Venice Biennale 2019
Pavilion of Finland at the 58th International Art Exhibition –
La Biennale di Venezia
Miracle Workers Collective: A Greater Miracle of Perception
11 May– 24 November, 2019
The Miracle Workers Collective (MWC) presented 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.
Exploring the miracle as a poetic vehicle from which to expand perceptions and experiences, the exhibition presented MWC’s collective film work, which engaged in dialogue with a site-specific sculptural installation by Outi Pieski.
The Miracle Workers Collective
The Miracle Workers Collective is:
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
storyteller Suvi West
curator Giovanna Esposito Yussif
curator Christopher Wessels
and curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung.
Exploring the miracle as a poetic vehicle from which to expand perceptions and experiences, the exhibition presented MWC’s collective film work The Killing of Čáhcerávga (2019), which was in dialogue with the site-specific sculptural installation Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers (2019) by Outi Pieski.
Miracle Workers Collective – artists and curators
Maryan Abdulkarim (b. 1982) is a writer and active participant in social discourse living in Helsinki, Finland. Abdulkarim and Eveliina Talvitie coauthored the work Noin 10 myyttiä feminismistä (10 myths about feminism, 2018). Abdulkarim forms the Silta collective together with Pauliina Feodoroff, who is currently working on a project about dreaming, We Should All Be Dreaming, together with Sonya Lindfors. Abdulkarim was born in Mogadishu, Somalia and grew up in Tampere, Finland.
Khadar Ahmed (b. 1981) is a Paris- and Helsinki-based filmmaker. With his script Citizens Ahmed won a short screenplay contest organized by the Finnish Film Foundation and Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE in 2007.
Citizens has been screened and won awards at numerous film festivals around the world, including the Locarno Film Festival in 2008 where it won second prize, Leopards of Tomorrow, the Prix Arte, at Premiers Plans Film Festival in Angers, France in 2009, The Youth Jury Award at the Tampere Short Film Festival in 2009, and the Best Short Film at the Helsinki Short Film Festival in 2009. In 2014, Ahmed wrote and directed a short comedy We Don’t Celebrate Christmas, which was selected to premiere at the Helsinki Short Film Festival in November, 2014.
In 2015, he was selected for a Cinéfondation Residence where he developed his feature directorial debut, The Grave Digger, which ranked among the six finalists in the Shasha Grant, Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s international screenplay competition. In the meantime, Ahmed wrote the script for another feature film called Unexpected Journey, which premiered across Finland in March 2017.
In 2017, he also wrote and directed the short film The Night Thief, which was selected for the Gothenburg International Film Festival in 2018, the Tampere International Short Film Festival in 2018, and the Brest European Short Film Festival in 2018. The film has also been screened at the Tehran international Short Film Festival in 2018 as part of the ‘Focus on Tampere’ series. Ahmed will be shooting his directorial debut film The Gravedigger in Djibouti later this year.
Hassan Blasim (b. 1973) is an Iraqi-Finnish author and filmmaker. He studied film at the Academy of Cinematic Arts in Baghdad. In 1998, he left the city for Sulaymaniya (Iraqi Kurdistan), where he continued to make films, including the feature-length drama Wounded Camera. During this time, under the Hussein dictatorship, he used the pseudonym Ouazad Osman. He has lived in Finland since 2004.
Blasim’s work has been translated into over 20 languages. His literary work includes a novel, short stories, poems, essays, articles and other writing. In 2010 he was dubbed “perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive” by The Guardian.
His debut collection of short stories The Madman of Freedom Square was published in the UK in 2009 and was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP) in 2010. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ, was published in UK in April 2013 and in 2014 was the first Arabic title and first short story collection ever to win the IFFP award. A selection of stories from both of his two collections was published in the US in 2014 under the title The Corpse Exhibition. In 2016, Blasim edited and contributed to the science fiction short story anthology Iraq 100+. He has received a freedom of speech award from the English PEN three times: for The Madman of Freedom Square, The Iraqi Christ, and Iraq 100+.
Blasim’s first novel, Allah 99, was published in Arabic in 2018 and in Finnish in 2019. The English translation will be published during 2019.
Sonya Lindfors (b. 1985) is a Helsinki based artist who works in choreography, facilitating,community organizing, and education. She is the founding member and artistic director of UrbanApa, an inter-disciplinary and counter-hegemonic arts community that offers a platform for new discourses and feminist art practices. UrbanApa hosts numerous events, including workshops, festivals, labs, and dreaming sessions. UrbanApa’s second publication, Blackness & the Postmodern, which was curated and edited by Lindfors, came out in 2018.
