Olena Jennings, New York City based poet and designer, escapes to the trainin her latest work. During COVID-19, social distancing has been in place. For Jennings, new kind of creative process has evolved during this time, when thinking of poetry and design together.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Would you like to name some inspirational poets?
Olena Jennings: Inspirational poets include Alice Notley, Don Mee Choi, Galina Rymbu, Queens poet Micah Zevin, Cladia Rankine, Simone Kearney, and Gala Mukulomova.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your artistry has evolved from poetry to textile art, and dress making. Hows is this combination working? OJ: My thoughts become free as I sew and this process helps me to release words that I catch for the page. It can be meditative. I like the idea of connecting textile works with poetry. It’s fun to force the words into a visual shape. It’s become an important part of my process even if I never share the textile work. It helps me think of the words in a different way. It helps me to give them shape.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you feel that your cultural identity is in a process or evolving in the making of your new textile art?
OJ: My cultural identity is linked with memory. When I go into the past I explore my culture. It makes my culture more personal and different than it might be for other people.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Did COVID-19 change your practice and plans a lot, how have you coped during this time?
OJ: COVID gave me the solitude that is necessary to be creative on almost a full time basis. Even when I’m working, I am thinking about projects.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When looking at this dress and the design of it, is there anything special about making the ‘rails’ of the dress?
OJ: The fabric of this railroad dress, which I made, is polyfil and wood. It was inspired by the poem “Social Distancing” by Christine Turczyn published in Lightwood 4.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle:The dress is essentially echoing the poem, and the theme of it. There is a special rhythm in Christina Turczyn‘s poem that stimulates this design?
OJ: The specific line from Christina Turczyn‘s poem is “Anna painted a railroad tie that stretched across her hand.” The fabric that looks like wood came from scraps of the previous dress I made, so everything is connected.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: This is fascinating. So eventually, you wrote your own poem “Escape to the Train”. Did the poem by Christina, and making the dress inspired by the poem, end up in your own poem?
OJ: First came Christina’s poem, then the dress, then my poem came (without thinking of Christina’s at that point.)
ESCAPE TO THE TRAIN
By Olena Jennings
They took the photo with the fire escape in the background. They would sit outside among the plants in terra cotta pots and smoke cigarettes. Sometimes it was the highlight of their night until they started to plan the train rides. They couldn’t speak French well and bought a ticket to the wrong city that they decided to go with because it was much closer: their Strasbourg.
She was the third, sat on her own next to a stranger who kept pulling his cardigan around him as if he had something to hide. Her friends’ voices sounded like whispers the row behind her. Everyone was keeping secrets.
The journey was captured in her arteries. The movement tugged at her from within. She followed the rhythm, getting off a stop early, leaving the giggling of her friends behind.
Anne Raudaskoski is a Finnish enterpreneur who wishes to create new connection to nature. Her approach can change the game of sustainability. With a background in dance, she has faith on the power of the arts:
“Arts provide a holistic approach to existence, and this is what we need to change the current linear system. Human beings are part of the nature; nature isn’t something that is “out there” to be exploited, but rather, we need to re-establish our connection with the nature to realise that we can create sustainable growth and well-being with far better rules than what we presently have”. (Anne Raudaskoski)
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When and how did you start Ethica consulting company?
Anne Raudaskoski: I started Ethica in 2013 with my business partner Paula Fontell. We actually didn’t know each other at the time, but we both had been talking to our mutual friend of having a dream to set up a company focused on sustainability and the circular economy. This friend of ours suggested we should meet and share our ideas. We had our first meeting over lunch and we realised we shared the same vision. Three months later Ethica was formally established.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you get interested in the circular economy?
AR: My approach to CSR (corporate social responsibility) and sustainability has always been very business oriented. It means that there has to be a solid business case for sustainability and it should be embedded in strategy and R&D in such a way that sustainability works as a spring-board for the strategy instead of being an add-on or philanthropy. I wrote about the circular economy (CE) in early 2012 on my blog site after reading some articles on the Ellen McArthur Foundation (the global driver for the CE) site. I felt that some of the questions and pain points that CSR could not resolve – especially the intersection around environmental, strategic and economic issues – were inherently part of the circular economy. So when we started Ethica, it was very clear to us that the circular economy would be part of our service portfolio.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is it possible to define, what circular economy actually changes?
AR: Circular economy is an economic model, so it affects all sectors and organisations in some way. I always say that the biggest hurdle in transition from a linear to a circular economy is our current mindset. All our processes, decision-making, governance and actions are based on linear thinking. In a nutshell, this means that we keep overusing natural resources, we accept the concept of waste as de facto, design processes are not based on biological and technical cycles and we haven’t figured out yet how to do business within the planetary boundaries. All this is changing as part of the transition towards the circular economy.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are the basic principles that define the circular economy?
AR: The below list of six principles offers a good starting point to explore CE more in detail.
1 Circular economy is a resource wise economic model that is restorative and regenerative by nature. It operates within the planetary boundaries.
2. Materials cycle endlessly in technical and biological loops in society. Materials are safe & non-toxic.
3. The value of products, components and materials is maintained and increased through refinement.
4. All energy is renewable and is used efficiently.
5. Solutions are systemic and based on designing life cycles, ecosystems and multiple purposes.
6. Equal distribution of resources and well-being is in the heart of the circular economy.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe the ‘ethical’ core of Ethica?
AR: We want to create a circular future. To us this definition also entails equality, social well-being and in fact, a more just and transparent economic model than what we currently have as the result of the linear economy.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finland seems to be a forerunner for ethical solutions when it comes to consumption, and the country is also involved in introducing new clean practices. What aspects in Finnish culture support these kind of thinking?
