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Helsinki Biennial: The Same Sea


Helsinki Biennial

Helsinki Biennial will take place by the sea in the unique historical natural environment of Vallisaari. The name of the first biennial, the Same Sea, is a reminder that everything is connected to everything else and therefore mutually dependent. This has become increasingly evident during the current ecological crisis and coronavirus pandemic.

Helsinki Biennial is an international art event that will bring outstanding contemporary art to maritime Helsinki. The first Helsinki Biennial will be held in the unique surroundings of Vallisaari Island 12.6.–26.9.2021. It will present 40 international artists or groups of artists from both Finland and around the world. The artists have been invited to come to Vallisaari and create new site-specific and temporary artworks or to exhibit existing artworks that will engage in a dialogue with the island.

Presented by Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), the biennial is directed by HAM’s director Maija Tanninen-Mattila, and the head curators of Helsinki Biennial 2021, Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola, have entitled the inaugural biennial The Same Sea. The Same Sea is a metaphor for interconnectedness, which means that each thing and action has an impact on something else and supports the entirety. The ecological crisis has metaphorically brought us onto the shores of the same sea, but its consequences vary from one part of the world to the next, and it affects people and various species in fundamentally different ways.

The biennial’s artists have been inspired by Vallisaari and have worked there on a site-specific basis. The themes arising from the island offer various perspectives on interconnection and mutual dependence. These themes include a relationship with nature, time and change, boundaries and identities, and connection and empathy.

Art is parallel with the nature and history of Vallisaari island and opens up new, unexpected viewpoints of this magnificent environment. At the same time, it also mirrors our own times more broadly.

“We believe that art has enormous potential and an important mission in our time; it has a unique capability to expand our way of thinking and to enrich our imagination. We can approach the world through art in many ways, and art can open new avenues for discussion, understanding and empathy into the shared cycle of life. The Same Sea reminds us of the fact that we co-exist on a planet where everything affects everything else, and that our survival depends crucially on all others around us and our environment,” say the curators.

The Helsinki Biennial 2021 participants
Paweł Althamer, ATTAKWAD, Pasi Autio, Samir Bhowmik, BIOS, Baran Caginli, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Kyungwoo Chun, Janet Echelman, EGS, Katharina Grosse, Gustafsson & Haapoja, Hanna Tuulikki, Honkasalo-Niemi-Virtanen, IC-98, Uwa Iduozee,Wanuri Kahiu, Marja Kanervo, Topi Kautonen, Samnang Khvay, Tadashi Kawamata, Jussi Kivi, Alicja Kwade, Hayoun Kwon, Laura Könönen, Tuomas A. Laitinen, Teemu Lehmusruusu, Dafna Maimon, Antti Majava, Inga Meldere, Jaakko Niemelä, Meiju Niskala,Niskanen & Salo, Sari Palosaari, Outi Pieski, Birit & Katja Haarla, Mario Rizzi, Rirkrit Tiravanija & Antto Melasniemi, WAUHAUS, Margaret & Christine Wertheim, Maaria Wirkkala, Zodiak presents: Kärkkäinen & Tarvainen.


Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola


Jan Vapaavuori and Maija Tanninen-Mattila
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