Venice Biennale 2019

Pavilion of Finland at the 58th International Art Exhibition –
La Biennale di Venezia

The Miracle Workers Collective (MWC) present their inaugural project, A Greater Miracle of Perception, for the Finnish Alvar Aalto Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

The MWC is formed and informed by a transdisciplinary and anational community of artists, filmmakers, writers, intellectuals, performers, and activists including: writer Maryan Abdulkarim; scriptwriter Khadar Ahmed; writer Hassan Blasim; choreographer Sonya Lindfors; artist Outi Pieski; artist Leena Pukki; artist Martta Tuomaala; artist Lorenzo Sandoval; cinematographer Christopher L. Thomas and storyteller Suvi West, as well as curators Giovanna Esposito Yussif, Christopher Wessels and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung.

Exploring the miracle as a poetic vehicle from which to expand perceptions and experiences, the exhibition presents MWC’s collective film work The Killing of Čáhcerávga (2019), which is in dialogue with the site-specific sculptural installation Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers (2019) by Outi Pieski.

 

The exhibition prompts questions around movement and borders

MWC’s collective film work The Killing of Čáhcerávga is a collision of five different short films that, together, tell a disjointed, communal narrative. Employing a call-and-response strategy, the film expresses a politicised dialogue around indigeneity, movement and migration in contemporary Europe.

The collective share an interest in exploring the potentiality in disciplinary disobedience. Travelling through dreamscapes, lonely snowy plains, absurdist capitalist underwaters, greenhouse gardens and desert landscapes, the film stretches into a practice of impossible spatial rules, strange dialogue practices, and inconclusive, unresolved scenic endings.

Expanding beyond the confines of the pavilion, Outi Pieski’s Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers similarly prompts questions around movement and borders. Paying homage to the artist’s Sámi ancestors, the installation brings into dialogue the Sámi traditional handicraft, duodji, with contemporary art.

Sharing both collective and personal histories and heritages, the installation gives voice to the complex internationalist discourse around the Sámi people’s collective struggle against colonial and nationalist enclosures.

Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers transports elements of the arctic tundra to the pavilion, through the series of “dancing” birch trees and reindeer lichen, a primary food source for reindeers. Arctic peoples have thrived in a harsh environment for millennia, thanks to their extensive knowledge of the land and waters.

This ancestral, ecological knowledge is increasingly recognised as a crucial source for understanding Arctic biodiversity and to develop effective strategies for its conservation, learning from the Sámi philosophy of ‘agreeable life’, soabalaš eallin, that points to a life in harmony and accordance with the earth.

Movable Membrane (2019), a modular set by Lorenzo Sandoval is inviting audience to stop, pause and reflect. It is inspired by an element developed by architects Aino Marsio-Aalto (1894–1949) and Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) as one of their iconic signatures: the curved surface. The form works as a deconstruction and a re-engagement of their work, rethinking the role of architecture in the construction of the welfare state – which at times has been presented metaphorically as a miracle itself, the set works as a composable membrane, providing a space for osmosis and encounters.

 

Public events and publication

Alongside the exhibition at the Finnish Alvar Aalto Pavilion, MWC is exploring the parameters of the biennial concept by taking it out of Venice – their performative, discursive, filmic and sonic arm is manifested in public events in Berlin (Germany), Venice (Italy) Kárášjohka (Sápmi / Norway), and Helsinki (Finland) in 2019. Broadening the collectivity, these events present diverse practices where notions of transmutation, divination, and healing become processes of rematriation, restoration, and joy.

A Greater Miracle of Perception: The Venice Iteration is the second in the series of public events taking place on 10 May from 2 pm at the Finnish Pavilion. The event will include the members of the collective as well as invited guests, indigenous rights activist Petra Laiti and dance artist Esete Sutinen.

Furthermore, the publication A Greater Miracle of Perception (ISBN ISBN 978-3-943620-99-3) explores how miracle making – making the impossible possible – is reflected in artistic practices today. Departing from the traditional exhibition catalogue, the publication includes commissioned essays and poetry by writers close to the collective a well as by members of the collective itself. A Greater Miracle of Perception is edited by Giovanna Esposito Yussif and published by Archive Books and Frame Contemporary Art Finland.

