A I S T I T / coming to our senses is a year-long, multi-city programme of exhibitions, installations and performances organised by four Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes. We caught up with Satu Herrala, co-curator of the programme, ahead of the Helsinki chapter of A I S T I T.
You curated A I S T I T / coming to our senses in collaboration with Hans Rosenström. How did it all get started?
As far as I’m aware, the four participating institutes started planning a collaborative project in 2018. The senses or sense perception was picked to be the central theme and then Hans was invited to participate. Hans wanted to collaborate with a curator and various artists so he invited me to co-curate the programme. From the outset, we wanted to curate a multidisciplinary programme so we visited four of the institutes and met with local cultural actors before the pandemic. We obviously didn’t plan for a pandemic, but luckily the nature of the institutes’ work made it possible to adapt.
Tell us about the multidisciplinary approach of the programme.
The project embodies a varied and multisensory creative approach owing to the diverse disciplinary backgrounds of the participating artists. It’s also important to us that the programme is accessible to diverse audiences. In Helsinki, for instance, we’re organising walking tours with audio description and we’ve worked to make video works and online events accessible to deaf audiences. We shouldn’t assume a normative conception of sense perception.
A I S T I T is a collaboration between four cultural and academic institutes. What did working with a network of institutes contribute to A I S T I T?
It’s been fascinating to learn more about the institutes. Hans and I took each of the institute’s unique profiles into account and that’s why we decided to tailor the programme for each city. As curators, we wanted to respond to the institutes’ own ambitions. For the Institute in the UK and Ireland, for instance, it was important that there was a public component to the programme. The network of institutes has proven to be extremely valuable especially during the pandemic when having people on the ground has been essential.
Why is an international approach important to the Finnish cultural sector?
Often within the cultural sector, internationalisation is thought of in terms of leaving Finland or bringing artists to Finland. I think it’s important to recognise that a multicultural arts environment already exists in Finland. It’s meaningful that in the A I S T I T / coming to our senses group exhibitions we’re exhibiting Finnish artists’ works alongside local artists. I hope that Finnish artists and their art will become part of a wider discussion and hopefully find new audiences through it. Finnish artists could be more involved with international conversations on contemporary issues.
The next chapter of the A I S T I T / coming to our senses programme takes place in Helsinki. What do you have in store?
We’re organising a group exhibition at the Helsinki Kunsthalle and Weaving, yearning, a public sound installation, will be installed nearby. We’re also premiering Disappearing – a passion – a performance by Kid Kokko, Tari Doris and Meri Ekola – at the Cultural Centre Stoa in September. This is a good opportunity to showcase the artists and the institutes’ work in Finland.
Photo: Johanna Salmela, Text: Volter Rechardt