Riitta Ikonen’s artistic day dreaming

Artist Riitta Ikonen traveled recently to Greenland to discover new artistic work that reflects interaction between humans and their natural environment. Her exhibition, “Glacial Reveries”, is on view at The Chimney Exhibition & Performance venue in Brooklyn until February 7th. Interestingly, the body of work touches directly a topic of glaciers and their fate in the age of the anthropocene. Reveries, then, as a form of day dreaming, means for the artist a human survival strategy during the end of the world scenario. The objects include; a wetsuit for the tip of an iceberg, a lifejacket for a brick, eroded stones tied back together with strings, a video hidden in a suit, stairs leading up to cinder block windows. Few year ago, Riitta Ikonen captivated her audiences with a collaborative photography project, Eyes as Big as Plates, which embeds something remarkable of the elderly human portraits, characterizing people among their surroundings. In this interview, the artist discusses her exhibitions, travels, artistic practice and plans.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Could you tell about this ongoing project called Eyes as Big as Plates, how did it start, develop, and so on?

Riitta Ikonen: Eyes as Big as Plates is an ongoing collaborative venture with Karoline Hjorth, a photographer with a journalism and tall-ship sailing background. We met in 2011 on an artist residency after I, in search of a collaborator, typed in: Norway+Grannies+Photographer into an Internet search engine and found Hjorth as the top search result. (She had just published a book on Norwegian grandmothers.) We met for the very first time on the doorstep of a 20 m² flat in the small town of Sandnes, southwest of Norway.

Starting out as a play on characters from Nordic folklore and the personifications of nature in the lore, Karoline and I wanted to find out what kind of connection the Norwegians had with their rocks, fjords and hills. Those hills hadn’t changed since the tales, but the people sure had. We figured that the older the local interviewee/model, the closer we would get to the talking rocks of the tales. Folktales often made complex natural and sociological issues understandable and accessible, with phenomena taking on forms and characteristics that even a mere mortal could have a dialogue with. Perhaps our Eyes as Big as Plates images aimed to discuss the contemporary human in the nature in a similarly approachable language. After interviewing in Sandnes for two weeks, our investigation started shifting more towards imagination and Eyes as Big as Plates has evolved into a search for modern human’s belonging to nature.

Much of the western society is unnecessarily confused when it comes to the ‘usefulness’ of older people. As the project continues to cross borders, it also aims to rediscover a demographic group too often labeled as marginalized and generate new perspectives on who we are and where we belong.

The series is produced in collaboration with retired farmers, fishermen, zoologists, plumbers, opera singers, housewives, artists, academics and ninety year old parachutists. These are people we meet through friends, relatives and newspaper ads, in hardware stores, noodle shops, indoor gardening society meetings, swimming pools, on the city streets etc.

The title Eyes as big as Plates refers to two Scandinavian folktales featuring respectively a goat and a dog with eyes the size of plates.

 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: It seems that the work was presented in multiple international places. Do you think that there were different receptions of your work that you find as constructive?

RI: I traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the US last fall with Eyes as Big as Plates exhibition and was honored to witness the reactions to the photographs from of the large Finnish community. More people of Finnish descent live in the northwest part of the Upper Peninsula than anywhere else in the world outside of Finland. The images resonated with the crowd in a way that transcended borders, time and language. The Nordic spirit was redolent in the minds of the third generation Finns yearning to keep the connection to their heritage alive. Though the exhibition was small, it was one of the most moving and personal of the dozens of lectures and openings I attended last year.

After the opening of the Eyes as Big as Plates exhibition at the National Museum of Greenland, Karoline and I got to listen to Teitur from the Faroe Islands perform live at the Katuaq Center. His song ‘Home’ struck a cord in that moment and I realized there is a ‘home’ in each image for me, perhaps for others too, a universal anchoring point. Greenland was exceptional in many ways and I know that this was the first trip of many more to come.