Indeed, there are quite a few aspects supporting this and I’d say it’s the unique combination of culture, history and welfare state: high number of clean tech innovations; excellent education system that educates children and young people about sustainability topics; frugal manners that our grandparents and parents had to adopt during the war, which then were passed on to younger generations; good recycling infrastructure with incentives…and of course ambitious policies and action plans in place. For example, circular and bio economy are one of the five flagship programmes of the current government. Finland was also the first country in the world to publish a national circular economy roadmap in 2016.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What in your mind defines good consumption?
AR: Understanding your own impact and power as a consumer. Exploring your own values; what kind of world I want to be building, do I want to be part of the solution or part of the problem? Questioning your own consumption habits: is there something that I could do and choose differently? Being your own leader when it comes to adopting new, sustainable solutions.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Tell more about your Relooping Fashion project?
AR:Relooping Fashion was about creating circular fashion. We piloted a circular ecosystem consisting of seven business partners ranging from waste management company to fashion retailer and packaging service. So the goal was to build, test and learn how a closed loop fashion ecosystem could work. Another important goal was to test VTT’s (Technical Research Centre of Finland) new technology for cotton dissolution that replaces the use of virgin cotton. Ethica’s role in the project was to model the business ecosystem as well as research the consumer interface. i.e. how to create demand for circular clothing.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Where do you find your daily inspiration from?
AR: No matter how cliché it may sound, I simply and truly enjoy my work, so the work itself coupled with the opportunity learn new things is my source of inspiration. Every project is different, we have great clients and collaboration partners to work with and of course our own team is brilliant.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What can the world learn from Finnish innovation in clean practices?
AR: Great education and innovation support system are essential enablers. I also think that the Finnish way of living and thinking inherently has a fairly good level of social and environmental responsibility, and when these aspects are combined with innovation, you get the solutions that the world needs.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you like to influence and motivate people in their everyday life to incorporate more sustainable solutions and choices?
AR: There are a number of different players who all have a role to play. Of course we need businesses to develop solutions that are not only sustainable, but they’re also the best solutions available. Legislation can speed up the development and help mainstreaming new solutions. Education and the media also play a hugely important role in making sustainable choices the “new normal”.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that your background as a dancer helped you in your career path?
AR: It did in many ways. Working as a freelance dancer requires endless curiosity, self-discipline, perseverance and ambitious attitude. You’re always seeking new opportunities and you need to welcome constant change. You need to be a good team player, but at the same time you’re 100% in charge of your own development. There are hardly any permanent vacancies available, so you have to build your own career and make sure you are sufficiently networked just to be even considered to be one of the many candidates. Basically, you work as an entrepreneur without the formal status of entrepreneur.
Also my dance teacher background has been an asset when running workshops and giving presentations.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: In what ways can arts support circular economy?
Arts can create connections and mental horizons that escape the typical business environment. It can bridge rational and emotional in a way that enables eureka moment, which is a prerequisite for willingness to change the status quo.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How many countries have you visited to lecture and share about your business?
AR: A few so far: China, the Netherlands, Estonia and Reunion Island (France). We also exhibited in Austin (US) at the EcoExhibition a couple of years ago. Next month I’m going to Sweden.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is it easy to name clients that are best for your brand?
AR: The ones who want to work ambitiously, are truly interested in raising the bar and finding new opportunities through the circular economy thinking, no matter the size or sector of the organisation. From the circular economy perspective, we are still at the dawn of the new era and endless opportunities that this new approach can provide us with.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is the questions of climate change significant and embedded in your models?
AR: Absolutely. To start with, all energy should be renewable, this is one of the basic tenets of the circular economy. Decoupling growth from the use of virgin raw materials and resources is another key principle. In short, it means doing more with less and designing our products, systems and societies in a circular way so that emissions can be decreased significantly.
Featured image credit: textile hackathon, Sara Malve-Ahlroth.
Danish designer MargretheOdgaard’s exhibition was on view at the DesignMuseum in Helsinki during this summer. An introduction to her work put the creative aspect of design in focus. Odgaard’s study of color and the cultural signification of it is very relevant and timely for innovative design conversation, in which we are looking for perspectives that see beyond the pure form.
It feels timely to give design process a platform, which naturally builds discussion about contemporary creative culture. In the world of high tech platforms, we may say that the DNA of design can be found in those practices, which designers organically share with the world in which they live. Without the personal and playful approach, perhaps the future of design would find itself in trouble.
The Helsinki exhibition featured MargretheOdgaard’s collaborations and use of materials bringing forth an idea of process. What it highlights is that design should not abandon creativity and art. MargretheOdgaard was assisting late LouiseBourgeois in the artist’s large scale work, which she created for MoMA in 2005-2006. The young designer learned from this experience with the famous artist. Bourgeois shared an approach that artist has to believe 100 percent in the work, even if the outside world is not able to see the same thing. According to her, ideas and vision come with a careful attention to detail, and from a non-compromising attitude.
In the future, Odgaard hopes to work more from her own studio base, and focus on the quality of the materials and colors. There is still huge call for colors in our contemporary cultural environment. Tactility of design does not come to mind as a top priority, and the colors still belong to a neglected area in the design world and architecture. Odgaard’s dream is to bring colors back to the black and grey field of architecture, which she frequently collaborates with.
Odgaard’s design can appear as minimal, yet playful, featuring bold ideas and patterns. It is important for her that the work has emotive response from various audiences. She hopes that the designs bring comfort and energy to our everyday life. Colors have so much potential to give birth to moods and create different atmospheres. Odgaard has focused on the cultural context of colors. She traveled to Japan in 2015, and to Morocco in 2016 investigating culturally specific domains for colors. The designer aimed to find out if there are specific ways to code the local colors from architecture and objects that are attached to particular places.
Odgaard trusts that as a younger generation Scandinavian designer, she is aware of the craft that carries a long cultural history. This means that she is able to add on the existing knowledge, and offer solutions to design questions and problems, which can be both beautiful and functional. At the heart of her color thinking is ThePopsicleIndex, which she created as a tool. It comes out in rich color hues that appeal to the senses and relate to the body.
