Gustafsson&Haapoja is a joint project by writer and playwright Laura Gustafsson and visual artist Terike Haapoja. The artist duo’s collaboration, which began in 2012, examines history and society from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint. In their work, Gustafsson&Haapoja have, for instance, deconstructed the concepts of human and animal and their links to racialisation, sexism and other mechanisms of social exclusion. Museum of Becoming is a set of three works that searches for new ways of thinking about the human being. The works consider the relationship between human beings and their community, their environment and other species. The exhibition opens on 2 June at HAM Helsinki Art Museum, and forms part of the Helsinki Biennial programme.
The video piece Becoming (2020) invites the viewer to create alternatives to the patriarchal, heterosexist, Europe-centric and white tradition of thinking and view of humanity. It is based on interviews contemplating what kinds of emerging forms of humanity and being should be nurtured to allow them to grow and create a sustainable and just future. The interviewees are activists, thinkers, artists, caregivers and children whose lives or work touch something budding. They are working to build a more equal and diverse society.
The installation Museum of Nonhumanity (2016) highlights how the demarcation between humanity and nonhumanity has allowed widespread exploitation of other species, natural resources and certain groups of people. The denial of humanity based on skin colour, ethnicity, gender and social status has, throughout history, enabled extreme forms of oppression, from slave trades to genocide. At the same time, the oppression of nature and other species has been justified by their nonhumanity. The Museum of Nonhumanity won the State Prize for Media Art in 2016 and is included in HAM’s collections.
For Remnants (2020), Gustafsson&Haapoja has selected artworks and other objects from the collections of HAM and Helsinki City Museum. The selections show the shape of a human as a frail and undefined part of a landscape dominated by the larger forces of history, nature and time.
“We are delighted to be able to welcome the public back to HAM and this wonderful exhibition. Museum of Becoming is Gustafsson&Haapoja’s first major museum project in Finland. That HAM can serve as the venue for this is fantastic,” says Museum Director Maija Tanninen-Mattila.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the book Nuppukirja – Maallisen elämän käsikirja produced by HAM will be published, offering suggestions on how to live as a human being in a world endangered by the old way of being human. Nuppukirja is a part of Gustafsson&Haapoja’s Becoming, which explores emerging approaches to oneself, others and the world.
Gustafsson&Haapoja: Museum of Becoming / HAM 2 June – January 2021