Kuva / Image : Miina Hujala
IN THIS CLIMATE UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES
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ALKOVI in collaboration with Tatu Engeström, Jaakko Karhunen & Aino-Marjatta Mäki, Pekka Niittyvirta and Sauli Sirviö

The artists/organizers Miina Hujala and Arttu Merimaa behind Helsinki-based display-window exhibition space Alkovi invited 5 Finnish artists - of which two are a working duo - to participate on a project by submitting each one photograph depicting and addressing the contemporary situation of ecological crisis. The project will be mounted on the four windows of a building on the Michurinskaya Street in St. Petersburg as a part of Art Prospect festival. The backbone of the “ In this climate – Under these circumstances” - project is on deliberation of how information is being presented and distributed under current situation where the boiling points for ecological issues overarch the entire globe.

The premise of the project was to align hindered visibility of the presented photographs and the portrayal of inaccessibility/immateriality of information to touch upon the question of censorship through the pursuit of creating coherence over what is being presented. The instigators of the project - Hujala and Merimaa - proclaimed the right to retouch and reframe, crop or resize the images the artists would produce for the project.

After receiving the images it seemed that the artists subtly resisted the idea of cropping and reframing the outcome - this became evident after three of the four contributions used text within the images. Our aim of hindered visibility became also removed by the relocation of our project to another site, where we will not be finding a metal mesh in the windows to place the poster-images behind (the outlook that we designed the project into).

This and the actual subject matter of the posters created a source for alternative direction that we more than gladly took; to bluntly forefront each of the individual images as they proved to be a powerful set when brought together and displayed in the windows of a small grocery store. Showing them alongside each other in a simple mode rather than exposing the images to any overimposed form of editing from our side is also a gesture of removal (of interference). In this casual setting they become a form of interference themselves.

Our retreat from re – treat allows the images to be seen as a collection of angles around the issues of control - of the image, of what is to be imagined, and what is said, shown, known and distributed. Ecology is too big of an issue to be castrated.

Tatu Engeström highlights a symbol that merges an eagle and a lion and becomes an odd offspring of the commercial connections and aspirations of the late 19th century between Russia and Finland (which was a part of Russia’s empire at the time.) The forest industry company sought to find a symbol that would ease and aid the commerce and also create a strong image for the company. The national symbols of both nations combined are a mark of the heritage of the joined history but also a symbol for the practices of today. The importance to present something as strong and powerful never seems to go out of style. And relying on mythological creatures proves to be very enduring tactic.

Jaakko Karhunen & Aino-Marjatta Mäki chose a poem of Elvi Sinervo, a Finnish leftist poet, who wrote this poem during imprisonment in the 1942 in Hämeenlinna, Finland. In the poem ‘Natalia’ she portrays the sentiments of her alleged partisan cellmate towards a situation of being far away from her home country Ukraine during foreign (at that time german) occupation. The story was afterwards recast new light with the fact that the “Natalia” of the poem was in fact a Finnish woman who had been convicted from counter-espionage. This presents us with idea of mis- or disinformation, the stories being told and realities being woven. Placing the poem in front of the image of taxidermied ape held in hand, we are confronted with the realities of the ecology – information misplaced or shuffled endlessly to be always pointed somewhere else to fuel misconceptions and bewilderment. What aims can we have when we don’t have any conception of the real information? Potent longing for something coherent and concrete drives the pursuit for facts and evidence, but in what kind of reality are those facts rendered believable?

Pekka Niittyvirta shows a photograph of a checkpoint in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. An image of witnessing, an act of documenting the actuality of the concreteness of the situation. Crisis’ can be seen as living organisms of various patterns, actions, histories and consequences, which are also constructed, maintained, fuelled, and perhaps sometimes dismantled.

Sauli Sirviö points to the locus of perception. In his image the view of the earth from outer space - cultivated here by Apple and distributed through the screens of the company’s products - connects with the quote from the 1st human being that had the possibility to see that view “live” - Yuri Gagarin. As Gagarin finds the planet’s beauty to be worth protecting and makes a plea to humankind to save it, we are tapped into the visibility circuits of images that keep rotating in front of our eyes when gazing upon our smart phones. Perhaps we just cannot see or imagine this entity of earth as an entity of vulnerability, us being bound inseparably to its faith. Our aspirations on technology and the escape from problems that we want it to provide us with are hollowed by our inability to see but images of this all.

ABOUT ART PROSPECT FESTIVAL:

Art Prospect is St. Petersburg’s only yearly event, which brings contemporary art into the city streets and provides the opportunity for artists from around the world to share their work with the local community. Initiated in September 2012 by CEC ArtsLink, the Art Prospect Festival is a response to local interest in innovative forms of art that reach new audiences and offers local and international artists a unique venue to share their work with unsuspecting audiences, who rarely view contemporary art works. Through this annual Festival of temporary public art, CEC ArtsLink strives to promote the development of public art in St. Petersburg by sharing best practices, strategies and techniques with local artists, organizations, and government agencies. In 2014 the Art Prospect Festival will be presented as part of the Parallel Program of the European Biennale of Contemporary Art Manifesta 10.

Curated in 2014 by U.S. public art expert Kendal Henry, who has a deep knowledge of the arts in Russia, the 3rd Art Prospect Festival will explore the ways in which artists address the vast and complex ecological issues at the forefront of global conversations through public participation and social engagement. In each instance the artist stretches the definition of art and redefines his/her role as instigator, collaborator, activist and designer while enticing the public to participate in curious and exciting ways. Artists are encouraged to address the broad topic of ecology as the relationship between organisms and people, and their surroundings in a multi-disciplinary manner. The audience is meant to encounter artworks that speak to serious ecological issues about climate change, conservation, energy, resources, and biodiversity as well as cultural diversity, language, and population, and its influence on relationships in non-aggressive ways that increase awareness and inspire action.

Working in cooperation with the Posadsky Municipal District administration, Art Prospect invites local residents to both collaborate with artists in the creation of site specific public art works and engage with works in the surrounding neighborhood, including a local public library, a nursery school, and a community garden. Many of the works will be participatory, activating local residents to interact with Russian and international artists and breaking down the barrier between contemporary art and society. Among the Festival’s highlights are a hands-on workshop for children by local artists Masha Nebesnaya and Zhenya Isaeva utilizing recycled materials and a performance work with local sanitation workers and environmentalists about how trash is collected and disposed of in St. Petersburg by the acclaimed U.S. artist Mierle Lederman Ukeles.

More than thirty artists from Russia, the U.S., Finland, Armenia, Australia, and Georgia will create new site-specific works in a wide variety of mediums, including temporary installations, interactive media projects, wheat-paste collage, and performance. The Art Prospect Festival is conducted in collaboration with the Open Urban Lab, Centre for Independent Social Research, and the Pro Arte Foundation and made possible through support from the St. Petersburg Committee on Culture, The Black Sea Trust for Mutual Cooperation, and other international foundations.