Copenhagen based Odgaard studied at the RoyalDanishAcademyofFine Arts and the RhodeIslandSchoolofDesign in the United States. After graduating in 2005, she worked as a textile designer in Philadelphia. Before opening her own studio in Copenhagen in 2013, she also designed in Paris. In 2016, the designer received a prestigious TorstenandWanjaSöderbergPrize, which is the largest design prize in the world.
The textile designer looks for the purpose behind the design, and confirms that it should be always clearly attached to the process. The product is the end result of what the process entails. MargretheOdgaard keeps diary of the colors which are inspirational for the designs. Details of colors have become a crucial part of her process. Nuances are extremely important, and the diary is a great tool as part of the investigation. Results are far away from being shy. It is truly a matter of sharing as well.
“Share your knowledge, ideas and skills without hesitation. Be specific to order to become general. Use good tools and create new if necessary. Think through your hands. Free yourself from the limits of coolness. Allow things to evolve in their own pace. Listen. Laugh. Dance.” – Margrethe Odgaard.
The designer investigates colors.
For Odgaard wood can offer pattern and color combination to textile ply.
MargretheOdgaard’s exhibition was on view until August 28, at the DesignMuseum in Helsinki, more info:
With the current exhibitions focusing on the historic works of Tyko Sallinen and Tove Jansson, The Helsinki Art MuseumHAM draws attention to modern Finnish art. Both exhibitions opened in January 27, 2017. Sallinen’s exhibition will run until the Fall of this year, and Tove Jansson’s frescos will remain on a permanent display in the museum.
The exhibition of Tyko Sallinen (1879–1955), explores works of a Finnish modernist pioneer in painting who is also a representative of expressionism in art. The exhibition consists of 50 works from the artist’s most important period, the 1910s. Tyko Sallinen’s expressionist works had a meaningful impact on Finnish art in the beginning of the 20th century. He and some other like-minded artists introduced new ideas into the Finnish art field, as their approach met open opposition and critique from the older generations of artists.
Sallinen was painting portraits of people, which became a signature marker of his often personal and intimate works. These one person and group portraits were also considered scandalous in their time because of their expressionist and emotive approach to people. Yet, many of his landscapes create a similar sense of strong moodiness. The landscapes imply that the role of nature was close to the artist’s thinking. The brushwork across different canvases come out with delicate movement, composing trees and horizons with earthy tones. The works bring forth viewer’s personal approach and feeling to the surroundings. Sallinen’s landscape compositions are both classic and reflective, confirming that human mind wishes to connect with its nature with intuitive touch and reflection. Simple blue and green hues of the two landscapes (pictured) convey messages, being poetic with a strong stance.
The other Finnish modernist artist receiving the exhibition in the HAMArt Museum is Tove Jansson (1914–2001). She is famously perceived as a creator, writer, visual artist and illustrator of the Moomin books. With a substantial global recognition, the Moomin characters are now more popular that ever around the world. It is no wonder that Tove Jansson’s visual compositions are among the most loved works in the HAM collection. The art museum has dedicated some of its galleries to an exhibition celebrating the artist’s entire life and works. These include also her less well known frescos, which she originally created on site for several public institutions. Tove Jansson stands out as an impressive woman with a long career as an artist and influential thinker. She was a skilled painter, writer of many genres, a comics artist and illustrator with a humorous larger than life approach, and a script writer. The exhibition shows the history of words and pictures bringing forth her richly illustrated stories.
Among the exhibition works are Jansson’s frescos titled Juhlat kaupungissa, Party in the City and Juhlat maalla, Party in the Country (the latter pictured above);and sketches of murals which the artist made for the Aurora Children’s Hospital (Leikki, Play I-III; Play II illustrated below) in Helsinki. The Play I-III series was created in 1955-57 for the walls of the staircases in the Aurora Hospital, and it features several Moomin characters running up the staircases. The hospital is now closed, but during the years of its operation, 1 million children were able to enjoy the art.
TheKaupunginkellari restaurant, known as Helsinki City HallRestaurant, opened in 1947 to serve as a canteen for the people working in the City Hall, and as a venue for official functions. ToveJansson painted the frescos Party in the City and Party in the Country duringthe same year for the restaurant. With these colorful works, the artist wished to express a sentiment of the joy of life, which was important for the country after its experiences and losses in the World War II. Jansson’s frescos were added to the restaurant’s interior, and were accompanied by the group of reliefs designed by Michael Schilkin, as well as pictures etched on windows by Yrjö Rosola. The HAM has also added lamps into Tove Jansson’s exhibition of frescos. They are the same lighting fixtures that were used in the restaurant. Their designer is Paavo Tynell (1890–1973), who made lighting designs for numerous public interiors.
From architectural and design point of view, Helsinki City HallRestaurant represented a remarkable example of Finnish modernism of its day. This was a time in the Finnish art history, when modernism in art was highly approaching different genres of artistry and design; bringing art, design and architecture in closer contact and communication with each other. The art and architecture union made peoples’ everyday life happier and more colorful, creating experiences for multiple senses.
HAM, The Helsinki Art Museum, concentrates on art collections, which belong to the people of Helsinki. The collection includes over 9,000 works of art, and almost half of the works are on display in parks, streets, offices, health centres, schools and city libraries.
Tyko Sallinen’s exhibition also shows works from artist’s first wife, Helmi Vartiainen, and by their daughters Taju and Eva.
Japanese sculptor Yasushi Koyama lives in Helsinki, Finland and exhibits frequently in the local galleries. In this interview, he ponders the aesthetics behind his cute wooden sculptures. The artist brings the two artistic worlds together in his deep knowledge of both Finnish and Japanese cultures. One of his revelations connects to an idea of etic (or ethic), a general belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When did you move to Finland, and how did you decide to go there to study?
Yasushi Koyama: I moved to Finland in Autumn 2007 to study Fine arts in Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in Imatra. In 2006, I met Finnish printmaker Tuula Moilanen and took her art courses in Kyoto Japan. She was a good teacher and gave me some advice for Finnish education and art school. Then I decided to come to Finland to study.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is the best part of having two cultures to live in and with?
