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Helsinki Biennial’s programme unites art, the city, and its residents

Helsinki Biennial will be held from 12 June to 26 September 2021 on Vallisaari Island and in mainland Helsinki, featuring a number of performances, workshops, and discussions. The biennial programme has been created together with Helsinki City services, communities, and residents, as well as with several art institutions. A series of art and culture events inspired by the biennial will be featured under the title Helsinki Biennial Inspired.

The main exhibition on Vallisaari will be accompanied by several performances, workshops, discussions, and other events. The events can be experienced on Vallisaari, in mainland Helsinki, and online, and they will be available to audiences as allowed by COVID-19 restrictions. Digital content will make the biennial more accessible and enable participation in it even if a visit to Vallisaari is not possible.

Samir Bhowmik’s Lost Islands is a series of expeditions tracing the route of an imaginary subterranean and underwater cable through the island of Vallisaari. Along the way, visitors are engaged and immersed in installations, film, theatre, modern dance, song, and experimental music. The expeditions will take place as a series of events staged on the island from June to August. Meiju Niskala has created a participatory work, in which visitors roam the island’s rocky shores and meadows following instructions they hear via a headset. The work, which can also be described as a poetic and participatory audio work, revolves around various types of encounters, with people encountering themselves, other people, nonhuman species and the environment.

In addition to Vallisaari, events can be experienced in mainland Helsinki. Rirkrit Tiravanija and Antto Melasniemi, in collaboration with Artek, will create an installation in the HAM Corner space on the ground floor of Tennispalatsi and organise a one-week event that will make the space a meeting point for various operators and varying opinions. Artist Joni Kärkkäinen and choreographer Jukka Tarvainen will stage their work The Wall on Töölönlahti Bay, inviting people to encounter art through movement and self-initiated activity – interpretation, discovery, exploration, or just being. The work will also feature open performances, workshops, and events.

The programme unites art, the city, and its residents

Deputy Mayor Nasima Razmyar is delighted at the forthcoming event: “It is fantastic that the wait will finally be rewarded, and Helsinki Biennial’s unique art and cultural experiences will soon be here. Helsinki Biennial’s programme has been created in collaboration with the City of Helsinki’s cultural centres, youth services, senior centres, and various operators from the field of art. Helsinki Biennial is an event that offers something for everyone – interesting things to view and experience for art enthusiasts and Helsinki residents of all ages.”

Over 3,000 people took part in creating Helsinki Satellite Reef, the latest addition to the Crochet Coral Reef project that Margaret and Christine Wertheim have been working on with communities all over the world. In addition to senior centres and schools all over Helsinki, the pieces have been created by other communities and individuals at libraries and cultural centres as well as at communal crocheting meetings at HAM.

Helsinki Biennial will also be present at schools and playgrounds: Fifth-formers from comprehensive schools will be invited to visit the biennial as part of their cultural studies, and Helsinki City playgrounds will organise Mini Biennial workshops in the summer season.

Helsinki Biennial Inspired events will feature art and culture events inspired by the biennial, organised by the Helsinki cultural, youth, and senior centres as well as several art institutions.

Nuori Taide Helsinki is a joint exhibition consisting of works by young artists aged 15–26, held at Kanneltalo Gallery. In the spring of 2021, the exhibition will be held for the 17th time. This year, the theme of the Nuori Taide Helsinki exhibition is See the Sea – näe meri, koe taide, inspired by Helsinki Biennial.

Senior citizens will be able to participate in the Helsinki Biennial by making individual art. The Saarella workshops will draw from the biennial art and the sea and inspire the participants to create imaginary islands together. The workshops will be organised in June, July, and August at senior and service centres around Helsinki.

The Levyhalli hall at the old Suomenlinna dock will feature an exhibition that connects the islands of Suomenlinna and Hong Kong. The exhibition, produced by the Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP), includes works by five Hong Kong artists and explores the theme of imperfection; how can diversity produced by imperfection and unexpected encounters provide ways to cope in these troubled times? The Island of Empathy group exhibition in Suomenlinna, produced by Helsingin Taiteilijaseura, will explore the healing potential of art. The exhibition will also be on view in the Malmitalo gallery.

See all events in Helsinki Biennial’s event calendar.

Photo: Meiju Niskala, It Occurred to Me, But a Bit Too Late, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021