Opening at 2pm on Saturday 29 April, 2017
Kasarmi (Nordic Culture Point), Suomenlinnan B28
The history of Helsinki and Suomenlinna, and especially the traumatic events of 1918, their narration and representation in art and historiography, has been the subject of Perpetuum Mobilε’s interest for many years.
As we approach the centenary year of the Finnish Civil War in 2018, two new commissions investigate and engage the city with what one might call “participatory memorialization”. With great subtlety, intensity and tact, Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena, with the cooperation of Finnish friends and partners, approaches the difficult and painful process of co-memoration.
A PROJECT FOR A PUBLIC MONUMENT
Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena
Pitkäsilta Variations, cast bronze, various dimensions, 2017-ongoing.
Curated by Perpetuum Mobile
Casting in bronze the deep shell-holes in Helsinki’s “Long Bridge” (Pitkäsilta) is an artistic gesture to visualise the violent Civil War of 1918, which left deep scars in the souls of Finnish families and society. Transforming these scars into works of sculpture, bullet-hole by shell-hole, Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena – whose own family experience serves as a distant guide – wishes to initiate a gradual process through which society and each family, each collective, each individual, has a chance to remember and reconcile themselves with a traumatic past.
In 1918 Helsinki’s “Long Bridge” between working-class Kallio and conservative central Helsinki suffered heavy damage, marking as it did a front line in the Civil War. In league with the Finnish Whites, German divisions besieging Helsinki mounted both land-based and aerial attacks. The Battle of Helsinki, as it is known, left enduring scars in the granite structure, still to be seen today. It is also across this Long Bridge, that four to six thousand defeated Red fighters were force-marched and subsequently transferred to the island of Suomenlinna. On this island, which became the Helsinki Prison Camp in the summer of 1918, more than 1400 prisoners died through execution, hunger and diseases.
Installed at the site where many of these prisoners died on Suomenlinna, Fabra Guemberena’s first bronze casts of the scars in the Long Bridge mark the beginning of a process of commemoration and reconciliation. Over the course of the coming years funds will be gathered, from all willing to participate, to develop the holes in the Long Bridge one by one, to heal these enduring scars and leave a monument to the past and a reminder for future generations.
Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena was born in Montevideo in 1971 and works between Stockholm and Berlin. Fabra Guemberena arrived in Sweden as a refugee in the the late 1970’s, his family having fled Uruguay in face of political violence.This experience has become central to his artistic practice that maps out narratives and imagery of the extreme and the sublime.
Plaster and bronze casting by the artist Jarmo Somppi and his colleagues.
Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena and Ossi Koskelainen
Este cielo no es el cielo de mi tierra / Tämä taivas ei ole kotimaani taivas, 240×420 cm, Mixed media on canvas, wooden scaffolding, 2016-2017.
Curated by Perpetuum Mobile
In 2016, Perpetuum Mobile’s PLURIversity commissioned Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberina and Ossi Koskelainen to develop their artistic research in a process involving what Guy Debord would have described as an urban dérive. Crossing from central Helsinki through Hakaniemi to Sörnäinen, through the old container port being destroyed and redeveloped in Sompasaari, across pristine Kulosaari to the eastern suburb of Kontula, they encountered the fluxum and jetsam of urban myth, dying and being reborn.
Fragments of these findings made their way into this banner-work, a massive canvas with layer upon layer of dirt, paint, text, white-wash and historical knowledge. Physically dragged through Helsinki in nigh reverse from Kontula to central Helsinki centre via the Long Bridge separating Siltasaari and Kruunuhaka on the shoulders of Koskelainen, this work is from and of the street. It carries with it stories of Helsinki lives and pasts, of urban destruction and renewal, of the battle for finding a home under a foreign sky, and of changing times and political reality.
“Este cielo no es el cielo de mi tierra” literally means “This sky is not the sky of my homeland”. This is a line from a famous milonga, a tango popularized by the group “Los Olimareños”, sung by the Uruguayan political diaspora in the 1970’s and embraced by the many Latino communities exiled for decades from their homeland for political reasons. Aside from being a song of exiles, it can be read as a cry of despair, a cry for help by someone who cannot even recognise the very sky above their head. This thick, heavy canvas of life, like the Finnish tango, has all these homelands in it.
Ossi Koskelainen, born in Oulu in 1980, is a theatre director and artist based in Helsinki.
Fabra Guemberena’s work has been shown extensively at exhibitions internationally, including among others “Delays and Revolutions” at the 50th Venice Biennale, 2003; “My Private Heroes”, Marta Herford Museum, 2006; “The Moderna Exhibition”, The Modern Museum of Art, Stockholm, 2006; “Favored Nations”, 5th Momentum Biennial, Moss, 2009; 1st Biennale of The Americas, Denver, 2013; “The School of the Displaced”, Kyiv Biennale, 2015; and forthcoming at the 57th Venice Biennale, National Pavilion Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2017. He is represented in collections such as The Modern Museum of Art, Stockholm; Sammlung Goetz, München; and The Wanås Foundation, Knislingen, Sweden.
The two new art works commissioned by PM and presented here will be shown in the context of an exhibition on the history of Suomenlinna on the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence (https://www.facebook.com/events/603502593179481/) mounted by Nordic Culture Point.This wider exhibition is realised by Nordic Culture Point in cooperation with the Ehrensvärd Seura, Perpetuum Mobilε, the Swedish Culture Foundation, Stiftelsen Tre smeder, Finnish-Swedish Culture Foundation and the Nordic Investment Bank, and is part of the Suomi100 programme.
“Co-Memorations of 2018” is curated by Perpetuum Mobile, co-funded by Nordic Culture Point and the Kone Foundation (PLURIversity).
The works will be exhibited within/on the grounds of the former Kasernen / Казарма / Kasarmi (“Barracks”) Building, Suomenlinnan B28.