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Helsinki Biennial 2023 Symposium on 9th December

Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art (Aalto University) and Helsinki Biennial are pleased to invite you to the Helsinki Biennial 2023 Symposium on Friday 9th December from 9.30 to 15.00 at HAM Helsinki Art Museum.

The Symposium kicks off the Helsinki Biennial 2023 (HB23) public programme with lectures and panel discussions that orbit around the HB23’s main themes and questions. Helsinki Biennial 2023 is curated by Joasia Krysa and will take place from 12th June to 17th September 2023. Watch the recording of the Symposium here!

The symposium serves as an overture to next summer’s biennial. It reflects and refracts the biennial’s main conceptual threads of contamination, regeneration, and agency with an extra focus on the following premise: that curatorial activity today is shaped by two major inescapable factors; the persistence of the climate emergency on the one hand and curating’s technical and cultural confluence with twenty-first-century media on the other.

Twenty-first-century media – as Mark B. N. Hansen points out – can be distinguished from previous types of media by considering how technologies have transitioned from a focus on recording the past to an emphasis on the anticipation of the future driven by ubiquitous computing and big data. As the common ground for current cultural practices, these formative conditions can be evidenced in the proliferation of certain notions and metaphors such as the widespread adoption of the concept of ecology, as when we speak of (art) institutional ecologies and computational ecologies, for instance. Moreover, processes such as worldmaking and worldbuilding epitomize both the forward-looking essence of digital infrastructures and the transformative possibilities of alternative narratives.

This symposium is part of the HB23 Art Mediation Forum. The forum conceives mediation as an extended ‘articulation space’ for the concerns, themes, and topics mapped out in the biennial’s curatorial approach and artistic contributions. Other components of the art mediation forum include a workshop with Aalto University MA students, a publication, and a series of bespoke mediation events taking place during the course of the Biennial. The HB23 Art Mediation Forum is a project developed and led by Bassam El Baroni and Patrizia Costantin (Visual Cultures, Curating and
Contemporary Art – ViCCA – at Aalto University) as part of the Helsinki Biennial 2023 programme.

Event information

Time: Friday 9 December from 9.30 to 15.00 (EET, UCT+2)
Location and address: HAM Helsinki Art Museum, HAM Hall,
Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Registration to the live event:  Places at HAM are limited, please book your place by registering by 3rd December 2022. The event is free of charge.
Register here.

The event will be also streamed online: Join our Facebook event for the latest updates and the stream.

More information and contact:

Patrizia Costantin,
Head of Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art major and University Lecturer in Curating, Aalto University

Lissu Kirves, Producer at Helsinki Biennial 2023


Coffee and registration

Welcome speeches by Kati Kivinen (HAM) and Jonna Hurskainen (Helsinki Biennial)
Introduction to Helsinki Biennial 2023 by Joasia Krysa (Head Curator of Helsinki Biennial 2023)
Opening remarks by Bassam El Baroni and Patrizia Costantin (Aalto University)

Lecture: When Species Mate by Filipa Ramos

Short break

Lecture: Curating’s technological unconscious: the history of cybernetics and the Gaian transformation of curation by Adeena Mey

Lunch break

Lecture: Dimensioning: on the processual augmentation of space by Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás

Panel discussion with Adeena Mey, Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás, and Filipa Ramos.
Moderated by Bassam El Baroni and Patrizia Costantin.

Closing remarks

Abstracts and Biographies

Filipa Ramos
When Species Mate

Inspired by the leitmotifs of Joasia Krysa’s proposal for the 2023 edition of the Helsinki Biennial, this talk aims to explore the zones of in-betweenness across material and philosophical realms that connect the human and the nonhuman world, this talk proposes the reconceptualization of two tropes that have shaped much of the Western relationship to biology and existence, that of species and that of mating.
Borrowing examples from poetry, literature, art and science, I will present forms of intimate encounter that question the divisive connotation of the notion of species and problematize the reproductive weight of the concept of mating. Through these case-studies, I will suggest that desire is a transformative drive to change the way we relate to ourselves, our bodies, and the bodies of all other living forms that inhabit the planet.