I wish I could have attended the shows in Korea and Bogota too, but that would have required a body double. I have worked quite a bit with the Norwegians since 2011 and the Norwegian National Museum has been touring an Eyes as Big as Plates exhibition with a workshop for a couple of years now. At the opening of Fotogalleriet in Oslo, Karoline and I also got offered a chance to work on a public art commission by the Arctic Sea at Kirkkoniemi-Kirkenes, where we work on documentary portraits for a brand new hospital until 2017.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Readers of this blog are interested in the artistic language and process, are there any compelling features that make yours?

RI: The process is most often rooted in collaboration, with the current show in New York at The Chimney being a cheerful exception. The latest works consist mainly of interactive sculptures and video all of which bubbled from last October’s trip to Greenland. The pieces were produced after digesting the experiences of the spectacular land- and seascape near Nuuk, and filmed over the next three months in Finland, the Pacific Northwest and New York. The below piece of writing by Robert Smithson also accompanied me through the making process as a kind of fluid spine.

‘One’s mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers wear away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into stones of unknowing, and conceptual crystallizations break apart into deposits of gritty reason. Vast moving faculties occur in this geological miasma, and they move in the most physical way. This movement seems motionless, yet it crushes the landscape of logic under glacial reveries.’
Robert Smithson, “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects”, 1968

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you see that artistic collaborations and working with curators have formed your artistic language? Are you able to pin down, or do you have a story about how a dialogue with the art field has forwarded your career?

RI: I collaborate with people (architects, artists, photographers, sculptors, writers, postal workers etc.) to catalyze the interaction that determines the direction and the work. Unpredictability feeds my practice and keeps the process interesting.

Working with courageous people is necessary for progress.  My solo show ‘Glacial Reveries’ in NY is far wilder than I could have imagined with the fearless support and insight from the curator, Clara Darrason. She encouraged me to follow my initial plan of making the gallery goers walk under water, on the bottom of the ocean with the water level up in the ceiling. We also ended up installing a 25-foot tall iceberg in the show.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are you currently based in New York City, and do you have specific plans for staying and working here?

RI: I am currently on an airplane, and spend a great deal of time in transit. I am based in Kouvola with restless feet. I just met up with Tiina Itkonen in Helsinki who has done a life’s work in Greenland and it is only a matter of time that I will return there! I was hoping to go to Mexico City, where I have works at the Material Art Fair, in March, there are also the RCA Secret exhibitions and sales in London and Dubai, but again- I am restrained by this one body only.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you consider yourself a Finnish artist, are there any particular ways to designate and identify with your country of origin?

RI: I am a Finnish artist and I feel it pulsates strongly in my work and me. I receive a tremendous amount of support from Finland, whether it is from the brilliant network of Finnish Cultural Institutes around the world, Consulate staff, Cultural foundations, or curators. Most often as a Finn, you are only two steps (at most) away from a fellow creative countryman. This network is incredibly loyal and operates on a penetrable scale- a truly privileged situation however you look at it.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: As mentioned, your current project and exhibition, Glacial Reveries is on display at The Chimney in Brooklyn. How did you find yourself going to Greenland to do a project there?

RI: It was a lifelong dream to go to Greenland; it was also the last Nordic country I hadn’t worked in. My collaborator Karoline Hjorth and I decided ‘it shall be done’, and we compiled a list of various Greenlandic institutions to reach out to. I called a few numbers and sent some emails. I received no reply. Eventually I got used to the ‘radio silence’, but made a habit of ringing one number or another every week. Most often no one replied, sometimes a receptionist or an answering machine picked up. A year went by stubbornly. We finally made the contact when Åsa Juslin from the Finnish-Norwegian Cultural Institute in Oslo, introduced us to Mats Bjerde and Mette Hein from NAPA (The Nordic Institute in Greenland), who were organizing Nuuk Nordisk Festival in the capital. After Åsa’s email, the ball started rolling.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is a topic of climate change important to your work, and how about the nature as such?

