Helsinki’s busy spring of contemporary art events

This spring Helsinki is packed with creative contemporary art events. IHME Contemporary Art festival’s IHME days, Checkpoint Helsinki’s Back to (The) Square 1 exhibition and related events, and the Helsinki Photography Biennial, all take place in March and April, bringing together a mix international artists and curators into the Finnish art scene.

The events take on timely global issues of the effects of the Arab Spring, ecological impermanence and questions of national identity, moving them to the sphere of contemporary art. At the same time the events create a gathering of artists, curators and audiences around exhibitions, talks, discussions, public interventions and performance.


BacktotheSquareOne_vaakaGanzeer: Back to (The) Square 1. Series of posters, detail.

Checkpoint Helsinki considers the ripples of Arab Spring in art

Checkpoint Helsinki’s project Back to (The) Square 1, opening on 7 March, exhibits artists from Egypt and Palestine. Murals, installations, videos and posters take politics from the revolutionary streets to Helsinki.

In the social movements following the revolutionary Arab Spring of 2011, artists and intellectuals played a part in taking over squares, streets and walls, using the spaces for art aligned with the protests. The exhibition seeks to reflect on how rebellious movements intertwine with forms of contemporary art.

Checkpoint Helsinki, founded in 2012, is a art organization that commissions and produces artworks by emerging international artists. It functions as a platform for artistic work by inviting artists and curators to realize their ideas for projects in Helsinki. The Checkpoint Helsinki initiative was originally set up by a group of some 100 artists as a counter reaction to the Guggenheim foundation’s proposal to build a museum in Helsinki. The aim of Checkpoint Helsinki is to bring art into the cityscape and to provide different forms of contemporary art to the public.

Back to (The) Square 1 exhibition is on display at Gallery Forum Box from 7th to 30th March. The exhibition spreads out of the gallery and into the city in the form of film screenings at cultural centre Andorra and events and exhibitions at public spaces like the Lasipalatsi square and Baana pedestrian route in central Helsinki.


Filming of IHME Project 2014. (1) Photo Veikko SomerpuroFilming of IHME Project 2014. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro.

IHME Contemporary Art Festival 2014 invites art lovers to a variety of events in April

The sixth IHME Days, held at the beginning of April, bring together people enjoying contemporary art with a programme of exhibitions, talks, discussions, events and club nights. IHME Contemporary Art Festival produces every year a commissioned work of art, the IHME project, in a public place. The festival programme is based on the annual IHME Project. Previous IHME artists include Miroslaw Balka, Christian Boltanski, Superflex, Susan Philipsz and Antony Gormley.

This year’s commissioned IHME project is True Finn – Tosi suomalainen, a film by Israeli artist Yael Bartana. Bartana’s piece deals with Finnish national identity, asking what are we talking about when we talk about Finnish identity right now.

Bartana’s IHME Project is a participatory artwork. The artist has invited people living in Finland with different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds to take part in creating a utopian moment.  What happens when they all live together seven days and determine themselves through the other? The participants were selected to join in the work via an open call at the end of last year. The film premieres on 13 March at Bio Rex.

IHME Days take place at the Old Student House from 4–6 April. All  events are free of charge and open to the public.


Ilkka Halso, Main Corridor - North 2013Ilkka Halso, Main Corridor – North, 2013

Ecology a central theme in Helsinki Photography Biennial

Helsinki Photography Biennial HPB14 is a Finnish biennial for photography and lens-based art. The biennial is organized every two years by the Union of Artist Photographers in Finland. This year, the biennial is held from 27 March–14 May with exhibitions in different venues around the city.

Overall, the biennial exhibits works from 19 international contemporary artists working with lens-based media. This year’s HPB14 biennial examines ecological issues. The biennial is curated by Basak Senova, curator and designer based in Istanbul.  Her curatorial framework addresses ecological knowledge, building connections between ecological data and photographic archives. Assisting curator Branko Franceschi and Senova also co-curate a special section focusing on cultural and ideological critique.

HPB14 has also invited the Finnish Mustarinda Association to elaborate the theme of the biennial. Mustarinda has initiated four research-based artistic processes to critically examine the development of images of nature, focusing on archives, architecture, forests and energy. Ecological issues will also be the topic of the HPB14 seminar held on 29 March.

HPB14 venues include the Finnish Museum of Photography, Photographic Gallery Hippolyte, L3 building in Jätkäsaari, Galleria U (Hungarian Cultural Centre Helsinki), University of Helsinki Main Library (Kaisa House), Helsinki central railway station and Restaurant Hima & Sali at the Cable Factory.

Jaakko Uoti


More information:

Checkpoint Helsinki: Back to (the) Square 1

IHME Contemporary Art Festival 

Helsinki Photography Biennial 14