YK: The best part is to have another viewpoint beyond one culture. In addition, in my own artwork Finnish culture meets Japanese culture automatically, unconsciously and unintentionally. It is a good mixture of two cultures for me.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that new cultural heritage transforms you?
YK: I am transformed by Finnish culture on a daily basis especially with the sense of nature and with the contemporary culture of art & design in Helsinki. While in Imatra I experienced a lot of nature such as forest, lake, snow, river, waterfall etc. I took many photos of the beautiful Finnish nature during each season. In this point I was transformed to be a person who likes nature. At the same time, it reminded me of how to be a Japanese, because a life with nature is the very style of Japanese culture too. I came to Helsinki in 2012 to have my solo exhibition in NAPA Gallery. In 2012 Helsinki was the world design capital and my exhibition joined in with some events of World design capital 2012. NAPA Gallery had many artists who were related to graphic design. It was very fresh for me. The art of NAPA members inspired my own art language to absorb the feeling of contemporary graphic design into my art. So I am transformed to get the design viewpoint from the Helsinki contemporary culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are currently taking part of an exhibition at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. Tell about the background for this particular show.
YK: The show is called “Masters of Saimaa’16”. It is Masters of Fine Arts graduation exhibition in The Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. 9 master degree students have joined in the show. My artworks are 3 works. There are 2 wood sculptures and 1 wood installation from me.
One of the wood sculptures is titled Panda papa and child. It is a large sculpture, 160cm high and weighting more than 400 kg. The artwork is made for my Art for Children project in 2016. People can touch & hug this Panda papa sculpture, so it is interactive art, and the art also connects to our well-being. It is going to be donated to children’s public place as a public art after my upcoming solo exhibition in Galleria AARNI. I have a good memory attached to Panda. When I was 6 years old Panda came to Ueno Zoo in Japan from China. I visited the Zoo to watch the Panda with my father.
Another wood sculpture is titled Walking cat with Katja’s T-shirt – collaboration with Katja Tukiainen. It is 150 cm high and weights more than 200 kg. Artist Katja Tukiainen is my supervisor for my final works of my thesis. Both Katja and I had a similar experience of having cats as pets in our childhood, and we both like cats. Katja Tukiainen has also designed the official T-shirt for the Cable factory. I liked the T-shirts and so got the idea for the collaboration with her.
Then, my wood installation’s goes with the title The horizontal – wood installation. It is composed of 6 pieces of woods that were originally from one large tree (5m high). Each piece weights between 30 kg to 150 kg. It is made from ash wood that my friend gave me. The title is from Eija–Liisa Ahtila’s video work “The horizontal “ to use 6 screen panels to show one long tree in horizontal way. Her video work “The house” was the first contemporary Finnish art that I saw in Tokyo in 2003. Through this work I wanted to express the culture of wood in Finland and Japan, the process of wood sculpting and wood as a material itself. In Finland the forest area is 71% of the entire land area. In Japan the forest area is about 68% of the land area. In the world, the average of forest area is 31%. So in comparison, our countries have a lot of forest and woods. I think that we both have the tradition of wood culture such as wooden buildings, wooden houses, wooden tools, wooden arts etc. So wood is really important material for me.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You hear often that Finnish and Japanese cultures have something in common from the point of view of the design cultures. Do you think it’s true and in what ways?
YK: Yes, it is true. As I told, both Finland and Japan have the culture of wood. Both Finnish and Japanese like nature in life. So natural materials have an influence on the expression of our cultures of design, architecture and art. In addition simplicity, clarity and repetitive nature are similar in both cultures.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you find your artistic expression with the sculpture?
YK: My artworks are animal sculptures described as “Cute, lovely and humorous”. Most of my works are made from one piece of wood by using hand chisels. The rich textures of wood sculpting give people a warm impression. My wood sculptures have the good mixture between traditional wood sculpting and contemporary expression.
I learnt traditional wood sculpturing in Japan, New Zealand, Transylvania and Finland. For example in Finland in school I learnt wood sculpting from Finnish sculptor Pasi Karjula. He cherished the traditional way of wood sculpting using axe and hand chisels as well as other methods.
In the contemporary art context my wood sculptures have the expression of cuteness and positive energy. Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen had an influence on those expressions. And Finnish sculptor Kim Simonsson inspired me with his innocence of cartoonish sculpture. In addition, the graphic design of Marimekko etc., as well as the culture of the Finnish children’s characters, especially the Moomins took effect on me.
At the same time Japanese Manga & Anime and “neo-pop” art by Japanese painter Yoshitomo Nara have influenced my art language of cuteness. The ideas of art works are inspired by animals, natural shape of wood, self-drawing, Finnish art, illustration, textile design and Japanese art & culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are your cute animal sculptures loved by both Finnish and Japanese audiences alike?
YK: Yes, I think so. They are loved and sold in both Finland and Japan. The interesting issue is that Finnish people say Yasushi’s works have Japanese feeling, and Japanese people say that Yasushi’s works have Finnish feeling in them. I accept their viewpoints as a good mixture between Finnish and Japanese culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you develop and teach your concepts to kids?
YK: I remember that I was making animal sculptures with clay almost every day when I was between 4-6 years old. My father gave me photo books of animals. After I looked at them I made animals. It was my ordinary life during my childhood. So it was natural for me to make cute animals. Although I was making a human sculpture while in school, after my graduation I remembered my enjoyment with animal sculptures. So it is normal and natural for me to make these cute animal sculptures. After starting to create animals, some friends and gallerists told me that my artworks include concepts for kids. So I will continue developing art based on my own childhood memories.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is your favorite museum or museums in Finland and why?
