlantis’ (2014) on May 22, and Dominic Watson with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (2014), Jala Wahid, with ‘I’ve got a burning desire (come on, tell me boy)’ (2014) and Johann Arens with ‘Marte e Venere – A Hand Held Monument’ (2013) on May 23.
The art world would mostly be preoccupied with the 56th Venice Biennale in the week beginning May 4. Highlights at the prestigious Italian art fair including Burger King Venezia, Pizza Pavilion, The Internet Saga and SUNSCREEN online initiative listed in our short summary here of some things to look out for.
There are still things happening in other parts of the world, including an national election in the UK, along with parties and gatherings to celebrate/commiserate. There are new exhibitions at Arebyte Gallery, Millington|Marriot and Rod Barton, as well as the third in a series of events supporting the Multiverse Spring Residency at Wysing Arts Centre and Morgan Quaintance in conversation with Gery Georgieva around her Solo Romantika exhibition.
A complaint often registered by members of regional art scenes is the hegemony of western-centric aesthetics and ideas centred on its own creative capitals, essentially importing and exporting art in its own image. It’s a problem that’s mirrored in other global markets, where rather than offer a platform for growing local business as promised, free trade and networked connectivity only aids in the expansion of already existing corporate monopolies.
As a London-based editor and writer visiting Helsinki, there’s a certain draw to the familiar that means any experience of art in Finland comes strongly coloured by that bias. Whether it’s in LA-based artist Amalia Ulman’s Prognostics lecture at the University of Helsinki’s Exhibition Laboratory or a particular penchant for Samantha Conlon’s tabloid and Tiqqun-referencing ‘The Young Girl Blames Herself’ (2014) at Node Gallery, mine is an interest that’s thoroughly centred on the Englis-speaking. But then, with English being the language of the imperial artform concerned with popular culture, the internet and economics –along with how they’re all related –it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to the cross-cultural Kylie Minogue-referencing I Was Gonna Cancel by Kimmo Modig and Georges Jacotey.
Conceived and recorded in Athens where Jacotey is based, the video features the two artists lolling about a Greek beachfront crying and rapping to sloppy-slow instrumentals while a German Shepherd howls and Modig rhymes, “The ghosts of your networks/ will haunt you till the day you die”. This plays from wall-mounted speakers in the Sorbus-galleria, which is otherwise empty aside from a canine plush toy at the window and an iPad on the ceiling. With no instructions on what do and the invigilators hidden from view, it’s hard to know that the handheld mirror next to the visitor’s book is what’s meant for watching the video rather than craning your neck and reading a flashing “G and K” on the distant screen run backwards rather than forwards.
A more lateral-thinking mind, perhaps, would read the short play-as-room-sheet that comes with the I Was Gonna Cancel lyrics and a character called “KYLIE” inflates and flies away as “DRAKE EX MACHINA” saunters into Sorbus, depressed and narcissistic, as he looks at a mirror and kicks the stuffed dog aside (“if you’re reading this it’s too late”).
Objects and their functions are things that concern the exhibition at artist-run SIC Space, a cold and concrete bunker-like structure in a defunct cargo port on the third floor of a post-industrial warehouse building. As part of the nomadic curatorial programme Ruler, “ruled” by Diego Bruno and Mikko Kuorinki, the latter’s dark blue ‘Sun Tracker’ (2015) boat cover and gray ‘Truck Carpet’ (2015), appears in the sparsely furnished and well-lit side room, along with gestural sketches and a sculpture by Ola Vasiljeva. Kuorinki and Carl Palm’s ‘Menu (True Blue)’ (2014) stands in the main room projecting its list along “Hamburgers & Tools”, “Sleep Over”, “Extra Toppings” from an LED-lit aluminium lightbox. Bruno’s Galindez (2015) video, inspired by the theatre play by Eduardo Pavlovsky questioning the social function of psychoanalysis in subjective constructions within capitalism takes the centre. Except that the back of the screen faces the entrance and the three torturers are absent as Pavlovsky himself narrates excerpts from the original text: “There cannot be a dictatorship without the complicity of civilians”.
Complicity is a point that Amalia Ulman addresses at her Prognostics lecture as she recognises the possibility for change by taking agency over, rather than mimicking, gender stereotypes as previously performed in the online artist-as-circulated-representation of Excellences & Perfections. A live narration of her recent ‘The Future Ahead’ (2014) video essay follows a PowerPoint presentation of recent work as its focus shifts away from the filtered self-mediation of a particular point of privilege to aestheticising violence in the sophisticated cinema of terror through Stock Images of War (2015).
Perhaps it’s a violence that can drive us together rather than apart as expressed via the At the party, I write words on balloons exhibition at Node featuring video by selected artists from the Cork-based Bunny Collective and Tampere’s Areole. Where Conlon’s images of ET interviews and Gothic Lolita’s in ‘The Young Girl…’ for the former barely crosses cultures to Hinni Huttunen’s body becoming fragmented across the H&M catalogue of ‘Koko-opas / Fitting Guide’ (2014). “The Young-Girl is good for nothing but consuming…” Conlon writes, quoting Tiqqun’s Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl in the At the Party… photocopied catalogue. The Helsinki gallery’s website quotes the Oxford Dictionary in defining its name on the About page: “Junction, intersection, interchange, fork, confluence, convergence, crossing”. Given its proximity to Russia, Estonia, the ‘east’ and its ties to the Nordic and European Unions, Helsinki presents as a uniquely integrated economy and a global art scene in kind.
Exhibition photos, top right.
The exhibitions + events mentioned ran at Exhibition Laboratory, Sorbus-galleria, Node and SIC Space, opening February, 2015.
Header image: Kimmo Modig + Jacques Lacotey, I Was Gonna Cancel (2015). Installation view. Image courtesy Sorbus-galleria.