RI: Climate change discussion and open dialogue is vital and art is a good communication tool. I am a bit hesitant to talk about nature as I am coming to think that there is no such thing. There are just us in our surroundings, whatever those may be. The idea of nature might be just as manmade as Shopkins. Either way, to acknowledge that you are not separated from your surroundings can be a way to get the most real picture of the world available to us. (Timothy Morton has written interestingly on that)

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is art political to you and if so, how?

RI: ‘The personal is political’ as it was once aptly put.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Did you find your artistic medium early on, or did you master and explore various techniques?

RI: After the wish of becoming a conveyor belt worker in a confection factory faded a little, a career as an artist was an obvious second choice. I am still exploring various techniques, and am a happy amateur. As a fish farmer living by the Arctic Sea said it very nicely last year: ‘I am a charlatan and an amateur, a typical Finnmarking who has adapted to this county of contrasts. I love what I do (Latin Amator = lover, amare = to love), unlike a professional who does something not because he loves it but to earn money. There’s a big difference. (Oddbjørn Jerijærvi)

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have specific plans for the future?

RI: Go work in the desert in the spring, complete a National Park Residency, exhibition at Pielisen Museo in Northern Karelia, continue the Time is a ship that never casts anchor project in Kirkenes, Exhibitions in Germany and the Douro Valley in Portugal, Mail Art- Art Mail Show at the Finnish Postal Museum until the end of February 2016, RCA Secret in London and Dubai, Material Art Fair in Mexico City this month, More Greenland, etc.

 Artist website: http://www.riittaikonen.com/

 The Chimney, New York: http://www.thechimneynyc.com/

Eliasson’s ice revisited

Ice Watch will open to the public on Thursday, 3 December 2015, in the Place du Panthéon in Paris. This artwork by Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing is part of the occasion of COP 21 at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for his large-scale installation art, which often has a site-specific component. He has also worked with sculpture. The elements, such as light, water, and air temperature are essential parts in the works to draw the viewer into experiencing them as corporeal and sensory.

Olafur Eliasson is not a newborn to the climate change issue; neither is he using blocks of ice for the first time in his installations. He has created interconnected works that are close to environmental happenings, proposing an innate sense of activism. How to catch great attention and international visibility with earthy and conceptual works, is his niche. Perhaps Eliasson artistry sometimes implies great attention with metaphysical value, but this fact is by no means discarding the materiality and tactility of the things. Perception and comprehensibility of larger subjects, particularly that of a climate change are very much embodied in the projects.

Taking the icebergs, which predominantly float far away from our sight in the isolated North are now taken seriously. Eliasson brings a hint of their monumental presence along with him putting them down on the marketplace of a metropolis, across the street so to speak. Let the ice melt there in front of our eyes to remind how the world is running out of time with the climate change, and how things truly are physical. We live in a physical world. In 2014, Eliasson installed the show in Copenhagen. The ice was placed in the middle of the town square, lifting the local spirits to think about the fjord water in the north. In 2013, at PS1 of MoMA in New York City, another work of this kind “Your waste of Time”, had ice pieces that arrived from the Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Visitors had a chance to observe and discover the melting ice.

The project, which is installed in Paris recalls the title “Ice Watch“. The metaphorical piece has a power to speak of the ice that is speedily disappearing due to the global warming. Eliasson has stated that he is interested in giving knowledge a body, to encourage action on an everyday social level. What is sure is that everybody in the recognition of the global warming is going to be involved in the process. The artwork addresses it to the world, and thinks of it from the perspective of the future generations.

The physicality of the ice is remarkable because it stands for the longer life spans. Ice is older than us, who dwell here. For the installation, there are twelve large blocks of ice that come from free-floating icebergs in a fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland. They are arranged in a clock formation on the Place du Panthéon. Weighting around 80 tonnes, the ice will melt away during COP21.