YK: I have many favorite museums in Finland. It is difficult to tell of all the museums. So I point my favorite 3 art museums with exhibitions in 2016. I liked Ai Weiwei & Yayoi Kusamaexhibitions in Helsinki Art Museum, Ernesto Neto’s exhibition in 5th floor in Kiasma and “Suomen Taiteen Tarina” (Stories of Finnish Art) in Ateneum Art Museum. Ai Weiwei and Yayoi Kusama are top well-known artists in the world. I appreciate HAM to have offered their exhibitions to people in Finland. I also like the space in Kiasma’s 5th floor. Ernesto Neto’s exhibition gave us the participation and experience, the post colonial and interdisciplinary disciplines in the contemporary art context. “Stories of Finnish Art” was very compact exhibition, but at the same time a very profound way to show Finnish art history. I thought it was a great opportunity for tourists in summer to see the exhibition in Ateneum and also for Finland to show their image through Finnish art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe Finnish aesthetics?
YK: I want to describe 3 concepts of “less is more”, “silence” and “sorrow” as Finnish aesthetics.
When I think about aesthetics, I always think about “etic” of aesthetics. Etic (or ethic) is a general idea or belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes. I think that Finnish etic are diligent, honest and simple. Finnish aesthetics is the general idea that influences Finnish people’s behavior to understand beauty. So in my opinion one of Finnish aesthetics is about “less is more”. When I see the simple structures of Finnish architectures, it is so obvious.
About “silence” (hiljaisuus in Finnish), and how it is connected to nature. I remember silent landscape of snow in forest during winter. It was very beautiful. One of my Finnish friends gave me the message about nature, comparing sisu to silence (sisu is a Finnish spirit against strong power). “Nature means more than forests or lakes. It means freedom for oneself. Sisu is the most important for Finns. But how can one respect the other’s freedom? To respect one’s own freedom and the other’s freedom, Finns are keeping silent.” It is poetic but precisely showing the Finnish behavior of silence.It says that silence is the expression to respect one’s own and other’s freedom. Silence is one core of beauty related to the idea of freedom in Finnish culture.
About “sorrow” (suru in Finnish). A Finnish pop singer-song writer Kaija Koo says the phrase: Niin kaunis on hiljaisuus, mutta kauniimpaa on kaipaus. It means: So beautiful is silence but more beautiful is longing. So, when a Finn misses another person or a place, they feel sorrow. The sense of sorrow is connected to the feeling of longing and missing. In addition, a Finnish sense of sorrow takes place in the melancholic climate of Finland, such as during cold, dark and snow etc. “Sorrow” is a general and profound concept in Finnish art, film, novel, mythology etc.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does innovation mean to you?
YK: Innovation is the attitude to look for new applications of old knowledge and the one to create new concepts by mixing more than two different concepts and cultures.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who do you collaborate with and where do you work? Is teamwork important to you?
YK: To meet a person is very important for me. So I would like to cherish meeting a person. This time I collaborated with Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen in Cable Factory, Helsinki. I met her in Cable Factory in 2009 coincidentally, when I was walking around the Cable Factory. She was very kind to me even though I didn’t know her at all at that time. She talked to me friendly about Japan and her exhibition in Yokohama, Japan. I think that meeting is sometimes coincidental but often meaningful. I would like to cherish such a meeting. For the collaboration it is important for me to have a similar concepts, and to be able to share ideas. It is important for me to make collaboration beyond your own culture and to create something new from it. I have collaborated with artists such as painters, sculptors and printmakers. For the future I am interested in collaborating with not only artists but also with designers, anthropologists, philosophers, children, and with ordinary people to be transforming my art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have an opinion about Kusama’s works, she is now extremely popular in the West. How do you like the exhibition in Helsinki at the moment?
In my opinion Kusama’s exhibition includes an important concept of interdisciplinarity, the roles of post colonial and gender in the contemporary art world. So it is natural for the West to accept her art. And her exhibition shows not only art but also an idea to share an experience of her art with visitors. It means that her art works are not only objects but also the image of her art, spirit and that of the contemporary culture. Her exhibition goes beyond art and connects with people in the gallery space to share their experiences. From this point of view, the visitors can participate in her exhibition. And I find that her paintings have an influence coming from native art and aboriginal art. Then, I think that her dot art includes not only pop art but also biological consideration of a cell, Shintoism and neo animism. I imagine that those concepts are fresh and still new to the West. So I admire HAM (Helsinki Art Museum) to have her exhibition.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Does Kusama have an approach that can be applied to other things, or could there be a recipe for a good idea to be developed further. There seems to be something that makes people really want to participate in it?
YK: Yayoi Kusama was the world’s most popular artist in 2014. And she is still one of the most popular artist in 2016. I think that the quality of this exhibition is among the top of the world. And her exhibition has been already developed by the point of visitor’s participation, comparing it to her exhibition that I saw in Matsumoto, Japan in 2003. It would be possible for her to use 5 senses to prompt visitors to participate in her art, such as the sense of touch, the sense of smell and auditory sense.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that art should be more sensorial, and available for people to touch?
YK: Yes, at least for me. I think touching art is a much deeper experience than seeing art. I make my large animal wooden sculptures (about 160 x 80 x70 cm) to be touchable and huggable. It is a hands-on way of “interactive art” in a sense that visitors also take action towards the art. And it is also “participation art” as you are touching and hugging a sculpture in the exhibition gallery space or in the public space. The importance of touching art is also connected to the internet period or described as a post-internet period. Although we can see a lot of images through internet, we can’t get a sense of touch through internet as well. So the sense of touch is a strong point attached to my animal sculptures. The feeling of a wood material is little warm and nice to human body. My animal sculptures have been already in some public places as public art. It gives people happiness and experiences in a way that they participate in a society through art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is there a line between art and design in contemporary art or does there have to be?
YK: For me such a line is not so meaningful in our contemporary time. Design can be art and art can be design. I think that art and design have an effect on each other especially here in Helsinki.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are you planning next, do you have new ideas and exhibitions coming up?
