HELSINKI PHOTOGRAPHY BIENNIAL’14
other curatorial input: Mustarinda Association and Branko Franceschi
curator’s assistant: Begum Satiroglu
artists: Jesper Just, Raqs Media Collective, Olof Jarlbro, Ali Cherri, Braco Dimitrijevic, Oliver Ressler, Daniel Garcia Andujar, Serkan Taycan, Tuula Narhinen Barbaros Kayan, Hana Miletic, Jawal Al Malhi, Yane Calovski, Tamas Dezso, Marja Halender, Mary McIntyre, Willie Doherty, Société Réaliste, and Tomislav Gotovac
produced by: Union of Artist Photographers in collaboration with The Finnish Museum of Photography
venues: Photographic Gallery Hippolyte, The Finnish Museum of Photography, 3-building in Jätkäsaari, Kaisa House (Helsinki University Main Library) and Galleria U (Hungarian Cultural Centre Helsinki)
projects in public space Barbaros Kayan’s poster project presented at Helsinki Central Railway Station, S-Ikkunagalleria, Hippolyte Corridor, The Finnish Museum of Photography and Restaurant Hima, and Sali at the Cable Factory
coordinates: Helsinki, 2014
Helsinki Photography Biennial is a series of events on photo/lens-based contemporary art, organized every two years in the spring by Union of Artist Photographers in Finland. HPB14 is produced by Union of Artist Photographers and Photographic Gallery Hippolyte in collaboration with The Finnish Museum of Photography.
HPB14 addresses the theme of Ecological Fallacy. In statistics, ecological fallacy describes errors due to performing analyses on aggregate data when trying to reach conclusions on the individual units. Errors occur in part from spatial aggregation. In this context, the biennial would like to investigate fallacies of ecological knowledge. Therefore, the biennial seeks correlated artistic approaches and perspectives as a way of producing and processing evident critical, social and cultural discourses on these fallacies. Throughout the course of this process, archives will be the essential tool of the biennial. In this way, HPB14 will foster collaborative connections between ecological data and photography-based archives.
HPB14 has invited Mustarinda Association (Finland) to develop the theme of the 2014 biennial, which examines causal relations regarding ecological issues, and to build a section presenting critical views on images of nature. Mustarinda has initiated four research-based artistic processes to critically examine the development of images of nature, focusing on Archives, Architecture, Forests and Energy. Team leaders for the sections include following artists and researchers: Paavo Järvensivu, Karoliina Lummaa, Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Martti Kalliala, Jenna Sutela, Nestori Syrjälä, Antti Majava, Tere Vadén. The results will be exhibited as a part of HPB14. Within these processes, theoretical work is tied to bodily experience through workshops carried out in the Mustarinda House, located next to an old-growth forest in central Finland. In addition Mustarinda will invite artists and researchers to contribute to the sections. A complete list of these participants will be announced in early 2014.
Furthermore, Branko Franceschi (Zagreb) co-curates a special section for the biennial.
Mustarinda Association initiates four research-based artistic processes to critically examine the development of images of nature, focusing on archives, architecture, forests and energy. The results will be exhibited under the title Focal Views as a part of HPB14. Within these processes, theoretical work is tied to bodily experience through workshops carried out in the Mustarinda House, located next to an old-growth forest in central Finland. This combination opens up the possibility for developing and carrying out focal practices that resist alienation, presenting objects in their specific, non-replaceable and non-abstracted forms.
The Finnish Museum of Photography
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Kaisa House (Helsinki University Main Library)
Galleria U (Hungarian Cultural Centre Helsinki)
3-building in Jätkäsaari
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war,
the Ministry of Truth with lies,
the Ministry of Love with torture
and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.
These contradictions are not accidental,
nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy:
they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.
— George Orwell1
A fallacy is simply defined as an error in reasoning. In the same vein, the title of the biennial refers to the term ecological fallacy in statistics. It is a logical error or a mistaken assumption in the interpretation of statistical data.2
What if analogous errors and assumptions are made deliberately and systematically by the ruling powers—governments, corporations, banks, and trusts—of the world?
What if the entire ecological balance of the world has already been violated while we have been listening to contradictory and twisted ideas put forth by these ruling forces?
What if we have become totally blind, deaf, and even mute, regarding what is going on around us?
What if we have been trapped with all sorts of fallacies?
Through such questions, the biennial aims to investigate fallacies of ecological knowledge by seeking correlated artistic approaches and perspectives as a way of producing and processing evidentiary critical, social, and cultural discourses on these fallacies. This inquiry has multiple routes, which are displayed at this year’s Helsinki Photography Biennial (HPB14) simultaneously. The biennial thus serves as a suture that draws accumulated data on ecological fallacies into visual evidences and lens-based realities.
