For me the most interesting artwork in Vallisaari was a work by Timo Viialainen, a work that is not a part of the Helsinki Biennial. Actually, the work no longer officially exists, it had to be dismantled to make room for the biennial.
Timo’s work consists of three words: Threat, Is, Safety. Timo carved these words into three stones on the bridge connecting Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari. The rocks were arranged in a line reaching out to the sea. The audience had to use binoculars to properly see the last word, Safety.
The work comments on the many warning signs that can be found all around the Vallisaari island. The island is mostly a protected nature reserve, and it is also a former military training ground. For these reasons one should not enter the forest but observe it from a safe distance, from the wide roads that circulate the island. This is an unusual experience – in most of other nature trails in Helsinki (Nuuksio, Uutela, Vartiosaari, etc) one is actually walking inside the forest, smelling the aromas and feeling the rocks, roots and soil under one’s feet. The current heat wave amplifies the difference between these two experiences – in Vallisaari walking is exhausting, since one can rarely find cover from the sunshine. The wide empty tracks carved into the forest make Vallisaari a great place for taking photos for social media – for looking at nature instead of experiencing nature.
With his work Timo also wants to point out that an agenda to eliminate all threats is a futile one. A completely safe state is an artificial, isolated condition that cannot be sustained. For one to be safe in a long run one has to be ‘out there’ – involved, engaged, exposed, vulnerable. Threat, Is, Safety. Safety, Is, Threat.
When I visited Timelab in 2012, it was a organisation which was working with two distinct communities: international artists, and a mostly local community of ‘makers’.
Since then, the Timelab core crew has taken a bold step further by radically changing the way they operate. The new organisational logic has been inspired by holocracy, alternative business development models, agile software development methods and various other concepts. This change has allowed many barriers to disappear – the artists and makers form one community instead of two, and there is a great amount of transparency in all the activities.
This blog post offers some glimpses to the way Timelab operates, based in the discussions I had with Eva de Groote and Evi Swinnen.
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This is the Timelab manifesto (a rough translation):
Timelab gives examples of small and big changes. These inspire and trigger dialogue, and encourage development of new models. Timelab offers time and space for reflection on a complex society in transition. Continue reading →
I took part in an excellent Seminar on Measuring the Effect of Cultural Policy, organised by Nordic Culture Point in November 2013. The presentations highlighted how measuring culture is a complex affair, and cannot be simplified into crude numbers. It’s notable that most of the presenters in the seminar were economists and/or statisticians.
Here are some glimpses of the presentations:
In his introduction talk, Mikael Schultz set off with an example:
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
It might very well be that the true answer to meaning of life is in fact 42. The problem is that we don’t know how to interpret this answer. The same goes for all numeric values – if they are used in isolation, they do not actually properly measure any quality. As noted in the event by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, since Aristotle we have known that it’s impossible to measure quality by quantitative means.
Here are a couple of slides that further illustrate the same point:
The hosts did a fantastic job in making everyone feel welcome and establishing an open environment for learning. Actually, the first thing that the organisers made clear was that the participants would be the hosts, and we would be learning about hosting while doing it. The different tasks one could sign up for included Harvesting (documentation), Feng Shui (arranging & cleaning the space, organising food & coffee, etc), Check In & Check Out (tuning into learning sessions, and tuning out from them), creating the programme for the evening party and or course hosting the actual learning sessions.
I came to the event to learn some more facilitation methods (and to gain a better understanding of methods I’m already familiar with), but I actually learned something else – various frameworks for getting a better grip of the community learning process as a whole, and to understand the process of personal growth and how human-to-human communication works (or fails to work).
Pixelache Festival was my main professional commitment for 10 years, from its inception in 2002 to year 2011. In the process of trying to establish Pixelache I learned a lot about the public funding system and below I will share some insights on how the system works – or rather how it does *not* work.
Hopefully this information will help some people to avoid banging their head against the wall as much as I did. Or hopefully they will at least choose the right wall.