… … …

Origin: Nuup Kangerlua fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland
Transport: Organised by Group Greenland / Greenland Glacier Ice, the ice was collected by divers and dockworkers from the Royal Arctic Line and then transported in six refrigerated containers from Nuuk to Aalborg, Denmark by container ship and to Paris by truck. Ice Watch is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and realised in collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle. Ice Watch is part of the initiative Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015.

Nordic nature: light and darkness represented

”As one follows the lines drawn at the map, across the light blue surfaces, further north, twists and turns, further north, straight lines, still north. This is where I see myself, at the island furthest north, at the North End, standing at the northernmost cliff, facing the North Sea.” (Tonje Bøe Birkeland/Lumiére, from Papa Westray in Orkney Isles, 1900)

Darkness & Light contemporary Nordic photography –exhibition just opened on February 22nd at the Scandinavia House in New York City. Norwegian Tonje Bøe Birkeland’s photograph, displayed above, is part of her project that reflects how she takes on the role of fictional photographer Luelle Magdalon Lumiére (1873-1973), and recreates an imaginary journey to the Orkney Islands. Birkeland’s project travels back in time.  Her art combines photographs and texts, and she is also writing letters to Lumiére who as a traveler explored ie. western parts of Norway and New York. The artwork is an interesting dialogue between past and present, that is encompassing two life stories. Yet the images appear dreamlike hovering between fiction and reality.

Two captivating photographers in the exhibit are from Iceland. Bára Kristinsdóttir’s Hot Spots’ photography-series portray Iceland’s geothermally heated greenhouses. Her style owes to Dutch Golden Age still lifes. Her photographs play with opposites, such as light and dark, cold and hot, indoor and outdoor, natural and artificial.  Kristinsdóttir shows interest in nature photography, and so does Pétur Thomsen, another Icelandic photographer. He takes, yet, a more critically environmental stance with his works. His ‘Imported Landscape’ project is based on his visits (since 2003) to a Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant, a construction site on the east coast of Iceland. The artificial lake and the construction project have spoiled the biggest wild nature in Europe. Environmentalists have been fighting for the preservation of the wild nature. The voices supporting the project discuss about the need to use the energy from the nature. Thomsen’s photographic project has explored this debate, as he has documented the transformation of the landscape.

Bara Kristinsdottir - Hot Spots2(above: Bára Kristinsdóttir ‘Hot Spots’ 4, 2004 From the series Hot Spots R print, 47 1/5 x 39 1/3 in. (120 x 100 cm), courtesy of the artist)

Pétur Thomsen Imported Landscape AL3_9a(above: Pétur Thomsen ‘Imported Landscape AL3_9a’, Kárahnjúkar, Iceland, 2003 Pigment print, 43 1/3 x 55 in. (110 x 140 cm) Courtesy of the artist)

Darkness & Light: Contemporary Nordic Photography will run through April 26, 2014. The exhibition focuses on a diverse selection of recent photographic works displaying a selection of over 30 works by 10 emerging and established photographers. The artists from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, (two from each Nordic country) are:

Thora Dolven Balke, Tonje Bøe Birkeland, JH Engström, Joakim Eskildsen, Ulla Jokisalo, Bára Kristinsdóttir, Tova Mozard, Nelli Palomäki, Katya Sander, and Pétur Thomsen.

The exhibition aims to display ”the ways in which light—and the lack thereof—informs the practice of contemporary Nordic photographers. The exhibit  demonstrates the breadth and strength of Nordic photography today.”

The exhibition is organized by leading figures in the world of Nordic photographic art.

More information found on the  Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America’s website

The Scandinavian American Theater Company’s evaporated themes

The Scandinavian American Theater Company (SATC) has through its 5 year of existence engaged itself to an array of controversial themes, which question, evaporate, give new perspective, challenge, and perhaps empower the very notion of the ‘Scandinavian’ theater tradition, as it might appear in the world marketplace.  The theater company was started by Danish actor Albert Bendix, who after landing in the New York theater scene in 2006, had a vision to establish a collective of theater artists who would represent talent from various Nordic countries. The idea was to bring a Scandinavian perspective to local scene; introducing a new generation of Scandinavian playwrights and theater artists with great ideas and work. In 2014, the company has already proven that the Scandinavian perspective offers both interdisciplinary ideas and multiple voices. The works and approaches create dialogues between current world trends and contemporary artists, and genre tradition and historical themes. The end products are narratives that are empowering. 


