Helsinki Biennial 23: New Directions May Emerge

New Directions May Emerge 

12 June – 17 September 

As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds – and new directions – may emerge.  

– Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

The 2nd edition of Helsinki Biennial brings together 29 international and Finnish artists to reflect on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as environmental damage, political conflict and the impact of technology – issues that are local and universal at the same time.

Helsinki Biennial 2023 adopts its title New Directions May Emerge from anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, who proposes learning from (the art of) “noticing”. Paying close attention to other people, animals, plants, environment, data, and other entities around us, the biennial explores how we might find new ways of living in, and understanding, the world.    

The biennial unfolds through multimodal artistic acts of noticing, sensing, and sense-making. Moving from humans to non-humans and between varying scales – a spectrum spanning data on the smallest scale through to islands and speculative new worlds denoting the largest – the biennial is an invitation to consider how recognizing small or otherwise invisible details might prompt possibilities to act, to imagine differently, and to reconcile the impact of human intervention and environmental and technological damage.   

Three main conceptual threads are introduced – contamination, regeneration and agency – not as themes but intersectional vectors through which practices and conversations convene, without the need to settle on a precise position. How might contamination be a force for positive change? How to use the biennial for regeneration of the social body? How might agency extend beyond humans to other nonhuman entities and assemblages, including artificial intelligences? How might these threads be channelled into rethinking the ways that practices and future worlds might be conceived? 

The Baltic Sea is one of the most contaminated waters in the world, subjected to waste from regimes of violence and unregulated industrialism. Yet, Helsinki Biennial proposes new layers of productive contamination as a cross-pollination between practices and ideas. Recognising that biennials have often been founded on principles of urban regeneration, in terms of tourism and the economy, it additionally proposes how exhibitions can be a force for healing and repair. Finally, the concept of agency explores how human life, the environment and technologies can evolve together to produce new and unforeseen results. 

Helsinki Biennial 2023 takes its cue from the island, the regenerative energy of nature, and data of all kinds. It gathers together natural science and cosmology, the supernatural and artificial intelligence, data science and science fiction, the sense-making practices of humans and nonhumans, sentient and otherworldly beings – so that new directions may emerge.   

This edition takes place on and off shore of the Helsinki Archipelago, expanding from its central location on the island of Vallisaari, one of over two hundred islands in the Helsinki Archipelago and only recently opened to public, to activate the mainland, as well as extending online.

In Helsinki, first-time biennial venues include HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki Central Library Oodi, and public spaces such as Baana and the South Harbour in the centre of the city, as well as Cultural Centers Stoa and Caisa in the East and North, embracing the cultural and ethnic diversity of the city.  For the first time, the biennial take place online and has a significant digital presence.  A number of works have been created specifically to be shown online, as well as those that blend the physical with the digital, which are presented across multiple locations, both in physical venues and online (accessible via biennial website).

Bringing together established and emerging artists and collectives from Finland and across the world, it comprises exhibitions, public programme, film screenings, and publications. 

Artists: Matti AikioDanielle Brathwaite-ShirleyDineo Seshee Bopape, Golden Snail OperaAsunción Molinos GordoAlma HeikkiläMinna Henriksson & Ahmed Al Nawas INTERPRTKeikenSonya LindforsTuula NärhinenPHOSfate (Mohamed Sleiman Labat & Pekka Niskanen), Lotta Petronella with Sami Tallberg & Lau NauDiana Policarpo, Sepideh RahaaBita RazaviRED FORESTRemedies (Sasha Huber and Petri Sariko), Tabita RezaireYehwan SongJenna SutelaEmilija Škarnulytė, Suzanne TreisterAdrián Villar Rojas, and Zheng Mahler

The second edition of Helsinki Biennial is curated by Joasia Krysa, with curatorial intelligences — Museum of Impossible Forms, TBA21—Academy, Critical Environmental Data, ViCCA@Aalto Arts, and A.I. entity created by Digital Visual Studies, University of Zurich.

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