Terike Haapoja at Nordic Pavilion, Venice Art Biennale 2013

Terike Haapoja’s solo exhibition in the Nordic Pavilion is one of two exhibitions that Finland presents at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibitions are presented under the heading Falling Trees, a title that refers to an event that happened at the 2011 biennale: The Finnish pavilion was severely damaged when a large tree fell on the building. While Antti Laitinen deals with the exhibition concept in the Finnish Aalto Pavilion, Terike Haapoja converts the Nordic Pavilion into a dimly lit space reminiscent of a science museum.

Terike Haapoja was born in 1974. The artist live and works in Helsinki, Finland. Haapoja’s work consists of videos, installations and stage projects, characterized by the use of new media and new technology. The work deals with human – non-human relations and the clash of subjective experience and objective knowledge. Haapoja’s exhibitions often include collaborations with professionals from other fields of studies. In current projects Terike Haapoja is moving more away from the gallery space and into the realms of activism and interactive media.

Terike Haapoja has received numerous awards, including the Finnish Art Association’s Dukaatti-prize in 2008, the Finland Festivals’ Young Artist of the year-prize in 2007, the Sí„DE-prize for best visual design in theatre in 2010. Haapoja’s works are in the collections of Finnish State, Helsinki city art musum, Oulu art museum and Amos Anderson art museum.

Falling Trees: Finland at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Terike Haapoja at Nordic Pavilion. Professional Preview, May 31, 2013.

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Press release text:

Last year, a big tree fell over a building in Venice. The building was the wooden pavilion designed for the Venice Biennale by Alvar Aalto in 1956. The event effectively interrupted the Finnish exhibition in the 2011 biennale. The pavilion and the works exhibited there were damaged and the show had to be closed ahead of time. The pavilion was restored, and the incident would seem to be closed now. However, the random event caused by the forces of nature will feature in the exhibition put up by Finland in Venice next year. The 55th Venice Biennale will be held 1 June – 24 November 2013.

From among 40 submissions, the Board of FRAME chose Mika Elo, Marko Karo and Harri Laakso to curate and build the exhibitions in the Aalto Pavilion and the Nordic Pavilion. The goal of the curator team is to produce two distinct solo exhibitions that share the same concrete starting point. Antti Laitinen will appropriate the renovated Aalto Pavilion and the surrounding park for his work. The show by Terike Haapoja will be held in the Nordic Pavilion, as it is Finland’s turn this time to curate the show there.

The working title of the curator team’s exhibition concept is Falling Trees. As the title suggests, the concept revisits last year’s event and explores its inherent unpredictability and destructive force. The falling tree is not seen exclusively as an obstacle that must be cleared away or as the reason for the renovation, but as a rupture in which the framework of rationality yields for a second to make way for something unpredictable. The event opens up a stage for an interplay between art and nature that lies beyond the reach of fixed directions and the objectifying gaze. It is a gesture that leads viewers to consider the relationship between art and nature, and the nature of art. Where does nature end and art begin? What are the forces and incidents that a work of art binds together? What is the contribution of nature to art when it refuses to be translated into landscapes or objects?

‘The proposal by Elo, Karo and Laakso is complex and theoretically challenging, yet also very down to earth. The works by Antti Laitinen and Terike Haapoja are topical in the way that they both address our relationship to nature. The artists do not illustrate their concern over the state of nature, using instead visual and symbolic means to present an argument,’ says Jan Kaila, Chairman of the Board of FRAME.

‘The tree falling on the pavilion was what sparked off the exhibition concept. A stimulus like that is often the trigger that sets the artistic process in motion. Instead of a fixed theme, we wanted to take as our starting point this unforeseeable gesture that brings nature and art into collision in a certain place at a certain moment, and thus challenges us to consider the dynamic between art and nature in a broader way. How do art and nature interface when nature is not reduced into mere raw material for art or a subject for representation? Antti Laitinen and Terike Haapoja both work in their own specific ways in these unforeseeable areas of confluence. The two exhibitions complement one another, bringing into play the enigmatic connections between the life of art and the art of life,’ say the curators of the exhibitions.

Antti Laitinen (b. 1975) will create a new installation for the Aalto Pavilion, and also present a sample of his earlier work. He will additionally conduct a performance on the biennale grounds, and documentation of the performance will be included in the exhibition. Antti Laitinen’s art is characterised by the physical testing of limits and the tragicomic character of our relationship to nature. A man steps onto the arena of nature, ready to do battle, such as spending days on end in the forest without clothes, food or drink, or sailing over the Gulf of Finland on a bark boat.

Terike Haapoja (b. 1974) will bring to the Nordic pavilion a research laboratory in which art, science and technology will come together in unexpected ways. The art of Terike Haapoja is characterised by an overall research approach which highlights the points of contact between contemporary art, natural science and environmental ethics. Haapoja’s practice is also coloured by ecological activism.

The curator team – Mika Elo (b. 1966), Marko Karo (b. 1971) and Harri Laakso (b. 1965) – are artist-curators who all work as researchers in the School of Art and Design at Aalto University. Their previous international curated works include Backlight 2002 and 2005 (Laakso), Helsinki Photography Festival 2005 (Elo), Pointers 2006-2007 (Laakso), Square Minutes 2007 (Elo and Laakso), Art Research Event 2009-2011 (Elo and Laakso), Helsinki Photography Biennial 2012 (Karo). In summer 2011, the team had a joint exhibition entitled Extracts in the Rantakasarmi Gallery in Suomenlinna, Helsinki.

FRAME Foundation is a visual arts foundation supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The mission of FRAME is to strengthen the position of Finnish visual arts and to promote international cooperation between artists and art institutions.

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