YK: My next exhibition is coming soon 23.11-18.12.2016 in Galleria AARNI in Espoo, Finland. The concept is “Cute” –between SÖPÖ and Kawaii. I mix Finnish cuteness “SÖPÖ” with Japanese cuteness “Kawaii” in my art. In Japan “Kawaii” (= the quality of cuteness) has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture. This term Kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of cool, groovy, charming and innocent. The book “Kawaii Syndrome” tells “cute” and “neat” have taken precedence over the former Japanese aesthetics of “beautiful” and “refined”. So cuteness is a new cultural wave of Japanese postwar generation especially of the ones born in 70’s and 80’s. This cultural wave has come to Europe particularly through Manga and Anime. For the design of my animal wood sculptures I use Finnish wood, and the Finnish cuteness of SÖPÖ is inspired by Finnish art and design. In the exhibition visitors can see ”Cute” animal sculptures, touch & hug a large sculpture ”Panda Papa & Child”. I am hoping the audiences will enjoy Yasushi Koyama’s world of cute animals in the exhibition coming to Galleria AARNI.
The opening of a new expansion of the SFMOMA art museum was celebrated just a couple of weeks ago. The intention of the new Snøhettadesigned museum, is to increase public access to the museum by creating more room for education for the arts and related fields, to bridge the gap between the exhibiting gallery spaces and unticketed areas, as well as connect the outdoor spaces around the museum. More room to hang out, to meet, to educate, to inspire and to be inspired. SFMOMA opened at its current location in 1995, when the construction was designed by Mario Botta. For the reconstruction, Snøhetta design team had a challenge to double the gallery spaces, and help create a museum, which is a hub for new things to emerge. The refurbished museum aims to bring together American and International arts, while the collections span through gestural modernism and conceptual art, to the emerging contemporary art from the Bay Area. SFMOMA has also promised to reach out to global art communities at large.
Sol LeWitt ‘s Wall Drawing 895: Loopy Doopy (white and blue)
Green wall at SFMOMA.
Oculus Bridge at new SFMOMA.
Descending natural light creates deep space.
The new SFMOMA proves that it is possible to reinvent an art museum. First, the museum architecture plays a huge role in creating the potential for the artworks that are being installed, as innovative architecture contests the boundaries of the space. This time, museum interior communicates with the exterior. Snøhetta has created a construction, which is seamlessly woven into the existing building, adding into the city’s urban dreams. As a result, the museum goes beyond its construction site, and communicates with surrounding parks and alleys. This proves that the ‘institutional’ side of the museum’s bureaucracy is set in the background, and the numerous stages of the public dwellings offered to the visitors is more apparent. A visitor attains the key role through the alteration of the spatial elements. Having so many choices to play with, the architecture transmits the perception, and creates together with the artworks a unique encounter for each visitor. The architectural line, it’s material continuation inside and outside sparks into multiple directions. Second, art plays with architecture in a new and unexpected ways, and changes the constructions too. With Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, and Alexander Calder, among others, it’s hard to make the space appear as null. But there is so much art in the world to add into the master classics. New works show as much potential to communicate with the space.
Snohetta designed SFMOMA.
A new contemporary art installation inaugurates the museum’s New Work -space. Leonor Antunes, has created work with a title ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’ (2016). This piece communicates with the architecture, showing diverse angles to enter the gallery space. The artist has stated that she carries ghosts with her into her works, in bringing artists, designers, and architects whom she admires to her installations. ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’ is no different, appearing as a continuation of the space as an interior. The handcrafted materials cover the floor, hang from the ceiling, light the space, and block a direct path. The installation shows the artist’s interest in the Modernism, highlighting especially the woman practitioners in the history of craft and design.
The Doris and Donald FisherCollection creates much of the museum’s art collection. In particular, noteworthy is the display around the historic gestural abstraction, which started molding the American Art after the end of the World War II. The movement started to erase questions about the art’s capability to evoke thoughts and feelings. Perhaps it originated in the idea of believing in the healing mechanisms of the art. One work is particularly interesting. Joan Mitchell’s large size triptych ‘Bracket’ (1989), is a great example of the instantaneous moment in art. For her, painting could represent similar forces as the sculpture, forging out the movement and physicality.
The show around gestural modernism is well thought out as part of the SFMOMA’s new opening. It reaches up to redefining the concept of a gesture via selection of works. This becomes a red thread to other artistic displays as well. The museum exhibits plenty of work coming from the plural identities of the Bay Area, yet, some combining elements construct a more cohesive palette. The best part is that the transitional space of the West Coast and its cultural crossroads confuses the pattern of the gesture as something fixed, measured, white and universal. The inside of the culture is turned outside, as much as the architectural environment overlaps both domains.
The contemporary artworks do not create separation, but quite wisely culminate in supporting each other. Series of contemporary works follow black and white patterns, with a hip touch of pop art, and borrowing from chic minimalism of American interiors. These could of course be easily absorbed into the world of design and culture lending to Modernist and Postmodernist architectural patterns. Over all, the sometimes too heavy collective experiences are not so much emphasized, and there is more room for subdued artistic politics. Fragmented selves and posthumous experiences, ghosts of the artist’s personal influences as part of the installation define the process in the contemporary art.
ETH Zurich pavilion was constructed of waste materials and opened to visitors during the IDEAS CITY Festival in May 28-30, 2015. The 3-day biennial festival takes place in New York City in May mapping the future of cities with culture as a driving force. It is a collaborative event, including a conference and street festival, inviting to civic action, as well as giving a platform for creative ideas to be exchanged. This year’s theme was inspired by Italo Calvino’s literary work Invisible Cities (1972). Participants explored questions such as transparency and surveillance, citizenship and representation, expression and suppression, in their daily lives.
Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. (Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities)
TheETH Zurichpavilion hosted events through the festival. What does a truly smart city mean to us was a highlighted theme around the site. The pavilion was entirely made of waste, so while our answers to what smart cities are can be many, an important question is the future scaling of consumption in the cities. ETH Zurich poses a sustainable approach where we need to reconsider what we can do with all the waste that now ends up in landfills. Some solutions include tackling the pre- and post-consumer waste, while transforming it into construction materials like bricks and panels, which then can be used in making future buildings, homes and new products.
The pavilion is designed with a vault-like roof, showcasing bricks made of waste. It displays engineering technique that minimizes the use of material through the structure of the design. It lets in a good amount of daylight and feels airy. The structure brings into mind Guastavino tile vaulting as source of inspiration. Some of the Guastavino vaulting can be seen for example in New York subway’s abandoned City Hall station. In that context, the vaulting benefits from a technique that uses self-supporting arches with standardized size tiles. What this Pavilion truly showcases is that in the future, cities will hopefully optimize the designs so the structures will occupy less space. Big cities like New York struggle with lack of space, so fitting the pavilion in-between the buildings in downtown 1st avenue looked and felt smart and savvy.
The expressive Pavilion was designed to ‘visually float in the narrow slot between the buildings of First Street Garden.’ It is designed by the ETH Assistant Professorship for Architecture and Construction, Dirk E. Hebel and the Block Research Group. What the structure also implies aesthetically and visually is the potential of design to utilize so unstandardized and ‘weak’ materials in construction. The Pavilion’s shape follows the flow of forces, resulting in a compression-only vaulted structure. It has a double curvature and triangular beam-section, giving the structure a higher depth for the same thickness and weight.
Man Yau is a Helsinki based artist currently living in New York City. Her art and design philosophy comes from craftsmanship, which means exploration with different materials. She collaborates genuinely with other designers and artists. Most recently, she exhibited @TheHoleNYC together with two other Finns, Jesse Auersalo and Nina Merikallio in their show called “Dislocation”. Man says that having so many idols and mentors in her life makes it impossible to start with a particular list..
But I do love a mark that Ettore Sottsass has left to the design history, I recently experienced a wonderful show by Daniel Leyva, Toshio Matsumoto’s “Shift” is better than weed, and streaming with my brother is always encouraging. -Man Yau
FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: How would you describe your medium, intersection between art and design, using traditional materials to convey popular topics or trends?
MAN YAU: Firstly, the intersection between art and design, what does it mean nowadays anyways? I feel that the borderline between art and design has been crossed, and more and more experimental design objects or functional art pieces are being produced. Secondly, I do use lots of mediums such as marble, porcelain, glass, wood and metals because I love working with my hands. Craftsmanship, it’s part of my philosophy of making. And it conveys to “popular” topics (I would rather say current topics) because I want to handle modern society’s movements in my work. The themes of my artworks reflect current trends that I see as a characteristic for our generation.
Porcelain Decks by Man Yau. Snap shot from behind the scene. Photo: Tuukka Kaila.
Bag collaboration for Sophie Sälekari’s collection 2014. Photo: Juha Mustonen
Aeon lines – table Exhibited in Milan Design Week, Photo: Anna Niskanen
Where did you exhibit recently, before showcasing in New York? How was the New York exhibit?
MAN YAU: My latest project was a collaborative project with Finnish fashion designer Sophie Sälekari. I made a very experimental, haute-couture-ish bag collection for her line up. It was shown for the first time at Näytös14 (Organized by Aalto University, ARTS) and then the whole collection has been in different showrooms and in Paris Fashion Week. At the same time I exhibited in Milan Design week 2014, at the show room Spazio Milano C’est Chic together with Beacon Helsinki, this collective creative network group. Oh yah, I have now ongoing a group exhibition in Helsinki. It’s called Arts and Design of Tomorrow at Bukowskis Auction House in Helsinki.
You have made beautiful skateboards out of porcelain, which is a statement of cultural trend, do you skate yourself?
MAN YAU: No I don’t, not my sport but skateboarding and all stuff related to it has been a big influence to me always. (Porcelain decks on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/48134455)
What is the current art climate in Helsinki versus Europe?
MAN YAU: Well It’s getting sunnier I guess tho it is still cloudy. By that I mean that Finnish design and fashion industry are rising with good speed but art comes behind. I think it’s because of the lack of financial support and branding. There are a lot of really amazing art projects going on all the time but the projects usually stays where it started from, in Finland. Not too many of us have change to go big, in global-wise.
What do you consider as your future goals?
MAN YAU: To become a self-employed artist with a good taste and who does not have to beg money from the foundations to support the project all the friggin’ time.
What do you think of the global art market, do you have an opinion about it?
MAN YAU: Interesting, crucial, if you get into the spin the cloudy days are over.
(Fashion Interactions-exhibition, Timo Wright-‘un fit’ video still)
FASHION CURATING NOW is a daylong symposium at ParsonsThe New School for Design on Saturday November 16 9:30 am-5 pm. The symposium reflects the subjects around the Fashion Interactions exhibition focusing on the possibilities and challenges of contemporary fashion curating on a global scale. Critical points of view are stressed, as is contemplation of fashion’s kinship with art, design, industry, performance, and self-presentation. I asked a few questions from Leena-Maija Rossi, who is the Executive Director of Finnish Cultural Institute in New York,about the seminar and other related topics.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you explain the background of the seminar?
L-M Rossi: The background of the Fashion Curating Now is in the exhibition project Fashion Interactions. It has its origins in the show Boutique, curated by Annamari Vänskä, which was part of Helsinki’s World Design Capital year in 2012. Finnish Cultural Institute wanted to bring a new edition of the show to New York and partnered with Parsons New School for Design in order to do that. The process of “re-curating” an already existing exhibition made us think of curating fashion at large: how to present fashion in an interesting way “outside the market”? How to make engaging exhibitions on fashion, how to show its entwinement with fine art, how to find new fora for curating, e. g., in the new media? How to make visible the political aspects of fashion?
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finnish fashion and design have gained more international visibility, creating their own trends as well, how do you see current research field is following trends from the industry?
