press release

12.06.2021 - 26.09.2021

Helsinki Biennial
"The Same Sea"

Helsinki Biennial announces the 40 artists and groups of artists participating in the inaugural edition, The Same Sea. Located on Vallisaari, an island in the Baltic Sea, the biennial presents over 75% new commissions and site-specific works, sensitively positioned across this remarkable maritime setting. Responding to, whilst safeguarding, Vallisaari’s natural environment, The Same Sea reflects upon the ever-pressing notion of interdependence.

Curators Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola, head curators of Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), invite a dialogue between artists and collectives from Finland, Australia, Cambodia, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Poland, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the UK and the USA.

The Helsinki Biennial 2020 participants include:
Paweł Althamer, ATTAKWAD, Pasi Autio, Samir Bhowmik, BIOS Research Unit, Baran Caginli, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Kyungwoo Chun, Janet Echelman, EGS, Katharina Grosse, Gustafsson&Haapoja, Hanna Tuulikki, Honkasalo-Niemi-Virtanen, IC-98, Uwa Iduozee, Wanuri Kahiu, Marja Kanervo, Topi Kautonen, Khvay Samnang, Jussi Kivi, Alicja Kwade, Hayoun Kwon, Laura Könönen, Tuomas A. Laitinen, Teemu Lehmusruusu, Dafna Maimon, Antti Majava, Inga Meldere, Jaakko Niemelä, Meiju Niskala, Niskanen & Salo, Sari Palosaari, Outi Pieski, Birit and Katja Haarla, Mario Rizzi, Rirkrit Tiravanija & Antto Melasniemi, Christine and Margaret Wertheim, Maaria Wirkkala, Tadashi Kawamata, and Zodiak presents: Joni Kärkkäinen & Jukka Tarvainen*.

*An asterisk denotes a new commission.

New commissions embrace themes ranging from relations to nature, borders, identities, human traces, time and empathy. As a physical manifestation of interconnectedness, Jaakko Niemelä’s large-scale wooden construction Quay 6 greets visitors as they disembark at the northern quay of Vallisaari. Referencing the melting of Greenland’s northern ice sheet, the construction reaches six metres high – mirroring the rise in sea level should the glacier vanish completely.

Christine and Margaret Wertheim bring their Crochet Coral Reef project to Helsinki, The Helsinki Satellite Reef. Made of recycled plastic, including disused plastic bags, the handmade reef is created with residents of Helsinki, calling attention to the extensive plastic waste threatening the world’s oceans.

Other commissions have also involved local Helsinki communities, such as Paweł Althamer’s collaboration with the nearby Suomenlinna Open Prison for Seven Prisoners; a two-part documentary and VR film which invites viewers to join seven inmates (including Althamer himself) on an escape from prison, via open waters and changing, seasonal landscapes.

Utilising recycled materials, Tadashi Kawamata’s Vallisaari Lighthouse is a temporary landmark comprised of found material from Vallisaari. Sitting atop a bunker-like elevator shaft, jutting skywards to a height of several metres, the lighthouse can be seen from various viewpoints out at sea.

Marja Kanervo’s work similarly draws from the island’s existing infrastructure. Working on-site across three floors of the Pilot House, Kanervo’s site-specific interventions – forms and marks imprinted across the space – merge with the traces of former residents, straddling the space between real life and fiction.

Laura Könönen’s large-scale sculpture depicts an explosion of broken shards of rock. Appearing as though the structures were at one point a complete solid, the work forces us to revisit our ideas of stability and permanence. The sculpture forms part of the larger work No Heaven up in the Sky, which will be placed on permanent display in Helsinki’s Hyväntoivonpuisto Park after 2020.

The BIOS Research Unit will establish the Vallisaari Research Station within the island’s former fire-fighting depot. Hosting seminars and lectures from visiting scientists throughout the biennial, BIOS’ project specifically focuses on the lost, severed connection between the environment and the economy.

Helsinki Biennial also extends its presence to the mainland; works by EGS, Janet Echelman, Rirkrit Tiravanija & Antto Melasniemi and Zodiak, as well as a solo exhibition from Gustafsson&Haapoja at HAM, will be complemented by a special collaboration with the Facebook Art Department. Moreover, throughout the summer a programme of exhibitions, events, workshops and educational activities take the form of Helsinki Biennial Inspired.