Lindfors’s recent series of stage works NOIR? (2013), NOBLE SAVAGE (2016), With Josephine (2017), and her latest works We Should All Be Dreaming (2018) and COSMIC LATTE (2018) centralize questions around blackness and otherness, black-body politics, and representation and radical utopian dreaming. Lindfors is interested in creating and facilitating anti-racist and feminist platforms where a festival, performance, publication or workshop can operate as the site of radical collective dreaming.
Lindfors has received several awards. In 2013 the UrbanApa community received the State Award for Performing Art. In 2017 Lindfors received the Helsinki Artist of the Year Award as well as the Theatre Info Finland Award for outstanding work on creating new discourse around blackness and otherness. In 2018 Lindfors received the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art. During season 2017–2018 Lindfors was the house choreographer of Zodiak – Center for New Dance.
Outi Pieski (b. 1973) is a Sámi visual artist based in Ohcejohka (Utsjoki) and Numminen, Finland. Her paintings and installations explore the Arctic region and the interdependency of nature and culture. Combining the Sámi craft tradition of duodji with contemporary art, Pieski’s work prompts discussion and reflection on the Sámi people and culture within transnational discourse.
Pieski has recently collaborated with the Sámi artists and activists Jenni Laiti and Niillas Holmberg in the projects Rájácummá (Kiss from the Border) and Moratorium Office. Both works examine concepts around the self-determination of local Sámi people based on their philosophy of ‘agreeable life,’ soabalaš eallin, which points to the preservation and support of biodiversity in both nature and humans. Her work Máttaráhku ládjogahpir – Foremother´s Horn Hat, with archaeologist Eeva-Kristiina Harlin, explores her foremothers’ knowledge through practices of revitalization, rematriation, and actualization of the larger biocultural reality of the Sámi people.
Since graduating from University of the Arts Helsinki´s Academy of Fine Arts in 2000, Pieski’s work has been exhibited internationally including: Oulu Art Museum (2019); EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art (2018); Phillips Collection Museum, Washington (2018); Southbank Centre, London (2017); Felleshus and Grimmuseum, Berlin (2015); Kristin Hjellegerde Gallery, London (2014); and Korjaamo Gallery, Helsinki (2014). The artist has created public artworks for the Sámi Parliament Houses in both Finland and Norway. She was an Ars Fennica Award candidate in 2015 and won the Fine Arts Academy of Finland Award in 2017.
Leena Pukki (b. 1984) is a visual artist interested in cultural hegemonies, therelationship between humans and other species, history, utopias, feelings, and power relations. Pukki’s techniques extend from large-scale mural painting to media art and wearable artwork. She often works in public spaces and in different artist groups or communities, also combining art with activism. She is a founding member of the Route Couture artist group.
Pukki’s work has been displayed at many exhibitions and festivals, including Kunsthalle Helsinki, MUU Gallery, and the Craft Museum of Finland. Pukki received her MA from the Aalto University School of Art and Design in 2015. She lives and works in Helsinki but comes from Luumäki, a town in South Karelia.
Lorenzo Sandoval (b. 1980) works as an artist and curator. He holds a B.F.A in Fine Arts and an M.A. in Photography, Art and Technology from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), Valencia, Spain. He has exhibited internationally and attended residencies in Peru, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and Kenya. He received curatorial prizes such as Inéditos (2011), the Can Felipa curatorial prize (2012), and Nogueras Blanchard (2012). He won the art prize Generación 2017 and the grant DKV – Álvarez Margaride for Shadow Writing (Algorithm/Quipu) at LABoral, Gijón (2017).
He presented Shadow Writing (Lace/Variations) in Lehman + Silva Gallery in Porto and Nottingham Contemporary. He was part of Canine Wisdom for the Barking Dog. Exploring the sonic cosmologies of Halim el Dabh curated by Bonaventure Ndikung, Kamila Metwaly, and Marie Helénè Pereira for Dak’art Biennale 2018. He has worked recently with Bisagra in Lima in an exhibition at Amano Pre-columbian Museum. He is preparing a commision for the IVAM museum in Alcoy about the history of the textile industry in relation to the Arab heritage in the Iberian Peninsula and the collectivization of factories prior to the Civil War. His recent research deals with the connections between computation, textiles, photography, and domesticity. Since 2015, he has run The Institute for Endotic Research, which opened as a venue in 2018, together with Benjamin Busch.
Christopher Lorenzo Thomas (b. 1984) is a filmmaker based in Helsinki, Finland. His work uses the migrant experience as a starting point to explore themes of power, education, bureaucracy, and the dynamics of seeing and being seen.