 

Commissioner

The exhibition in the Pavilion of Finland is commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland. Frame, an advocate for Finnish contemporary art, supports international initiatives, facilitates professional partnerships, and encourages critical development of the field through grants, visitor programme and residencies, seminars and talks, exhibition collaborations and network platforms. The exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland.

Supporters

The exhibition A Greater Miracle of Perception is commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland.

The main partner for A Greater Miracle of Perception is City of Helsinki / Helsinki Biennial 2020 along with Visit Finland / Business Finland.

The main supporter of A Greater Miracle of Perception is the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, together with the Saastamoinen Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Foundation and Embassy of Finland in Rome.

 

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Miracle Workers Collective

Maryan Abdulkarim

born 1982

writer

 

Khadar Ahmed

born 1981

scriptwriter & director

 

 

Hassan Blasim

born 1973

writer & filmmaker

 

 

Sonya Lindfors

born 1985

choreographer & artistic director

 

 

Outi Pieski

born 1973

artist

 

 

Leena Pukki

born 1984

artist

 

 

Lorenzo Sandoval

born 1980

artist & curator

 

 

Christopher L. Thomas

born 1984

cinematographer

Martta Tuomaala

born 1983

artist

Suvi West

born 1982

filmmaker & storyteller

 

 

Giovanna Esposito Yussif

born 1981

curator

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

born 1977

curator

Christopher Wessels

born 1976

curator

 

 

Open call for the Pavilion of Finland at the Venice Biennale 2019

In January 2018 Frame Contemporary Art Finland invited proposals for the Pavilion of Finland at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2019.

The international jury invited 5 applicants to develop their proposals further.

In April 2018, one project was selected to be realised for the Pavilion of Finland at the Venice Biennale 2019.

Members of the jury

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Sabine Breitwieser is an international curator and museum director and became the Director of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in September 2013. Since 2014 she also became again the Artistic Director of the Generali Foundation. She previously served as Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2010–2013), and as Founding Director and Chief Curator of the Generali Foundation in Vienna (1988–2007).  In 2012 Sabine Breitwieser was a recipient of the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award. In 2015 she served in the jury for the 56th Biennale di Venezia.

Sabine Breitwieser has organized more than 150 monographic and thematic exhibitions in Europe and the United States and has also edited and published about 100 catalogs and books.

Natasha Ginwala is an independent curator and writer. She has been curator of Contour Biennale 8 Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium and curatorial advisor for documenta 14 (2017). Recent projects include My East is Your West featuring Shilpa Gupta and Rashid Rana at the 56th Venice Biennale; Still Against the Sky featuring Hajra Waheed at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and Corruption…Everybody Knows with e-flux, New York within the framework of the SUPERCOMMUNITY project.

Ginwala was a member of the artistic team for the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (with Juan A. Gaitán) and has curated The Museum of Rhythm at Taipei Biennial 2012 (with Anselm Franke) and at Muzeum Sztuki (with Daniel Muzyczuk). From 2013–15 she led the multi-part curatorial project Landings with Vivian Ziherl. Her upcoming projects include Riots: Slow Cancellation of the Future at ifa Gallery, Berlin and Stuttgart in 2018. Ginwala writes on contemporary art and visual culture in various periodicals and has contributed to numerous publications.

Terike Haapoja is a Finnish visual artist based in New York. Haapoja’s large scale installation work, writing and political projects investigate the mechanics of othering with a specific focus on issues arising from the anthropocentric world view of western modernism.

Haapoja represented Finland in the 55 Venice Biennale with a solo show in the Nordic Pavilion, and her work has been awarded with several prizes, including ANTI prize for Live Art (2016), Dukaatti-prize (2008) and Ars Fennica prize nomination. History of Others, Haapoja’s collaboration with writer Laura Gustafsson has been awarded with Finnish State Media art award (2016) and Kiila-prize (2013). Haapoja is a part time lecturer at Parsons Fine Arts, New York.

Director Maija Tanninen-Mattila has a long and diverse background in the visual arts, museums and audience engagement. She has led a variety of visual arts institutions: Ateneum Art Museum, the Finnish National Gallery (2006–2013) and the Helsinki Kunsthalle (2001–2006). Currently she is Director of HAM the Helsinki Art Museum (2013–). HAM is one of the largest art museums in the Nordic countries and is situated in the heart of Helsinki. In addition to an extensive international exhibition program and collection, HAM is responsible for public art in Helsinki.

Frame’s Director Raija Koli chaired the jury.