In 2018, the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s programme focused on Transition. In 2019, our theme is RE/definitions.
For some years now, I have tried to live my life with this principle in mind: because everything around us is constantly in transition, almost anything can become a reality. By this I mean our fears as well as opportunities, both the positive and negative ways of thinking about the future of our world. Personally, I would like to believe that we are capable of moving towards a better tomorrow, even if reality as filtered through our daily newsfeed often seems to contradict this.
“Nature favours evolution, not revolution”, I recently read in a scientific article. The article was discussing how psychological transformation or personal growth is often more lasting when change happens slowly. We all know how difficult it is to keep New Year’s resolutions that ask us to make radical changes. Drastic decisions made on the spur of the moment seldom last long. More often than not transition happens through a series of changes that steer us towards the future. Change usually requires us to learn to see, experience and think about things differently than before – to recalibrate – or redefine – things that surround us. Getting used to new situations requires openness, adaptability and, especially, the willingness to look at things from different perspectives.
In 2019, this is precisely the core of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s programme: How can we redefine subjects that we think of as familiar and self-evident? And, how can this process offer our society a lighter and more equal future?
One of this year’s three main projects centres on a topic that has received much attention lately: the changing conceptions of masculinity. The project is a continuation of last year’s Feminist Curse Nights, which bore witness to how even small things can empower people towards change.
The project considers the evolution of the concept of masculinity from many perspectives while bringing together voices from many different cultures on this subject. This multidisciplinary project combines perspectives from the arts, science, research and education and is realised in close collaboration with a wide network of partners. The project’s culminating events will take place in the autumn and winter of 2019. The aim of this project is to raise discussions around how many different concepts of manhood there really are and also, how men are having to re-define their place as members of society. Our aim with this programme and its events, which will be realised in our different target countries, is to increase our understandings of how gender roles have changed, how they have been broken down and how they have been redefined.
RE/defining Finnish Art & Design
Our project focusing on Finnish art and design stretches across the entire year and aims to highlight Finnish designers in central Europe. Finland has a strong tradition and reputation in the field of design and our talented artists and designers should be more widely known among international collectors, gallerists and professionals in other fields. The project will foreground both young designers as well as designers who already have extensive careers.
The project also aims to increase working opportunities for Finnish artists as well as grow the economic potential of this field. Together with a local partner, we will be participating in several prominent design fairs as well as organise a number of exhibitions, all the while striving to redefine the wide range of skills and expertise in design and art that can be found in Finland. The overall project will be curated by the founder of the Spazio Nobile gallery, Lise Coirier, and the director of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, Kati Laakso. The project also extends to the spaces of our colleagues at the Finnish Institute in Paris in the spring and summer of 2019.
RE/defining Spatial Concepts
The third of this year’s main projects focuses on the design of spaces and wellbeing. Together with Brussels-based Finnish spatial designer, Heini Lehtinen, the project looks at the effects of space and our environment on wellbeing. Lehtinen is the founder of the design company, Raven & Wood Agency, which has as its mission to improve people’s quality of life by designing spaces holistically. Despite the wealth of research on the subject, design processes often still ignore the fact that both visual and physical environments unconsciously, through various senses, have an impact on people’s ability to function as well as on their inner world. In her own work, Lehtinen has extensively researched the importance of space in conflict mediation and this particular topic will be featured as one of our main themes this year.
Also on the programme
Besides our main projects, we will continue to run the successful TelepART Mobility Support Programme for the performing arts and for expert exchanges between our countries of operation. The Go-commission project, which aims to develop working opportunities for artists, will also continue in 2019 with some interesting new artistic commissions particularly in the performing arts field. We will also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Finnish Cultural Institute in Benelux Trust, and we will be involved in organising cultural events that form part of Finland’s EU presidency which begins this summer. We would already like to extend a warm thank you to the foundations and other funders who have supported our programme content!
In line with this year’s theme, we hope that our programme is an indication that changing perspectives is a cleansing and reassuring way to confront the new. Resisting change and staying trapped in a prison built out of one’s own fears is always a heavier burden than inviting in the new through a change of perspective. Lasting change is a process that requires time and patience, but our hope for 2019 is to gently nudge our world towards a more accepting, more equal and more just tomorrow. Martin Luther King uttered the words “The Fierce Urgency of Now” – there is no time to waste in the fight for positive change.
Blog post of December 2018: How did you wake up this morning? Maybe to an alarm on your cell phone? What was your first thought? For many of us it’s “Can I sleep for another half hour?”. And, what was your last thought of the evening? Maybe you thought about whether you could watch just one more episode on your streaming service or whether it was really time for you to go to sleep. In fact, it is likely that these were the first and last risk management decisions of your day. Each of one us makes hundreds of risk management decisions whether we are at home, in our free time, or at work. Do you know the kinds of risks you are taking while navigating the digital world in our everyday life?
Blog post of June 2018: What if the future of music came from the Far North? There is no doubt that Nordic and Finnish musicians play an important role in the international music scene. Every category has a Nordic touch : vocal and instrumental music, metal, traditional and contemporary music, and jazz. Unlike here in the South, there are no fixed boundaries between musical languages in the North. Every musical genre finds its place between tradition and modernity, fusing into a fertile synergy without losing its own character. This is one of the cultural strengths of the Nordic countries.
Blog post of May 2018: For several years, this small international festival has been experimenting with new curatorial practices in a fierce and open way. The festival distinguishes itself by introducing co-curating, by politicising curatorship, and by rethinking the international. Baltic Circle hereby positions itself as a forerunner and is an ideal ground to visit with students who are themselves operating in the field of “expanding curation”. Three students, their tutor (Lara Staal, independent curator and publicist) and artistic director of DAS Theatre Barbara Van Lindt visited the festival and proposed some moments of exchange. In January we invited artistic director of the Festival Satu Herrala to visit us, and engage in a conversation where we reflected upon our visit (and already anticipated a next visit, in the autumn of 2018…)
Blog post of April 2018: Less than two months ago I moved from Tokyo to Brussels, straight into the heart of Europe and the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s great programming for 2018! We have our excellent previous Director Aleksi Malmberg to thank for carrying out the preparations for the start of the year, as well as our amazing team, with whom I now have the privilege of adding new initiatives and ideas to the programme.
Blog post of February 2018: “Okay, so there’s nothing here on the Sami people”, I noticed at the end of an introductory tour of the House of European History. I was visiting the relatively new House of European History at the beginning of February as part of a group of twenty odd individuals involved in the Remembering 1918 programme. Each one of us had the task that day of leading our own public tours of the House of European History. After the introductory tour, we were given a few hours to prepare to offer our own views on the museum’s exhibition which deals with European history.
Blog post of January 2018: “Last autumn, my colleague Timo Wright and I sat down for a cup of coffee in Helsinki’s city centre. Our gallery, Unknown Cargo, had not seen any major activities for about year now and we were both itching to start a new project. Timo had been toying with the idea of running some kind of residency programme for a while and brought it up again. The idea appealed to me immediately and that meeting became the beginning of Artist Residency Swap, or ARS. ‘ARS’ was used at first only as a working title, but we grew to like it so much that it became the final project name.”