On Wednesday 10 June, the opening ceremony of the OBJEKTI6 exhibition was held in Espoon keskus (Espoo Centre). Now held for the sixth time, the exhibition’s theme this year is the Wild West. The theme is used to examine the notions of Espoon keskus as a “wild” place located beside the railway station, the historical Kuninkaantie, the idyllic Espoo River and the park landscape of Espoo Cathedral. The Wild West also refers to the cultural transition caused by rapid urbanisation, construction and sharp population growth that affects the everyday life of Espoo residents in many ways as part of the development of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
The exhibition features works from a total of 10 artists. Merja Puustinen, one of the exhibition’s two curators and producers, says that curating always requires not only a good relationship with the artists but also an understanding of the field of contemporary art.
“We sought to find works for the OBJEKTI exhibition from both young and established artists as well as Espoo-based and international artists. It is not that easy to find large sculptures that can be placed outdoors. Keeping large works requires a great deal of space, which is why few artists have them,” Puustinen says.
The coronavirus pandemic brought its own challenges to the organisation of the exhibition. “This year, the curating and organisation of the OBJEKTI exhibition was hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, which hindered all other activities in the cultural sector as well,” Puustinen says. “Because of the coronavirus, we were unfortunately unable to organise the popular workshop activities for children and young people in conjunction with the exhibition.”
Art in the urban environment
Cultural Manager Tiina Kasvi from the City of Espoo says that it is considered to be important in Espoo that interesting and easily accessible art be made available in different urban centres. Featuring art in the cityscape and public spaces is also highlighted in the CultureEspoo 2030 policies for the future.
The Espoo Culture Committee has supported the exhibition project with a local culture grant. The grant has also been used to pay artist fees.
Merja Puustinen brings up the fact that temporary exhibitions showcased in public spaces can be used to bring new and surprising perspectives into the urban environment.
“Public art is often part of official public speech. Public monuments symbolically celebrate the memory of new buildings, historical events or people. As a counterbalance to permanent works, changing and temporary events prompt the city residents to experience their everyday environments from a new perspective, which makes people feel that their everyday environment is significant and emotionally powerful,” Puustinen says.
In the OBJEKTI exhibition, people not only get to view the works but they can also be part of them. “Some of the works, such as Pusheen by Iiro Törmä on the grass field on Siltakatu, also have functional dimensions. Children can use the work as a play house and leave comments for other visitors on the walls of the work,” Merja Puustinen says.
Cooperation between operators
The preparation of the exhibition brings many operators from different sectors together. Participation Designer Niko Riepponen from the Public Works Department of Technical and Environmental Services says that implementing the exhibition required several responsible persons from different sectors, as many different parties are responsible for the functionality and safety of the urban environment. Riepponen mentions that several experts from different sectors have participated in aspects such as the processing of the permit applications this year.
As an example of the permit applications required for the exhibition, an authorised parking spot had to be arranged in the centre of Espoo for the work Autokulta (2019) by Anna-Kaisa Ant-Wuorinen to prevent this work, which is a vehicle, from receiving a parking fine and ultimately being towed to the city depot.
“Because of this, the work required temporary traffic control plans, but fortunately the City has a positive attitude towards the exhibition, and we also want to be involved in making the implementation of this high-quality exhibition possible in the future,” Riepponen says.
Autokulta by Anna-Kaisa Ant-Wuorinen. Photo by: Andy Best.
An art expedition to Espoon keskus
Project Manager Mikko Kivinen, who is in charge of the development of Espoon keskus, states that the OBJEKTI6 exhibition enlivens Espoon keskus in the summer. The purpose of the exhibition is to increase the comfort of the residents by means of art.
“The exhibition is an expedition to Espoon keskus, and it inadvertently increases the visitors’ awareness of the area,” Kivinen sums up.
When talking about the exhibition, Kivinen also points out that Espoon keskus hosts a great number of cultural events, which will hopefully attract more people as awareness increases.
In Merja Puustinen’s view, the rise of Espoon keskus into an active hub of contemporary culture is part of the broader development of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
“Centres of contemporary culture seek to relocate from central areas to either dilapidated industrial areas or suburbs, where their target audience and the creators of the art live and which possess a more authentic flow of life and multicultural energy. Established institutions will not disappear, but their operations will also change in such a way that they will involve their audience more,” Puustinen says.
Merja Puustinen also praises the strategy of the City of Espoo: “The strategic emphasis of the City of Espoo, in which public services and culture have been purposefully brought to shopping centres and closer to the everyday life of people, is a good demonstration of sensible decentralisation.”
Paintings by Noora Ylipieti. Photo by: Andy Best.
The works in this exhibition, which is free of charge to everyone, include contemporary sculptures, installations, comics and paintings that will be on display in Espoon keskus from 10 June to 6 September 2020.
The artists featured in the exhibition are Anna-Kaisa Ant-Vuorinen, Matti Hagelberg, Yasushi Koyama, Anni Laakso, Le Hien Minh, Antti Minkkinen, Kalle Mustonen, Jenni Tieaho, Iiro Törmä and Noora Ylipieti.
The exhibition is produced and curated by visual artists Merja Puustinen and Andy Best.