L-M Rossi: I see fashion research as a developing and dynamic field, especially when it connects with studies on class and consumerism, and, of course, studies of gender and sexuality. I do not know if the task for the research is to follow the trends, I rather see research as a field for critical interventions.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: In Finland, it seems that industries have also been able to point to cultural questions, what do you see as current research themes coming from the field/industries themselves?
L-M Rossi:Sustainability is of course a timely research theme, and the way it intersects with the issue of class. I am also really interested in the potentiality of queer fashion research, and I would really like to see more analysis on gender nonconformity, not so much of equaling queer with identity categories.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Yourself, you have written about advertising, media, gender representations/performance-related, in the contemporary visual culture. What do you see this global exchange is giving to these themes?
L-M Rossi: I think fashion is a crucial part of visual culture at large, especially because of its border-crossing nature. Gender is being profoundly done by people’s choices of dressing up and wearing their clothes, and these choices are, again, influenced by advertising. So one could say that the fields of fashion and advertising are constantly participating in the global processes of doing and undoing gender.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How well or how do Finnish fashion industries communicate globally? How do you see the branding, would it be more individual voices than a canon etc.?
L-M Rossi: It seems that many Finnish designers communicate quite naturally in the international field of fashion. Like visual artists, I think they first and foremost present their individual voices; it is very difficult to build a uniform “brand.” But then again, many seem to be thinking of such issues as high quality materials and sustainability.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle:Art, fashion, design: How would you speed-describe these together?
L-M Rossi:Fashion and design are artforms, fashion is an interesting field within design. All of them make difference in everyday life.
MINNA SÄRELÄ is a founder of Finnish design collective PALONI,which is coming to New York this weekend to open a pop-up store during the fashion week.PALONI shop will be open through the end of February at the Ivana Helsinki NYC Concept Store. Their motto is: YOU CAN CALL IT DESIGN, INDIE FASHION, ART OR HANDICRAFT. WE CALL IT PASSION.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Minna, I was so happy to hear that PALONI is coming to New York, tell me little bit about this ‘invasion’?
Minna: I founded Palonione and a half years back, and lately started to feel that it’s time for the next step, broadening our scope and doing the first international project. New York opened as an opportunity through another Finnish fashion company Ivana Helsinki. After I got to discuss with their crew, things started going forward very fast. Our designers are very excited about this project and the possibilities it offers. We had a total of 37 Finnish designers joining the project, despite a very tight schedule for the preparations. Now it’s not just my project anymore, it’s something we do together. We have a group of 20 Finnish designers coming personally to New York, and together we will promote Finnish design and fashion know-how, build a pop-up store within the Ivana Helsinki NYC Concept Store. We will organize events and parties, network and build ourselves wider horizons for future dreams.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When you started the company-collective, who did you include, was it by invitation and with like-minded people?
Minna: When I started, I had 45 designers that I represented. Now I’m trying to settle the number at about 80, although there would be much more demand and need from the designers’ side to join this kind of a platform or network. Still, I think it makes more sense both to our designers and customers that we can concentrate on the people we represent.
At first all of my co-operations with designers started by finding interesting labels or designers, and looking for cooperation. Now I get many requests every week from designers who would like to cooperate. I try to answer them all and to help them all, even if I think there’s something about their line or products they should still work on before going to the market.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: HOW INTERNATIONAL IS PALONI?
Minna: I see Paloni as “born global”. Even though we’ve only operated in Finland so far, our way of communicating in English, and with international vibes, have brought us international customers and connections, and made our network international. Also our designers come from across the globe, although this New York project concentrates on making Finnish designers’ skills better known.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle:I learned from your website that you have been participating in eco- and sustainable fashion events, what have you learned about this field, and what are your thoughts about this trend?
Minna: I really wish it will not be just another trend among others, but rather a chancing force that will make the whole industry into something different and affect our behavior profoundly. I feel there’s much need for making ethically and ecologically sustainable options available and better known. I don’t believe the change comes from pressuring or from being negative. It needs to stem from each one of us. Personally, I feel that wearing a garment I respect in all ways makes me feel more balanced and respected, too. There’s a lot of discussion and information around this issue, and I’ve learned so much about the debates and aspects in the past years. However, I think offering information will not change it very much – we already get too much information every day. I think we rather need some easy and pleasant ways of loving fashion more sustainably. By bringing together tens of designers that represent this ideology and by offering their offerings as a holistic array and experience, we try to build sustainable design in a pleasant way, and include a wide enough collection to be part of it.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: WHAT ARE YOUR NEW PROJECTS WITHIN PALONI, AND YOUR EVENTS?
Minna: Simply teamwork. By doing things in a committed team and by supporting each others’ potentials we can reach much more than with big money. The word ‘Paloni’ comes from the Finnish word “my passion”. When you have passion for something, it shows. And when it shows, others get excited too. And when that happens, impossible things become possible.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What do you expect from your visit in New York, how many times have you visited?
Minna: Although I haven’t been in New York many times, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I think each one of our designers have big and very different expectation. Personally, I expect networking, finding new inspiration and ideas, -these two things combined can lead the way to something new and unexpected.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is Paloni hoping to bring the products here, or will operate via the e-shop?
Minna: The Paloni pop-up will be open inside Ivana Helsinki NYC Concept Store from February 11th until February 28th. This is a good chance to see, feel and try on the products in person. However, we also have an online store through which we have worldwide shipping at all times. The collection we’re presenting in New York are these designers’ new spring-summer collections. New Yorkers will have the privilege of getting to buy these items first – they will only become available in our Helsinki-store and our online store in March. Our online store has all this information in English, and can be found from www.paloni.fi/store
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Welcome to New York!
Minna: Thank you! And welcome to our opening party on Wednesday Feb. 13th at Ivana Helsinki NYC Concept Store! We will have DJ Fiona Timantti playing Finnish music, and you’ll have the chance to meet our designers in person.
Read also story about Scandinavian Design in this blog