Picturesque summer images were chosen as the most idyllic cards during week 24. This is no surprise at all since Finns are known for waiting for a lush and green summer year after year.
The summer heat of the first weeks of June turned into a cool, rainy weather and cloudy days. The upcoming Midsummer eve however wakes the national dream of for once having a warm and sunny Midsummer's feast. The annual escape from the cities to the calmer Finnish countryside proves that a Finn enjoys the idyll of summer nature. Judging by the Idyll scale of the museum's Idyllroom, the best place to be in the Finnish summer nature is by the water. The popularity of summer cottages, the tendency for Finnish life to focus around water areas and the appreciation of a clean Finnish nature are all clear signs of the fact that even the most urban Finn often misses the idyll of nature and water. Many waiting for the Midsummer festivities would surely share the opinion that one of the most calming and idyllic places to be during the Finnish summer is a summer cottage when the waves softly hit the quay and the wind rustles the leaves of surrounding birch trees.
When measured in months, the Finnish summer is awfully short lived and even the warmest part of the summer may last only a week or two. Still, the thoughts of summer help the diligent Finns through the slushes of November, the car lockes frozen during the chilly winter and the icy winter wind which makes its way in to even the thickest of coats – not forgetting the long darkness of the Nordic winter. The idyll of a summer keeps a Finn going through the year like a true energy resource.
The winner of Turku Biennial 2013 is Danish Heidi Hove (b. 1976). The winner was chosen by the director of Stockholm's Nationalmuseum, Mr Berndt Arell. Heidi Hove will be rewarded with a prize of 5000 euros and the Turku Biennial medal by Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum.
Heidi Hove was originally invited to take part in the exhibition by artist and curator Ellen Friis.
Hove studies in her art the lives of ordinary people and the human relationship with public and private spaces. It is characteristic for her to acquaint herself with the exhibition locations of her art and to build her art works based on her observations from these locations. With her subtle installations and interventions, Hove changes the meanings of different spaces and presents alternative ways of seeing our everyday immediate surroundings.
Berndt Arell's statement:
This year's Turku Biennial, which rounds up 15 Nordic artists or artist groups, focuses on the theme idyll. The theme may at first seem wide and difficult to grasp and this becomes quite clear when looking at both the exhibition as a whole and individual art works more closely. Interpretations are relatively free, and as a whole the exhibition is interesting and thought-provoking by being both challenging and provocative at the same – as should be.
I spent a good while studying the video installations, which were represented in the exhibition by several, lengthy works, missing perhaps more photographs, but I was nonetheless overall struck by the high quality of the exhibition.
Choosing one art work from this ensemble of works was not easy or self-evident, but it was my task. Finally I ended up choosing as the winner the art work I saw when I first entered the exhibition; Heidi Hove's marvellous, touching unity, Backyard History I and II. In a way the art works can be seen as two completely seperate units but I personally viewed them as two stories supporting one another. The museum where the work is exhibited, i.e. the spirit of the place, has been the starting point for Hove to place her works specifically in this environment. I was taken back by the respect she had both for her task in Turku and the valuable museum building, but also the respect she has for her own and her family's history. The combination of these starting points is strong, emotional and private. Yet the privacy projected as something very public by Hove, forms its own story which I believe is something many can relate to. The memory of cutting one's leg as a child continues its presence in the showcases as a true mark of the people who once inhabited Heidi Hove's childhood home. The artist attempts to get closer to the unknown by reconstructing the items, making them whole and usable again; that tells us how close one can actually get to the past. The grip is on the spirit of the location, i.e. the museum's historical Aboa Vetus and its archaeological findings.
I would understand Backyard History II as the artist's expression of love towards her grandfather. With a simple yet explicit grip Heidi Hove presents the old farmer's entire life's work. It becomes concrete as a large boulder transported from the grandfather's farm and as a photograph documentation of the grandfather's long and hard life with his crops. The artist's grandfather devoted himself throughout his life to improving the farm for himself and for future generations. He regularly transported rocks, large and small, from his fields in order to ease his farming task. The grandfather collected the rocks in one large heap which throughout decades then grew and grew. A cairn located at the far end of the backyard was the result of the grandfather's hard work – something that has now already been covered by rich vegetation but can still be recognised as man made. In the exhibition this becomes evident and beautiful. The moss growing on the granite boulder, which travelled on top of the rock all the way from Denmark, proves once again Heidi Hove's seriousness towards both her own art work and towards her attempt to share a personal side of herself in the exhibition.
