May 15, 2021 - Helsinki Biennial - Helsinki Biennial: The Same Sea
May 15, 2021

Helsinki Biennial

Samir Bhowmik, sketch for Lost Islands, 2021. Performative expedition, video installation, cable installation and assemblage. Commissioned by HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

Helsinki Biennial
The Same Sea
June 12–September 26, 2021

Helsinki Biennial
Vallisaari Island
FI- Helsinki
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Helsinki Biennial will take place for the first time from June 12 to September 26, 2021 on Vallisaari Island, located in the Helsinki Archipelago. Uniting the maritime island with the city of Helsinki, the inaugural edition of the biennial, titled The Same Sea, will also extend to the mainland, with artworks and events invigorating the Finnish capital. 

An extensive programme of real-life contemporary art exhibitions, workshops, events, and educational activities will be available to in-person audiences as permitted by COVID-19 restrictions, as well as a vast array of digital initiatives accessible for remote audiences. Despite the challenges posed over the last year, all announced artists and artist groups will exhibit their artworks as originally envisioned. 

Maija Tanninen-Mattila, director of Helsinki Biennial, explains: 
“I believe that in these challenging times, people long for art and cultural experiences more than ever before. As we enter a new reality, it is integral to rethink existing patterns of behaviour and create safe experiences for engaging with art. Helsinki Biennial launches with a future-orientated vision, advocating ecological ethics and celebrating the synthesis of art and nature. The bridge we are building between the Finnish and international art worlds reflects our interest in interdependence, connectedness and mutual understanding across vastly different geographies and cultures. I hope that the biennial will bring all visitors hope, light, and joy.”

Helsinki Biennial programme 
Helsinki Biennial 2021 presents 41 artists and artist groups from Finland and across the globe, including 75% new commissions and site-specific works. Approximately one third of the artworks on Vallisaari are located outdoors along marked trails, and others inside former gunpowder cellars and old residential buildings. 

Responding to, whilst safeguarding, Vallisaari’s natural environment, the exhibition The Same Sea reflects upon the ever-pressing notion of interdependence. Curated by Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola, head curators of Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), new commissions embrace diverse themes like nature, borders, identities, human traces, time and empathy. 

Some biennial artworks are located on mainland Helsinki, including Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture, which will be suspended above the city’s central Senate Square during August; and HAM, responsible for organising the biennial, will host an installation and series of events by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Antto Melasniemi.

The Helsinki Biennial Inspired collateral programme presents other cultural and artistic events across Helsinki, created in collaboration with the city’s services, communities, and residents, and reflecting the themes and motifs of the biennial. 

Throughout its run, the Helsinki Biennial will be brought to life with a programme of artist-led performances, workshops, and talks. BIOS Research Unit will set up the Vallisaari Research Station within the island’s former fire-fighting depot, hosting seminars and lectures from visiting scientists. Meanwhile artists Dafna Maimon and Andrew Kerton will offer a sensory workshop exploring the digestive system. 

Helsinki Biennial digital initiatives
Considering accessibility, inclusivity, environmental responsibility and potential COVID-19 restrictions, Helsinki Biennial has created an exhaustive online and virtual offering which will bring the biennial to audiences remotely.

Digital artworks can be encountered on the biennial website, selected biennial events will be livestreamed, and recordings of performance pieces will be made available online.

Remote audiences can also join live tours with local biennial guides, who will create meaningful experiences for those unable to travel to Helsinki. In addition, extensive video interviews with exhibited artists will also be available digitally. 

Two new interactive VR experiences have been created to transport audiences to Vallisaari Island and embrace the biennial’s unique location. Produced by award-winning Helsinki-based VR studio Zoan, viewers can immerse themselves in Vallisaari’s natural surrounds, discover historical buildings and journey through its changing seasons. 

Through a partnership with Facebook Open Arts, Helsinki Biennial will present a new digital artwork, a new podcast series and a live-streamed talk to investigate digital solutions in art, responsibility and locality. 

For more information on the artworks and artists participating in Helsinki Biennial 2021: The Same Sea, click here.

Helsinki Biennial
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The Same Sea
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