In HPB14, different venues and formats interact with each other through subtle thematic divisions and oppositions: while some works suggest marriages with other works based on content or form, others unfold obvious oppositions. Hence, Ecological Fallacy is also a modest attempt to show diverse realities and conditions which have different historical, economical, ideological, political, sociological, and cultural roots, in the same context with compatible concerns. Through such alliances between projects, each and every venue is therefore loaded with a set of responsibilities to reflect upon the pressures and impositions of these conditions with critical and repulsive approaches.
One of the main venues of the biennial is the Finnish Museum of Photography. The museum’s front façade features an image taken from Barbaros Kayan’s photo series Occupy Taksim (2013). The project documents the Gezi Park resistance in Istanbul, the first massive reaction and nation-wide upheaval that started with protests against the logging of trees in the Gezi Park in spring 2013. Kayan’s project is the only project in the biennial that is displayed directly in public spaces across Helsinki. This spatial decision underlines an act of translation taking place on several different levels. While in Turkey the movement has been subjected to censorship and repression in the public realm (including social media and the internet), in Helsinki these photographs occupy public spaces without hindrance. The first level of translation is the re-contextualisation of a political situation and democratic conditions. On the next level, the photographs transform firsthand experiences into abstract, yet performative representations in the city. Last but not least, these photographs create spatial rifts by referring to different kinds of temporality and modes of spatial perception. For instance, I truly wonder what the impact will be on a Finnish citizen entering the railway station in Helsinki of seeing on one of the billboards the picture of a young female protester from Generation Y, reading The Beat Generation in the peaceful atmosphere of Gezi Park in the midst of the protest. Such a photograph certainly blends different time zones and creates jumps in time. Aside from the Finnish Museum of Photography and the central railway station, Kayan’s photographs are also on display at the Hippolyte Corridor and Restaurant Hima & Sali at the Cable Factory.
Istanbul appears at the museum also in Serkan Taycan’s project titled Tumulus (2014). In the last decades, the city has been subject to massive destruction due to ongoing brutal urban transformation. Istanbul has been pillaged ruthlessly, and the city is surrounded by huge amounts of excavation debris from this process. Taycan not only collects evidences of this process, he also discovers and experiences the layers of this transformation through his photographs. He draws a walking route for a collective physical experience in west Istanbul, between the Black and Marmara Seas. Tumulus merges and reconsiders the outcome of two correlated but separate projects, Shell (2012–2013) and Between Two Seas (2013). The two are present at HPB14 in the form of an installation composed of photographs, a map, and a book, thus duplicating the heavy experience of witnessing the unavoidable transformation of Istanbul.
Olof Jarlbro’s Stonefactory (2012) is a photo series that captures another reality, veiled with dust on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Koteshwor is just one of those sad and distant examples of the inhuman imperatives of capitalism. Jarlbro’s frames detect the dignity and determination of these workers as the decisive factor that enables them to cope with the rough life fabricated by selfish and ignorant human beings. At the same time, these frames provide clear evidence of the existence of unjust conditions and ecological damage in forgotten parts of the globe. On the other hand, Jesper Just’s film Llano (2012) is based on a dystopia in the abandoned town Llano del Rio, plagued by water-supply troubles. The arid setting overlaps the hysterical behavior of a woman performing compulsive actions accompanied by artificial rain. Hana Miletic’s Sint-Annabos, Antwerpen/Forest-Sainte-Anne, Antwerp (2008–2013) is a reflection on the rationale for the destruction of a forest. By using the Fresson print technique in which the image is rendered with burned organic material, Miletic replicates with deep and dark images this destructive process and its consequences.
Respectively, Mary McIntyre introduces a performative utterance to the biennial with her sculpture-like wooden construction. The installation The Construction of A Utopian Model (2000–2013) functions as a viewing platform that invites and enforces the audience to make an effort to access and experience a photograph that is the focal point in the work. The photograph depicting a concrete bridge built across a green valley foreshadows the transformation of this landscape.
Raqs Media Collective has two installations that share a room at the museum. (Landscape at Baranagar, Factored for) Déjà Vu and Distance (2011) is composed of suspended acrylic frames that multiply realities, positions, memories, and point of views, and a video projection of a tree growing out of a chimney that once belched out smoke.
We the Fuel (2011) is a collage made of treated film posters and dental X-rays. Both works underline the healing power of nature, while reminding us how we have betrayed it throughout history. Willie Doherty’s photographs, Uncovering Evidence that the War is Not Over I and II (1995), resonate between being evidences of the past and fragments of personal memory. While revealing the dissolving boundaries between destruction and life/machinery and nature/ fact and fiction, Doherty questions the reliability of the medium itself. Following the same line of thought, Daniel G. Andujar questions the mediated images with Postcapital Archive. 1989–2001, which comprises over 250,000 documents created between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks, all retrieved from the internet by theartist. Being efficient apparatuses of late capitalism, all communication technologies infuse our lives with a constant barrage of images. Not only the images themselves, but also their ideologies and realities are being created for us. For HPB14, Andújar extracted a postcard series from one part of this project and entitled it Timeline. All postcards foreshadow an ecological catastrophe in their own ironic way.3 These postcards are circulated in the main venues of the biennial.