Disclaimer – I’m no longer involved in the Pixelache organisation so all the thought below should be considered as my own personal views, not official statements by Pixelache.
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1. THE BLACKMAILING/LOBBYING APPROACH
In year 2006 I was pretty frustrated (‘vittuuntunut’ in Finnish) with the situation of Pixelache Helsinki. It was the fifth year of Pixelache, and 12th year for me to organise events in Helsinki. Pixelache was really successful internationally – we were in the process of establishing chapters in various countries and had been invited to collaborate with many prominent events (ISEA, Doors of Perception, etc).
Unfortunately, we had not been able to get any funding for the work needed to put together the main festival in Helsinki. With great effort we had managed to scrape together money from dozens of different sources to cover some of the necessary basic costs, but there was no chance to pay anything for anyone for the actual production work. In comparison, the very first edition of Mal au Pixel (the French edition of Pixelache) received 7 times more funding than what we had in Helsinki.
In this situation I sent this email to ‘everyone’ – state art organisations, Helsinki City Cultural Office, cultural foundations and key people in Finnish media art scene. The email is in Finnish but the main point is that I made it clear that unless we received more proper financial support, the main festival would need to stop in Helsinki. This email was not just a tactical move, this was the actual reality we faced. During these years I spent most of my time abroad and only occasionally came back to Helsinki for a month or so to focus on Pixelache Helsinki planning/organising work. This had worked fine in the first couple of years but had been not been manageable (or in other words, was far too fragile and stressful) for a while already.
katastro.fi office, summer 1999 (photo by Juha Huuskonen)
After a long time of procrastination (a year or two) I’ll finally publish a few blog posts about the mismatch between new emerging culture and the established cultural institutions in Finland.
During the past 15 years (ever since katastro.fi did its first projects in Kiasma in 1998) I’ve been helping various grassroot projects to gain visibility and access to resources such as public funding. This has often been a paradoxical task, since most of the new, independent cultural projects have an uneasy relationship towards money, power and institutions. Continue reading →
We decided to call this utopia Origamia, referring to the capability of something to be transformed to many different forms. In Origamia, each citizen would at some point have to participate in decision making related to public affairs. This duty could be similar to civil service which exists in some countries, as an alternative to the compulsory military service. The decision making process would be based on some kind of version control system, perhaps similar to Github. Origamia would also give more power to young people (under 18 years old), so it would a kind of ‘pedocracy’.
The focus of the hackathon was on domestic electricity consumption data. One reason why this data is particularly interesting is that Finland is one of the first countries in Europe where smart meters have been installed in nearly all households. The legal framework that gives people the access to their own data will be valid from the beginning of 2014.
The hackathon had approximately 60 participants and 3 special guests from abroad: Denise Recheis (Thesaurus and Knowledge manager at Reeep), Chris Davis (Postdoc in TU Delft) and Julia Kloiber (Project Lead at Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland).
Inspired by the example by a family in Edmonton we decided to build a ‘rainbow igloo’. We made a Facebook event 10 days prior to the event and several families decided to join in the effort. Each family brought 10-20 bricks (water mixed with food/water colour frozen inside juice/milk cartons) and amazingly the construction process took only a couple of hours!
We did not make a roof (to keep the construction safe) and we extended the form to a spiral, so that more people could fit in. At many times there were only small kids building the thing, parents did not have a chance to interfere 😉
‘Snowcrete’ (a mix of snow and water) turned out to be great building material, easy to handle and strong when it freezes. The temperature was around -7 celcius which was probably quite perfect. The final result has approx 300 bricks, looks great with candle light inside in the evening and not bad in sunshine either…
The lovely Demos Helsinki folks have put together a fantastic learning festival called Koulu (‘school’ in Finnish) in Lapinlahti / Helsinki, in an abandoned hospital building. Anyone can sign up to teach anything to anyone. The quality and diversity of the offered lessons is amazing! I took some photos today, more info on the www.kouluschool.org website.