Filipa Ramos is a writer and curator with a PhD awarded from the School of Critical Studies at Kingston University, London. Her research, manifested in critical and theoretical texts, lectures, workshops and edited publications, focuses on how culture addresses ecology, attending to how contemporary art fosters relationships between nature and technology. She is Director of the Contemporary Art Department of the city of Porto. Furthermore, she is curator of the Art Basel Film sector and a founding curator of the online artists’ cinema Vdrome. Ongoing and upcoming projects include the arts, humanities and science festival The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish (since 2018) and “Persones Persons”, the 8th Biennale Gherdëina (2022), both with Lucia Pietroiusti. In 2021, she co-curated “Bodies of Water”, the 13th Shanghai Biennale (with Andrés Jaque, Lucia Pietroiusti, Marina Otero Verzier and Mi You), and co-curated the group exhibition “Feet of Clay” at Porto’s City Gallery (with Chus Martinez). Previously, she curated the exhibition “Animalesque”, at Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden (2019) and BALTIC Gateshead (2020). Ramos has extensive experience as an editor and publisher. She was Editor-in-Chief of art-agenda/e-flux (2013-20), Associate Editor of Manifesta Journal (2009-11) and contributed to Documenta 13 (2012) and 14 (2017). She authored Lost and Found (Silvana Editoriale, 2009) and edited Animals (Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press, 2016). Her upcoming book, The Artist as Ecologist, will be published by Lund Humphries in 2023. She is a Lecturer at the Master Programme of the Arts Institute of the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Basel, where she leads the Art and Nature seminars.

Adeena Mey
Curating’s technological unconscious: the history of cybernetics and the Gaian transformation of curation

This contribution will use the occasion and curatorial scope of the Helsinki Biennial to address what philosopher Yuk Hui and I have called the ‘cybernetisation of the exhibition’. We have described this process, which consists in the redefinition of the exhibition and the institution as an informational and communicational medium, based on a series of writings and institutional experiments taking place in the 1970s, by the likes of curators Peter Althaus, Jorge Glusberg, Pontus Hultén (to which we could have added, amongst others, philosopher Vilém Flusser). Yet, the 1970s also saw the emergence of a distinction between so-called ‘first order cybernetics’ – through which living and technological beings came to be seen as regulated by processes of ‘feedback’ – and ‘second order cybernetics’ – which considers systems as self-organising and self-reflective – the former being, broadly, the main inspiration for these curatorial and theoretical attempts at transforming museums and the exhibition-form.

I thus intend to return to this distinction between first and second order cybernetics and how we can trace prevalent curatorial logic to first order cybernetics while recent and evolving shifts in the exhibitionary complex might be linked to the second order. With regards to the Anthropocene, second order cybernetics equips us better to rethink the role of biennales and the way they can address what philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers has called the ‘Intrusion of Gaia’ (namely how forces of the planet and the environment gain an autonomy that exceeds human control over them). My hypothesis is that, for institutions and curating to be able to address the contemporary nexus of environmental, political, and scientific urgencies, it is necessary to rethink them through the development and model of second-order cybernetics, that is as self-organising systems themselves.

Adeena Mey is Managing Editor of Afterall journal and a Research Fellow at the Afterall Research Centre, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London. His writing, editorial and curatorial projects explore artists’ moving image, exhibition studies, East and Southeast Asian contemporary art, cybernetics, decolonial and cosmotechnical thought. He is also Principal Investigator of the digital research project ‘Black Atlantic Museum’ funded by the Paul Mellon Centre in London, co-initiator of the workshop series ‘Terms and Conditions of Writing and Publishing Art in Southeast Asia’ funded by the British Academy, as well as a lecturer in Contemporary Art History at ECAL/Lausanne University of Art and Design in Switzerland.

Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás
Dimensioning: on the processual augmentation of space

Computer-generated simulations, virtual realities, networked digital platforms – from cyberspace to metaverse, from web 1.0 to web 3.0 – are no longer fictitious locations found in science-fiction literature. Their significance and role are on a par with physical spaces, even if this is not yet apparent in contemporary curatorial and exhibition praxes.

Information technology has given rise to spheres that have become legitimate, parallel dimensions of our perception, experience, knowledge, communication and ourselves, where the real and possible, the virtual and the actual are no longer antithetical opposites, rather interdependent entities that constitute an algorithmic present, many contemporary societies find themselves in. Already much before our present that is imbued with information technology, the urge to react to the new paradigms brought about by calculating machines manifested in visual reactions in the form of artworks, manifestos, or entire exhibitions, and have propelled theories, even onto-epistemological frameworks – some of which will be discussed in the presentation.

Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás is a curator and art historian. She has curated exhibitions at institutions of contemporary and media art worldwide since 2006, including at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe), Chronus Art Center (Shanghai), Tallinna Kunstihoone, Ludwig Museum Budapest, focusing on the constantly changing media of contemporary art and intersections with various disciplines. She has initiated and developed thematic exhibitions raising questions such as the genealogy and social impact of planetary computation and computer code, electronic surveillance and democracy, and synesthetic perception. As of 2019, she began curatorial research at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig on the “virtual condition” and its implications in the exhibition space, and as acting head of the international collaboration project titled Beyond Matter at ZKM | Karlsruhe, which she initiated and in which institutions such as Centre Pompidou Paris, Aalto University, and others participate.