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.
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.
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.