SATC Founding Members are: Henning Hegland (Norway), Albert Bendix (Denmark), Lisa Bearpark (Sweden/US), Sebastian Nyman Agdur (Sweden/UK), Vigdis Hentze Olsen (The Faroe Islands), and Jane Pejtersen (Denmark). Current company members are following: Artistic Directors: Henning Hegland (Norway), Albert Bendix (Denmark), Lisa Bearpark (Sweden/US) and Sebastian Nyman Agdur (Sweden/UK). Associate Members: Vanessa Johansson (US/Denmark), Drew O’Kane (US), and Kwasi Osei (Denmark)

The company does full productions and reading series, which introduce plays, respectively, from different Nordic countries including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. In May 2013, the play Gorilla handled a theme of corporate life, where main characters were entangled with struggle of gender, greed and power. Rhea Leman’s script was directed by Ari Edelson, and produced by the Scandinavian American Theater Company. Gorilla ran three weeks in The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row.

In 2012, the company’s Reading Series included an exiting world-premiere of BASTARDS OF STRINDBERG, which introduced four short plays inspired by August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie”.  The plays were written by American and Swedish playwrights. The premiere will get a full production in September 2014. Bastards of Strindberg will also open in The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row.

The most recent company’s endeavor started their 2014 season of production, on Monday January 27. The reading of a play The Tailor’s Tale (Skraedderens fortaelling) took place at the Scandinavia House in New York City. The play was written by Danish-British filmmaker and writer Alexander Bodin Saphir, and it was directed by Kim Bodnia, also from Denmark. The stage-reading performance was accomplished in English by 8 actors at the Victor Borge Hall of the Scandinavia House. The full house of audiences testified a plot, which was going back 70years in the European history. The play’s theme was based on a story of ‘Rescuing of Danish Jews’ during the WWII.

The Tailor’s Tale challenges a commonly told story of the Danish king, who himself was believed to wear a yellow star during the WWII to show the nations support and solidarity towards its Jewish population. This idea in the plot was partially formed around the question of, whether the king really wore the star, or whether it would have happened, if the Danish Jews had to put up a yellow star wearing it, like their other European brothers and sisters.

Lars, a character depicting a doubting academic historian, enforces through his own questioning that the story is completely made-up. Contrastively, Isak, a character whose Jewish family survived the war, emphasizes the miracle-side of the story of saving the Jews of Denmark, saying that the miracle is really the only thing that matters. In reality, unlike in most European countries that were occupied by Nazi Germany, the great majority of Jews from Denmark were saved, and brought to Sweden by boats (leaving from many cities), since Sweden remained ‘neutral’ during the War, and was able to take in War refugees.

In the play’s narrative, the life-stories of the two, now already aged men go back into the fall of 1943, when the German razzia went into effect in the occupied Copenhagen, Denmark. Isak’s father worked as a Jewish tailor during the war, and the plot goes back to the young boy’s experiences while he was hearing and experiencing the Nazi terror starting to take place in Copenhagen. The plot covers also preparations to escape, as Isak’s father gives him orders to quickly pack, get ready, and alarm other member of the community. Lars, on the other hand, is in the present moment very occupied with existential reasoning. He keeps asking, what really happened in the past, namely 70 years ago. He suffers of inner doubts that concern his own father, who was one of the fisherman with a boat rescuing the Jews. After his own father died in the war, Lars has been seeking the truth about, what were his motives while he helped to save his Jewish neighbors. In today’s meeting, the two old men face unexplained stories, different experiences, doubts, fears and anger of the past. In the plot, Isak and Lars meet at Isak’s house, which he shares with his wife Sara. Lars comes to visit the couple with a new girlfriend Eva, and wants to dig into Isak’s side of the story with her help. He wishes to interview Isak for his book, which handles a theme of the Danes and Danish Jews during the WWII.

