SÁMI CONTEMPORARY ART AND ACTIVISM
Niillas Holmberg, Jenni Laiti, Outi Pieski, Jonne Sippola, Suohpanterror, Häiriköt-päämaja & Jari Tamminen
Text in Sámi below.
More than a century ago, when newly independent Finland was still finding its place and a way to exist, policies were laid down that still affect the status of the Sámi people today.
The still-current idea of the nation state formed in the second half of the 19th century is in many ways an excellent one, but it has also brought much grief into the world. Examples we could mention are the way that the nation state is frequently in conflict with the rights and interests of the indigenous peoples living within its borders. This contradiction is evident around the globe, including in Finland.
Finns rarely think of colonialism as being a part of Finnish history, but that is a misconception. There is good reason to describe the Finnish State, too, as being a colonial power within its own borders.
“Finland tore us loose from our lands and stole our right to them. Finland exploited and ravaged, and obliterated our memories, our history,” the Sámi artist-activist Jenni Laitisays.
“Colonialism brought cultural assimilation and forced displacements. It has taken a long time to get back even a part of what was lost, and we are still in a situation where we are losing ourselves piece by piece.”
Art can be seen as an end in itself, as art for art’s sake. It can also be seen as a tool intended to change viewers’ and experiencers’ ideas, and maybe even the world. But is that tool art if an activist uses it?
In the changing media environment and society of the 2000s activists have found numerous new means and channels for promoting their cause. Sometimes, it can make sense to create pictures that play with propaganda images and then share them on social media. Sometimes, there is also reason to hold demonstrations where the only audience is forest animals – and a photographer. It can also be worth bringing these art-like works into a gallery.
All the works in this exhibition fall somewhere into the swirling crosscurrents of art and activism.
It would be a mistake to define these works purely as art or solely as activism. It is perfectly possible for them to be two things at the same time. A work can be both art and activism, and nor do the two cancel each other out.
In this exhibition it is pointless to wonder what category each work falls into. Far more important than compartmentalization is thinking about what the makers of the works have had to say.
What do viewers ultimately take away from this exhibition? Hopefully, at least the idea that, while we look back at the past century of independent Finland, we can also think about the century to come.
It is our responsibility to make sure we learn from past mistakes. We start that learning process by being aware of the existence of those mistakes.
Gallery name: Sinne
Address: Iso Roobertinkatu 16, Helsinki
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 11:00 - 17:00
Open: 14.08.2020 - 06.09.2020