Ali Cherri has worked with the Finnish Museum of Photography Collection, paying special attention to the relationship between power structures and the representational implications of nature. In order to do so, he has used the series Finnish Agriculture (1899) by I. K. Inha and turned it into a photo and video installation— Inha’s Cows (2014). Jawal Al Malhi also shows two photographs, The Gas Station (2010) and Untitled (2010), as transparencies in light-boxes. In the same way as Doherty’s photographs, they are evidences of imposed conditions that have become normalized—even these frames give the impression of being staged, despite simply being mundane details of daily life in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is also the subject of Al Malhi’s spatial installation at the L3 Warehouse in Jätkäsaari. This abandoned port warehouse hosts not only Al Malhi’s installation featuring panoramic images of a Palestinian refugee camp taken from a newly built Israeli settlement, but also Yane Calovski’s poetic video on IJburg. While Al Malhi’s House No. 197 (2009) and Tower of Babel Revisited (2010) underline the intense overcrowdedness of the urban landscape in Jerusalem, Calovski’s Hollow Land (2009) navigates through a residential neighborhood built on artificial land. These two contradictory views raise questions regarding the social, economical, political, and, more importantly, cultural processes governing urban development. Additionally, Al Malhi’s vertical digital prints Inheritance (I to VII) (2010) lean on the pillars in the raw setting of the warehouse.
In the same venue, Marja Helander’s two life-size photographs Buollánoaivi/Palopää/Mount Palopää (2001) and Ánnevárri/Annivaara/Mount Annivaara (2002), from the series The Modern Nomads, revolve around the same issue, but from another point of view. Her pictures depict conflicts between the capitalist drift and the Sami peoplewho dwell in landscapes that have undergone economic, political, and cultural transformations effected by corporations and ruling political powers.
Tuula Närhinen also reflects on the capitalist imperatives of industrial, agricultural, technological, and architectural transformations and their effects on the ecosystem on a global scale. Närhinen’s extensive research and project Baltic Sea Plastique (2013–2014), on display at the Helsinki University Main Library (Kaisa House), is an installation consisting of sculptures made of plastic waste washed up on the shore in Helsinki, as well as videos and analytical drawings. The installation hovers around the accelerating threat to the sea and to human life caused by severe pollution of plastic waste.
Meanwhile, Tamás Dezsó´ traces and captures in frames transformations that have taken place in post-communist societies in Eastern Europe during the last decade. These photographs hint at the shifting power relations and social structures in this region. Five photographs from the series Here, Anywhere (2009–) cover the entire surface of the front windows of Galleria U at the Hungarian Cultural and Scientific Centre in Helsinki – Balassi Institute. Photographs from the same series are also installed as a solo presentation in the gallery.
Société Réaliste participates in HPB14 with the screening of The Fountainhead (2010). As a critique of capitalist motives on urban developments, Société Réaliste modifies the original version of the film to demonstrate the pure idea of “the glass tower of the titans of capitalism”.
Finally, the section of HPB14 at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte, which I co-curate with Branko Franceschi, focuses on cultural and ideological critique as an approach to discuss how art could contribute to the ecological debates. It is a modest attempt to understand the effects of cultural and ideological actions on ecological catastrophes through exceptional artworks and artistic researches. In this context, Photographic Gallery Hippolyte gathers photographs taken from several cult performances by Tomislav Gotovac, which follow the aesthetics of German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s; and Braco Dimitrijevi´c ’s Culturescapes (1976–1984), composed of staged photographs of wild animals that are accompanied by famous examples and venues of “high art.” Furthermore, the gallery screens Oliver Ressler’s film Leave It in the Ground (2013), which documents and discusses the climate crisis and global warming as a political problem. HPB14, through spreading across many different venues and issues, undertakes the artistic investigation of researching and detecting mechanisms and reasons behind ecological catastrophes in various geographies. Through lens-based techniques and research-based projects, each one of the participating artists aims to establish incisive connections with the public to share their concerns, connections, and findings on ecological-based fallacies.
1. George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Penguin Group, 1992), 178.
2. For a definition of ecological fallacy, see the Research Methods Knowledge Base web-based textbook, accessed February 20, 2014, http://www.socialresearchmethods. net/kb/fallacy.php.
3. In Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Roland Barthes writes about every photograph being an indicator of a catastrophe yet to happen: “In front of the photograph of my mother as a child, I tell myself: she is going to die: I shudder, like Winnicott’s psychotic patient, over a catastrophe, which has already occurred. Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe.” Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc., 1981), 101–103.