Thomas lived and worked as a cinematographer in London, England after graduating from the London Film School. He shot music videos and short films that have been screened at prestigious festivals around the world and won top awards at the Encounters Short Film Festival and Concorto Film Festival in 2013.
After moving to Finland, Thomas began making his own films and artworks about the migrant experience. His work has been shown as part of the Docurama series during the Uppsala International Film Festival in 2016 and the America Now! programme at the Tampere Film Festival in 2015.
Martta Tuomaala (b. 1983) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Helsinki. She graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Aalto University in 2014. Tuomaala focuses on various forms of film, video and installation.
Her artistic practice involves elements of socially engaged art and militant research. Common themes in her artworks include workers’ everyday life, the struggles of different individuals and communities, and abuse of power. Tuomaala has worked in various low-income fields for several years and her own experiences have inspired her to create projects emphasizing workers’ rights issues. Tuomaala is also actively pushing for better working conditions in the field of art and culture. She is currently a board member in the Union of Finnish Art Associations, AV-Arkki (the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art), and the Leftist Artists’ and Writers’ Association Kiila.
Her artworks have been exhibited widely in museums, galleries, and festivals internationally. Tuomaala’s participatory media artwork FinnCycling-Soumi-Perkele! Vol. 2 (2017/2018) has been exhibited in various festivals and events, previously at Light Moves Festival of Screendance (2018), Antimatter Media Art (2018), and Video Art Festival Turku – VAFT (2018). Her latest artwork Under Pressure (2019), made in collaboration with artist Sepideh Rahaa, will be exhibited for the first time (2019) at UGM in Maribor, Slovenia.
Suvi West (b. 1982) is a documentary director, TV, and media worker. Her movies have been screened at film festivals around the world and on Nordic TV channels. West’s first feature-length documentary Sparrooabbán (Me and My Little Sister) (2016) won the Audience Award at the Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival in 2016. Wider audiences in Finland know her from Märät säpikkäät (Wet Reindeer Fur Leggings) (2012–2014), a TV show she co-created with her friend Anne Kirste Aikio. The show was nominated for the best national comedy series in Finland in 2012.
West is an indigenous Sámi from Utsjoki in the far north of Finland. The majority of her work addresses Sámi culture, society, and identity. As a storyteller she likes to think of herself as the maid of Gieddegašgálgu, an ancient Sámi spirit and keeper of all the knowledge in the world. At the moment West is interested in decolonizing ways of storytelling and in studying Sámi ways of sharing knowledge.
Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (b. 1977) is an independent curator, author, and biotechnologist. He is the founder and artistic director of SAVVY Contemporary Berlin. He was curator-at-large for documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel and guest curator of the 2018 Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal. He is currently guest professor in curatorial studies and sound art at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, artistic director of the 12th Rencontres de Bamako, a biennale for African photography, 2019, as well as artistic director of Sonsbeek 2020, a quadrennial contemporary art exhibition in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
Giovanna Esposito Yussif (b. 1981) is a curator and researcher with background in art history, museology, and critical theory. Over the past few years, Esposito Yussif has focused her praxis on collective models of inquiry, exercises of criticality, and processes of dissentient imaginations. Through her work, she is devising research on non-dominant practices. With David Muoz she co-founded NÆS – Nomad Agency/Archive of Emergent Studies, a living agency/archive practice that intersects the emergent dynamics of social organization, promotes studying against the grain, and the political space of research as the right to know and the right to imagine together. Esposito Yussif has collaborated with diverse international institutions including Savvy Contemporary, Goethe-Institut Finnland, Manifesta Foundation, Checkpoint Helsinki, Frame Contemporary Art Finland, Helsinki International Artist Programme – HIAP, Laboratorio Arte Alameda, Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros and Galería OMR.
Christopher Wessels (b. 1976) is a founding member of The Museum of Impossible Forms and Third Space (2014-2016), both of which are located in Helsinki. His artistic and curatorial practices look at the un-silencing of counter-hegemonic narratives and the building of counter-hegemonic institutions with anti-racist, anti-sexist, and class consciousness at their foundations. In the autumn he starts teaching at the University of Witwatersrand School of Arts in Johannesburg South Africa.
Exhibition: A Greater Miracle of Perception
The Killing of Čáhcerávga (2019)
Miracle Workers Collective’s 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.
Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers (2019)
Expanding beyond the confines of the pavilion, Outi Pieski’s Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers similarly prompted questions around movement and borders. Paying homage to the artist’s Sámi ancestors, the installation broiught into dialogue the Sámi traditional handicraft, duodji, with contemporary art.
Sharing both collective and personal histories and heritages, the installation gave voice to the complex internationalist discourse around the Sámi people’s collective struggle against colonial and nationalist enclosures.
