press release

In Search of the Present

August 27, 2022–January 15, 2023

In Search of the Present is a broad international exhibition of contemporary art that takes a profound look at our world, which is defined by technology and its impact on who we are. EMMA—Espoo Museum of Modern Art has invited 16 visionary contemporary artists to the exhibition. Through their work they explore the relationships between nature, technology, human thought and artificial intelligence.

Technology is sometimes seen as the opposite of nature and artificial intelligence as a threat to humanity. To the artists of In Search of the Present, technology mainly represents an opportunity to create a new kind of art and a tool for visualizing things that can help us to enrich our relationship with nature and understand our selves better. Curated by EMMA’s Chief Curator Arja Miller and Curator Ingrid Orman, the exhibition explores the complex interaction between humans, technology and nature. Many of the artists draw our attention not only to the potential of artificial intelligence but also to other intelligences found in nature.

According to the curators, “Artists have a special ability to think outside the box; this is why it is especially interesting to turn to them for new perspectives on our own time. The artists of the exhibition deal with contemporary phenomena through processes that combine art, technology and science. However, all of the art works can be experienced firsthand, without having prior understanding of technology.”

EMMA’s exhibition offers a varied selection of artworks from the artists Refik Anadol, Dora Budor, Sougwen Chung, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stephanie Dinkins, Teemu Lehmusruusu, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Agnieszka Kurant, Brandon Lipchik, Jaakko Pietiläinen, Sondra Perry, Anna Ridler, Raimo Saarinen, Jenna Sutela, Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Lu Yang. The works of the Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer model and visualise vital functions such as heartbeat, breathing or speech in various ways. EMMA has commissioned Lozano-Hemmer to create a new edition of the work Last Breath for the exhibition, made in collaboration with the Finnish actress Seela Sella. The piece has been acquired for EMMA’s collection.

Refik Anadol, a Turkish-American artist, uses machine learning to create data paintings and sculptures. He investigates creativity that emerges from encounters between humans and machines. The American artist Stephanie Dinkins investigates algorithmic structures that create inequality. She is particularly interested in creating more equal technological systems through her art.

Chinese-Canadian artist and researcher, Sougwen Chung created a kinetic installation activated through a live performance which links the neural pathways of a human subject with a multi-robotic system—together collaborating across the space, creating brush strokes on an ambitious configuration of three paintings. The resulting three paintings form part of the installation.

The Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen revives an extinct Hawaiian bird and its habitat through extensive fieldwork—his video and VR work RE-ANIMATEDexplores extinction, immortality and our ecological future. The Polish artist Agnieszka Kurant investigates the relationship between digital and biological phenomena. Dora Budor’s large-scale installation The Preserving Machine—and the robotic bird flying within it—takes over an exhibition space, making use of its intrinsic features and site-specific materials. The exhibition is the second part of EMMA’s series In Search of the Present, which began in 2016. Its title refers to Finnish author Olavi Paavolainen’s collection of essays (1929), which explores the experiences and identities of modern humans in a rapidly changing time.