Hauntopia / What if

The concept of haunting has been employed to create a language for the many ways in which an unfinished past makes itself known in the here and now (Avery Gordon) and violent histories, or stories, cause ongoing disruptions, wronging the wrong (Eve Tuck). Haunting often takes place when an official narrative insists that the violence of subjection and injustice is overcome (after liberation from colonialism, after Stonewall, after the end of a war, etc.) or when their oppressiveness is strictly denied. Signs appear – we might call them ghosts or specters –, disturb us and produce cracks in the surface of normality.

These ghosts are alive, equipped with agency they do not subjugate under human control. They don’t “belong” to the person, who experiences them, they rather “appear” as agency in-between subjectivities, images and space. They draw us affectively: Something has to be done! As such, ghosts allow for a distinct way of producing knowledge in and for research. Haunting is “a special way of knowing what has happened or is happening”, Avery Gordon asserts.

In times of violent political conflicts, the exhibition explores the conjuring of specters as a proper method of arts-based research. It welcomes the appearance of ghostly events, signs, images, practices and objects that recount the ferocities of the past while also holding the possibility of a different future. Building on a glossary of hauntopic devices the work exhibited is looking for traces, negations even, of things, stories and future visions, while in many instances making use of formats that employ ephemeral, opaque or sci-fi elements. Thus the exhibition explores the range of a ghostly aesthetics, but with a reference to “What If” it also highlights that haunting can open up a future possibility or work as an exile for our longing; it stimulates an imagination of how things could be otherwise. In the utopia we mingle with the presence of colonialism, with tamed revolutionary moments, subjugated knowledge and other ghosts. We explore artistic practices that invite ghosts to appear and dance while simultaneously making traces of a possible future in the here and now.

Anette Baldauf and Renate Lorenz

This text is a curators’ statement that will also be present in the Research Pavilion for visitors to read during the Pavilion’s third exhibition Hauntopia / What if during September 8th – October 15th.

Word from Commissioner Anita Seppä

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Uniarts Helsinki’s Research Pavilion for artistic research opens its doors in Venice on 10 May, the same day as when the Venice Biennale opens. The Pavilion’s venue Sala del Camino, a beautiful ex-monastery located in the Island of Giudecca, is an ideal place for art exhibitions, as well as workshops, concerts, performances and artistic interventions. Just on the other side of the Canal lies Giardini, the heart of the Biennale, with its energetic art tourists and souvenir shoppers. The island of Giudecca that’s surrounding the Research Pavilion, on the other hand, has a very different atmosphere: it is characteristically domestic and quiet.

Two years ago, in this uniquely rich cultural environment we hosted the first Research Pavilion under the theme Experimentality. The Pavilion for 2017 builds off of that, but also presents a radically new concept. First of all, the Research Pavilion will be a distinctly shared project, a joint effort set up by the talented people from all the academies of Uniarts Helsinki: the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy. As such, the Pavilion will extend its scope to cover not only fine arts, but also music, performing arts, dance and theatre.

Second, this year’s Research Pavilion has a strong Nordic presence. We have invited the central networks of artistic research in Sweden and Norway (altogether 22 arts institutions of higher education), and their representatives Ingrid Elam, Cecilie Broch Knudsen and Geir Strøm are members in our Scandinavian steering group. This group of experts serves as an advisory body in the project and will also contribute to future strategic planning. In this political climate, as new walls are built up on a daily basis to hinder free mobility and international cooperation around the globe, it feels especially important to intensify the cultural partnerships between our closest neighbours and other transnational networks.

During the summer of 2017, the Research Pavilion will host three art exhibitions, which also present new international forms of collaboration with the famed Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Zurich University of the Arts. In addition, the tremendously interesting series of artistic research activities called Camino Events will bring over a hundred professionals and students from around the world to Venice as guests of Uniarts Helsinki.

The first exhibition in the Research Pavilion is You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access, which will give thirteen Nordic doctoral students the chance to work on this year’s theme of the Pavilion, the Utopia of Access. In July-August, Florian Dombois from Zurich University of the Arts will go to the lagoons of Venice on a boat with golden sails to collect material that he’ll use to build a wind tunnel in the Pavilion for his exhibition, Galleria del Vento. The final exhibition Hauntopia/what if features works by doctoral students from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. They will study traces of “ghosts” of the past and their effects on both the present time and our utopias of the future.

The Research Pavilion will articulate to an international audience how contemporary artistic researchers and researchers in the arts process topical questions and utilize fresh methodologies with respect to the theme Utopia of Access.  During the summer of 2017 we’ll see how experts of fine arts, music, dance, theatre, performing arts and curating produce art, research and pop-up events in the Pavilion and the surrounding urban space. Without a doubt the outcome will surprise us, in one way or another, as is to be expected when it comes to utopias.