Ovdavázzit – Forewalkers transported 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.
In addition, Movable Membrane (2019), a modular set by Lorenzo Sandoval was inviting audience to stop, pause and reflect. It was 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 worked 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.
Alongside the exhibition at the Finnish Alvar Aalto Pavilion, MWC was 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 presented diverse practices where notions of transmutation, divination, and healing become processes of rematriation, restoration, and joy.
The Helsinki Iteration 26 November 2019
The Kárášjohka Iteration 20–22 September 2019
The Venice Iteration 10 May 2019
The Berlin Iteration 3 April 2019
A Greater Miracle of Perception is a publication available via Archive Books to accompany the exhibition now showing in the Finnish Alvar Aalto Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.
The book explores how miracle making – making the impossible possible – is reflected in artistic practices today. It includes commissioned essays and poetry by writers affiliated with the collective as well as by members of the collective itself.
Press copies: please contact Head of Communications Laura Boxberg (email@example.com).
The exhibition in the Pavilion of Finland was 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.
Partners and supporters
The exhibition A Greater Miracle of Perception was commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland.
The main partner for A Greater Miracle of Perception was City of Helsinki / Helsinki Biennial 2020 along with Visit Finland / Business Finland.
The main supporter of A Greater Miracle of Perception was the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, together with the Saastamoinen Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Foundation and Embassy of Finland in Rome. Media art production support by AVEK / Tuuli Penttinen-Lampisuo.
Special thanks to Petri Anttonen, Tiamaria Jukola, Ksenia Kaverina, Anssi Kömi, Heikki Lokki, Inkeri Lokki, Antti Johannes Peltonen, Roope Ruuska, Raimo Saarinen, Elina Varis. Angel Films Oy, EW Dive, Finlandia Park Hotel Helsinki, Hanaholmen – Swedish- Finnish Cultural Centre, The Museum of Impossible Forms, Sámediggi – The Sámi Parliament in Finland, Viherpaja Oy.
You can find press images and press releases in English, Sámi, Italian and Finnish from Frame’s media bank
For more information:
Head of Communications
firstname.lastname@example.org tel. +358 44 739 6079
PARTICIPANTS Miracle Workers Collective manifests through an installation by Outi Pieski; a collective film by Maryan Abdulkarim, Khadar Ahmed, Hassan Blasim, Sonya Lindfors, Leena Pukki, Martta Tuomaala, Christopher L. Thomas, and Suvi West; and a modular set by Lorenzo Sandoval.
CURATORS Giovanna Esposito Yussif, Christopher Wessels, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung.
COMMISSIONER Raija Koli, Frame Contemporary Art Finland.
Laura Boxberg, communications Frame Contemporary Art Finland
Lilia Di Bella, graphic design Archive Appendix
Chiara Figone, editorial coordinator Archive Books
Ida Enegren, project assistant Frame Contemporary Art Finland
Raija Koli, director Frame Contemporary Art Finland
Maikki Lavikkala, project manager Frame Contemporary Art Finland
David Muñoz, exhibition architect
Luca Piazza, technical assistant
Francesco Raccanelli, project assistant Frame Contemporary Art Finland
Ellen Vene, exhibition assistant
Lebrel Furniture, modular set production
Special thanks to Tiina-Maria Aalto, Maria Duncker, Teuri Haarla, Miisa Hatakka, Eeva-Kristiina Harlin, Jenni Laiti, Niillas Holmberg, Elina Juopperi, David Muñoz, Pauli Saijets and Polarmoss.
Duojárat / Sámi artisans
Denis Barudkin, Per-Stefan Idivuoma Nils-Johan Labba and Olavi Sakari Saijets.
Danai Anagnostou line producer / produttore esecutivo, Simon Al-Bazoon performer, Noora Dadu performer, Tanja Glad camera assistant / assistente alle riprese, Lotta Esko production assistant / assistente di produzione, Salla Hakanpää underwater mobility coordinator / coordinatrice mobilità subacquea, Iiris Hosia performer, Aleksi Hämäri grip / macchinista, Ilkka Kunttu sound designer, Áile Kirste Lokki performer, Miro Mantere studio recordist & mixing / fonico di studio & montaggio audio, Fiona Musanga performer, Pirita Näkkäläjärvi performer, Nelli Nyman camera assistant / assistente alle riprese, Lou Strömberg sound recordist / fonico di presa diretta, Esete Sutinen performer, Leo Tuominen performer, Johannes Valkonen composer / cantautore, Vishnu Vardhani performer, Hánssa Ristena Kerttu / Kerttu Vuolab song writer / cantautore, Sarrah Wilkman colorist & Janina Witkowski assistente alle riprese.