Helsinki School Is Harnessing and Harvesting Synergy That Future Needs

”The Helsinki School is a good example of how a program is only as good as it is open to both praise and criticism, where there is as much to be learned from failure as there is from managing success.” – Timothy Persons

Cover: Arno Rafael Minkkinen

Taidehalli: New Perspectives to Photography – Helsinki School 25 years. | Uusia näkökulmia valokuvaan – Helsinki School 25 vuotta. 11.9. – 31.10.2021

Arno Rafael Minkkinen (cover) uses simple elements, light, millions of sophisticated shades between black and white, tones familiar from Ancient Greek sculptures and mirrorlike reflections, bringing them to Finnish nature and modern poses. The result is a mixture of multiple time periods present in just one shot, the esthetic ideals concerning human body, old black-and-white films, and scandinavian, worldwide-known minimalism and elegance.

Arno Rafael Minkkinen: Fosters Pond II, 1989

Minkkinen’s works are part of Helsinki School exhibition at Taidehalli, Finland and a good miniatyre of it. New Perspectives to Photography – Helsinki School 25 years is representing 30 photographers and the history of Helsinki School community, which is a learning process, attitude and international phenomena that started forming early 90’s, at times of recession that had violated the whole country. Helsinki School program sought from the beginning to initiate and advance new career opportunities that were virtually nonexistent at the time for graduating MA photography students. In many ways the world is in similar state right now, and there might be lot to learn from how Helsinki School has grown to a present landmark of a new approach, where dialogue and the synergetic attitude is not only with each other, but with the whole nature – and time has essentially different role. It might be the beginnings to how photography will look in the twenty-first century. “This look will challenge how the photographic process has previously been perceived as well as help redefine how it will be taught in the future.”, one of the formers of Helsinki School, professor Timothy Persons says.

Noora Sandgren has collaborated with compost dwellers of Hiidenvesi home garden (see list of names below), and created photographs with them using outdatet fotosensitive paper. Noora Sandgren: Images – seeds, planting and harvesting (detail)
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Noora Sandgren: Images – seeds, planting and harvesting
Jorma Puranen creatively merges here a mixture of universe, history, and the arctic awarness that surrounds the notion of polar exploration and the North Pole into dream-like landscapes. Images reflect a place that is borderless, floating in time, and a reminder of the immensity of the unknown that is associated with life above the Arctic Circle, too. The present moment and history are present in many ways in this imagery of disaster and the beauty we want to maintain.
Jorma Puranen: Black Snow: The 1968 Thule nuclear disaster
synergy syn·er·gy | \ ˈsi-nər-jē \ Full Definition of synergy

1: SYNERGISM broadly : combined action or operation

2: a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (such as resources or efforts)

Historically, the name Helsinki School was introduced in an article by Boris Hohmeyer, ”Aufbruch im hohen Norden,” in ART Kunstmagazin in 2003. “I find it amazing that after twenty years of existence, the Helsinki School cannot be defined by any one fixed point of view. Conceptually there is a red thread connecting one generation to another in the way they perceive and present their ideas, but not necessarily in how they apply them”, professor Timothy Persons writes.

Old and new works are hanged together in the exhibition and the focus is in dialogue. The exhibition is curated by Asia Zak Persons; it’s an introduction to Helsinki School’s main themes, recognizable style and the dialogue between program’s artists. The exhibition is studying time, nature, human body and abstract photgraphy. The attitude of openess and positive approach to others, reflection, self-reflection is present and the entity is crossing boundaries of personal benefit and questioning the idea of ones personal career as base of success. The concept of teaching and learning seems to have initiated from gratitude and receiving from each other, instead of authorities, hierarchies and solid truth.

The visual elements of Riitta Päiväläinen’s compositions can be boiled down to two: nature, and textiles. By joining them together she creates a stage on which to reenact memories of their passing. She creates deserted atmospheric vistas where intimate stories are lodged, told in a language that feels oddly foreign and familiar at once.
Riitta Päiväläinen: Shade (2019)
Language and dialogue is present in Ville Lenkkeris works, too.
Ville Kumpulainen’s poetic sense of materiality finds a new flourishing meaning when his found objects meet their described action to form their own measured sense balance. He is thriving a way towards the deep essence that is holding together life itself.
Ville Kumpulainen: Eros and Psyche


di·a·logue | \ ˈdī-ə-ˌlȯg , -ˌläg \variants: or less commonly dialog

Definition of dialogue

(Entry 1 of 2)

1: a written composition in which two or more characters are represented as conversing

2a: a conversation between two or more persons, also : a similar exchange between a person and something else (such as a computer)

b: an exchange of ideas and opinions

C: a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution

3: the conversational element of literary or dramatic composition

4: a musical composition for two or more parts suggestive of a conversation

”The Helsinki School is a good example of how a program is only as good as it is open to both praise and criticism, where there is as much to be learned from failure as there is from managing success. Both can be understood through a flexible system that teaches by using unconventional arenas as a means of solving problems, an environment where teachers and students alike can work together in joint ventures to facilitate the experience factor of one generation and combine it with the innovative energy of the next. How to harness and harvest this synergy is the challenge of education in the future.” Persons writes.

The same ability to harness and harvest internationally, to talk and especially to learn to listen, mix, merge, open up, give room to new ideas and let go of hierarchies might play a key role in facing the mankinds challenges, such as climate change and the urgent need we now have for new narratives and approaches towards being a human, the former self-entitled ”crown of creation”.

Santeri Tuori: Waterfall 4
Maanantai Collective.

The artists in the exhibition are Elina Brotherus, Tiina Itkonen, Ulla Jokisalo, Jaakko Kahilaniemi, Aino Kannisto, Sanna Kannisto, Sandra Kantanen, Eeva Karhu, Pertti Kekarainen, Timo Kelaranta, Ville Kumpulainen, Hilla Kurki, Milja Laurila, Janne Lehtinen, Ville Lenkkeri, Anni Leppälä, Kira Leskinen, Niko Luoma, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Rainer Paananen, Nelli Palomäki, Jyrki Parantainen, Jorma Puranen, Riitta Päiväläinen, Mikko Rikala, Noora Sandgren, Jari Silomäki, Santeri Tuori, Niina Vatanen.

Celebrating the Helsinki School, the exhibition New Perspectives Through Photography – 25 years of the Helsinki School explores various approaches in how to visualize the passage of time. Taidehalli | Kunsthalle is presenting contemporary art in Helsinki’s most elegant exhibition space since 1928. Read more:

Taidejulkaisu Totuus is supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

Taidejulkaisu Totuus. Suomen virallinen kulttuuritaidejulkaisu.


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