19 December

Curator Anders Kreuger lists this year’s most memorable exhibitions in his hometown Helsinki.

Henna Hyvärinen, Misukeitto/Pussycat Soup, 13 min video, 2022. Installation view from Outo olo, Helsinki. Photo: Henna Hyvärinen.

Henna Hyvärinen, Misukeitto/Pussycat Soup, Outo olo, Helsinki

Henna Hyvärinen’s exhibition at artistrun Outo olo excelled at the “dig where you stand” method. A 13-minute film looping on a flatscreen on a makeshift wooden stand in the small space, its walls painted shades of heather and moss. This attractively manipulative urban/rural aesthetic was also used in the film, where Hyvärinen speaks to her mother in Finnish about her Karelian heritage while performing tasks such as rowing or ice fishing. She avoids poeticising the everyday and personal identity. Instead, she politicises them by providing subtitles not just in English, but also in the Livvi Karelian language, which is being revived.

Anu Pennanen, Minä, still, 2022.

Anu Pennanen, Minä, Espoo Cine International and the 35th Helsinki International Film Festival

Artist and filmmaker Anu Pennanen’s 22-minute short film Minä (I, 2022), written by Stéphane Querrec, refines her signature interest in built space as character by inverting it. The face of a first person starved of desire and its fulfilment, played by Terhi Suorlahti, turns into an architecture of contained despair, complete with pulled-back blonde hair and ‘nude’ lipstick. Viewers know this superego must be crushed because that always happens to conforming high achievers in films about breaking-points. Here too, but not in predictable or too-relatable ways. Special bonuses: the appearances bytwo other accomplished actors, Ritva Oksanen and Elina Knihtilä.

Emilia Tanner, Sysmä, paper, 160 × 530 cm, 2022. Installation view from Sinne, Helsinki. Photo: Jussi Tiainen.

Emilia Tanner, Sundials, Sinne, Helsinki

At Sinne, Emilia Tanner demonstrated that the most personal approach to artistic creation may be to insist on remaining with the surface and to refuse grafting any image with any kind of subjective content onto it. In the words of critic Timo Valjakka, by exhibiting nothing but sheets of paper exposed to sunlight (or laser beams), Tanner “cleverly exploits the basic elements of all perception: time, light, and space.” Sysmä (2022) is a stretch of newsprint paper that covered the windows on the porch of her mother’s summer house, in the rural area of the same name, for almost ten months, slowly turning into a photogram.

Anders Kreuger is director of Kohta, a private kunsthalle in Helsinki. He moved there after eight years as Senior Curator at M HKA, the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. From 2012–18 he was a member of the editorial team for the London-based art journal Afterall. He is a regular contributor to Kunstkritikk. 

For this year’s contributions to Kunstkritikk’s Advent Calendar, see here.