Heidi Hove lives and workes in Copenhagen. She studied in the Funen Art Academy in Odense from 2002 to 2007. She is one of the founding members of artist-run space Koh-i-noor operating in Copenhagen. She os also co-director and curator at the artist-run space Sydhavn Station.
The audience of Turku Biennial can also vote for its favourite work. The public vote is open until the beginning of August and the winner will be announced August 15th. The winner of this vote will be rewarded with a prize of 1000 euros.
The photo courtesy of Heidi Hove.
Turku Biennial has now been open to the audience for one month. The card wall in the Idyllroom forms an exhibition of its own every week by our museum visitors. The twenty different post cards offer various ideas of an idyll; the options range from pictures of Peter-No-Tail to Carl Larsson's winter sceneries and tropical images of clear blue swimming pools.
The visitor can choose what kind of a picture, idea or short text represents the highest form of an idyll, the hottest idea, and what is viewed as least idyllic, i.e. the coolest. This week it seemed as if the same pictures were struggling in all the categories; the Nordic lake scenery with its rushes was ranked as both hot and warm idyllic as well as just cool. Many other idyll cards also share this faith.
Perhaps an idyll truly is in the eye of the beholder. My idyll is not your idyll and vice versa.
Week 22 was kicked off by the heatwave which certainly exhausted the spring's last bus loads of pupils visiting Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum. In addition to the museum itself being actively visited, also Omatila-gallery located within the Rettig palace has attracted visitors efficiently. Idyll of the week, the weekly insight to the exhibition's theme idyll, reveals ideas museum visitors have of an idyll each passing week.
Exploring one's own idyll labelled week 22 of the Idyllroom. The bright orange shelves hanging on the wall next to the Idyllscale are nearly empty as the wall has been entirely covered with cards picturing various ideas of an idyll. Clearly this week idyll has spoken to the public. The division into cool, warm and hot idyllic pictures was not clearcut as urban city environments have risen to the hot end of the scale whereas the picturesque Finnish nature sceneries have fallen to the more cooler end. Though May was warmer than usual with the temperature rising to +20 and more, even cards picturing snowy fields have been ranked as very idyllic. Thus it would seem that idyll is in the eye of the beholder; various environments from metropolitan skylines to deserted paradise islands can be found attractive and idyllic.
The joy of exploring one's idyll emptied the card shelves but filled the Idyllwall. At many places the cards have been stacked one on top of another in order to fit as many idyllic cards as possible. The run on the Idyllroom isn't surprising as the last weeks of May are known to be hectic at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova due to numerous bookings. It is great to see that the search for an idyll does not strike the visitors as washed out but remains week after week still an interesting activity.
Have you already explored your own idyll?
When walking into the Idyllroom of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova two weeks after the opening ceremony, one can notice an interesting pattern on the wall; two curves, similar to those of a heart, formed by cards. One end of the curves is rich with colourful cards whereas the other is much more sparse. The juxtaposition between the most idyllic and less idyllic images in itself forms a unique pattern on the wall which almost looks as though the cards have been placed that way on purpose.
A closer look at these curves reveals some of the ideas museum visitors' have of an idyll. Last week's idyll winner Albert Edelfelt is still the top dog on the hottest end of the wall, i.e. the most idyllic image, but numerous other cards have been placed in his company. Images of childish cats and picturesque sceneries are also ranked as very idyllic. One of the curves, the more plain one, displays images of the outside world as well but not quite in the same sense as the hottest idyll. At the cold end of the wall the visitor can notice pictures of outer space and an urban city environment with its skyscrapers.
How to then approach these curious curves of images? One can view them as a cross-section of some sort; perhaps as cross-section of different ideas of an idyllic outdoors environment. Both outer space and a metropolitan concrete jungle can be idyllic, but the museum visitors' found the Finnish beach scenery, lush summery nature and the sea best for the soul. One must, however, remember that when it comes to an idyll, there are no polar opposites. Even the peaks of curves begin to descend at some point eventually meeting another at the middle where our visitors placed such images as a ferris wheel. All in all the curves on the wall are relaxing; they have a soothing resemblance to clouds or the ears of a mouse.
Searching for an idyll and finding it turned out be everything but straightforward.
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