The playwright Alexander Bodin Saphir told on the January 27th performance in New York City, how the play is very personal to him, as it is based on his grandfather’s Jewish story.  Kim Bodnia, play’s director and a cousin to the playwright, described also his personal attachment to his great uncle’s story.  Bodnia said that the work-in-progress play benefited greatly from the New York reading and rehearsal experience.

The evening was a collaboration of the Scandinavian American Theater Company, Breaking Productions and The American-Scandinavian Foundation.

tailor's tale

Finnish Paloni designers come to New York

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 Paloni one 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.
{All photos Paloni: Minna Särelä, captures: Sami Perttilä}

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

Check the Paloni website: http://www.paloni.fi/

‘New Nordic Oddity”?…and other design definitions

What I find very intriguing in the current design-discussion, is the questions of how we signify the things, and how we see the world-object -relations from different points of view. What now seems timely, is to define and differentiate ourselves as consumers with more softer values. We are ‘humans’ after all, meaning that we are responsible of the planet, therefore, what kinds of significations we give to the things and objects in the era of mass-production is crucial. How we consume, how we define what we consume, how we differentiate things, adds value to the objects. The meaning-systems behind the branding of products are referential, but they are also truthful from the point of view that they engage our participation in the entire definition-game. As it is also true that what kinds of nouns and adjectives we give to the objects, puts them on the market more.

Where comes a need to define the objects, which we use, which surround us, and so on? A question is relevant in relation to design, since we incorporate the objects in our daily lives. That is the pre-value of the design. ‘National’, or should we say ‘regional’ or ‘geographical’ instead of a national as we share a global world, is attached to the design-products, and calls for several attributes. This is strongly the case in the branding of Finnish design. Let’s look back to 2008.

The summer of 2008 generated an exhibition of Finnish design in the Helsinki Design Museum. The exhibition was called Fennofolk-New Nordic Oddity. One of the exhibit curators, professor Timo Salli from the University of Art and Design in Finland, told the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that the Fennofolk-New Nordic Oddity -exhibition aimed at honoring the local Finnish culture. It tried to find “weapons” from the Finnish culture. Additionally, Salli mentioned that the show was not trying to bring in the latest trends from Paris to be shown “too late” in Finland, but when viewed from the “Slavic-urban” perspective, the contents were precisely that of the “national romanticism” (Pöppönen/HS 11.6.2008).

In the interview, it became evident that the fennofolk idea had been invented couple of years prior to the show together with Salli and co-artists Jari Leinonen and Paola Suhonen (founder of Ivana Helsinki brand). Fennofolk-New Nordic Oddity displayed works from 80 different artists, who deployed a great variety of media in their works, not just birch and birch bark, which are the traditional folk art materials that Salli himself used in his exhibition designs.

What inspired me immensely about the show itself, and what also captured my curiosity when I read Salli’s interview,  was the idea of design branding; the core idea of how we choose to define the objects and things, give them certain value. And look at them in respect to our own pasts, weather it is local histories or our own experiences in Finnish forests, for example. The beauty of the Fennofolk-New Nordic Oddity is hidden in the paradox. Finland is, first, a culture of the ‘fenno’, what ever that means. At least it comes with the traditional methods of designing the birch. Second, Finland seems to represent in the design imaginings some kind of New Nordic or Northern Oddity, which could mean something Nordic (as it is part of the Nordic countries) and then something New (as exiting?). What remains is the definition of Oddity. A question remains, what would that be? How do we define Oddity in relation to Finland and its designs?

Helsinki World Design Capital might come up with some answers…

See also Paloni Designers on this blog