Article University of Lapland 2013|06|17


International contemporary art exhibition comes to Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi will get a new look when a major international contemporary art exhibition enlivens the city on 19 June. The biennial runs in Rovaniemi until 6 October. The X-Border Biennale is a joint project of Finns, Swedes and Russians and features works by a number of international artists. The University of Lapland is one of the organisers of the project. The works will be exhibited at various locations in the centre of Rovaniemi as well as at Galleria Valo and Napa. The exhibition in Rovaniemi is part of a larger whole, the remaining parts of which will be on display in Luleå, Sweden, at the Art Hall and Norbotten Museum, and in Russia at the Severomorsk Art Gallery.
The X-Border Biennial, a major international exhibition of contemporary art, will establish a new collaboration between Luleå, Rovaniemi and Severomorsk. X-Border will create a whole new forum for the Barents region, where artists from all over the world will come together and share their culture through contemporary art. In particular, the biennial will highlight the themes of borders and boundaries as well as outsiderness and integration through contemporary art.

The exhibition is curated by a team of nine: Christina Sikström, Dragana Vujanovic and Dan Lestander from Sweden; Svetlana Pavlova, Anatoly Sergienko and Ivan Voron from Russia; and Tom Engblom, Esa Meltaus and Pilvi Keto-LeBlanc from Finland. More than fifty artists were selected from nearly 600 applications for the exhibition.

The exhibition also includes an extensive arts education programme that includes community art projects, workshops and tours of galleries and environmental art sites. Some of the workshops and talks will take place during the summer, while others will be offered to school children in September. Public events will also create online connections between the countries.

In addition to the University of Lapland, X-Border is run by Kilen Art Group, Luleå Municipality’s Department of Roads and Transport, the City of Rovaniemi, the consultancy Arra, Luleå Art Hall, Norrbotten Museum, the Artists’ Association of Lapland and Severomorsk Art Gallery. The X-Border Biennale is part of the multi-faceted New Horizons project funded by the European Union’s Kolarctic ENPI CBC programme and managed by the Lapland Union. The project is led by Norrbotten County Council and includes partners from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia.

Permanent works in Lainaanranta and Valtakatu

As part of the Biennale, two permanent public works will be installed in Rovaniemi: the work Diaspora by South African environmental artist Strijdom van der Merwe in Lainaanranta and a large-scale mural by Swedish artist Carolina Falkholt in Valtakatu.

Diaspora contains words on stones that reflect the theme of diaspora, such as movement, crossing and migration. The choice of words is inspired by the philosopher Aristotle and his school of thought known as the Peripatetics, which refers to movement and walking. The school was known for passing on its knowledge without regard to borders. Van der Merwe is a successful artist whose work has been shown in numerous exhibitions in Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. He has won international art competitions and received numerous grants and awards. As an environmental artist, he constructs the forms of the work in relation to the forms of the environment, using materials found on site such as stone, sand, water and wood. Van der Merwe donates his work to the collection of the city of Rovaniemi.

Carolina Falkholt will create a mural in all the cities of the Biennale: Rovaniemi, Luleå and Severomorsk. In Rovaniemi, the work will be on the main wall of the Thousand Needs House in Valtakatu. Falkholt has worked as a graffiti artist since the late 1990s. He has developed graffiti art towards performance, music and community art.

A series of psychological portraits by Canadian-based Russian artist Olga Chagaoutdinova, taken in a women’s prison in Russia’s Far East, will be exhibited at Ounasvaara. In her project, the artist explored, among other things, the concept of the portrait. She wanted to find out whether a portrait tells the viewer something about the situation it captures: If faces are read as maps of life, eyes as eyes of the soul and expressions as mirrors of humanity, what do these portraits tell the viewer?

Norwegian artist Lise Bjørne Linnert, on the other hand, creates a small-scale work on the torn mesh of the railings of the railway bridge. Her intention is to mark places with a historical past in different countries.

Nine artists’ works in the Valoo Gallery

Works by up to nine artists are on display at the Valoo Gallery in the Arktikum. Claudia Chaseling from Germany, for example, has created Mutant Murphy, a mural that includes two video cartoons. Chaseling uses ink, tempera and oil paint to create futuristic curves, organic shapes and upside-down landscapes. His work addresses the changes caused by radioactive radiation – the alienation of places and landscapes that were once familiar and are now just mutations of what was.

At the Napa Gallery, José Luis Torres’ exhibition Mutations fills almost the entire gallery. Torres is an Argentinian sculptor who lives in Canada. He uses materials such as building rubble to create structures with substructures that can be moved or form architectural elements. Studio Mustanapa is showing a video work by Miri Nishr, a Colombian artist living in Israel, entitled Seas of Lead. The work reflects the artist’s childhood memories of the kibbutz and the bombing of Gaza. Miri Nishri is an award-winning visual artist, video artist and teacher.

Biennale also on the web: online media works, web TV and blogs

The X-Border website features works by Antti Tenetz and David Molander that are published exclusively online. Antti Tenetz’ web documentary The Rule of Three explores the regions of Rovaniemi, Severomorsk and Luleå from the perspective of women of different generations. The narrative and interactive web work is created through images of places and people as well as sounds and videos.

David Molander’s web collage Heart of the City, composed of hundreds of digital photographs, takes the viewer deep into the underground tunnels beneath the streets of Stockholm. Using a collage technique that blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality, the artist reveals new relationships between the architecture, the social environment and the people.

In addition, the Biennale website features X-Border Web TV, which broadcasts real-time video and audio from each exhibition venue. The website will also feature a Process Room blog where you can follow the progress of the exhibition, recordings of performances and other content related to the Biennale and the artists.

The X-Border exhibitions will continue until October, and the Rovaniemi Arts Night on 6 September will also feature a programme of events from the Biennale. Olga Prokhorova, a Russian living in Finland, will perform a wild cabaret highlighting clichés about the citizens of all three countries.

X-Border is a major contemporary art project

X-Border is the only art biennial in the world with exhibitions in three countries: Sweden, Finland and Russia. Overcoming national, cultural and linguistic borders was a challenge for the organisers. One of the exhibition venues, Severomorsk, is a closed city where only the 50 000 inhabitants can move within the city limits. Presenting the Biennale in several exhibition spaces in Luleå, Rovaniemi and Severomorsk was an interesting and demanding task that required creative logistics and creative cultural and administrative solutions.

15 artists at the X-Border exhibition in Rovaniemi:

Tokyo Maruyama , Japan
Miri Nishri, Israel
Claudia Chaseling, Germany
Carolina Falkholt, Sweden
Strijdom van der Merwe, South Africa
Lise Björne Linnert , Norway
Ragnhild May, Denmark
Brian Flynn, Canada
Olga Chagaoutdinova, Canada
Erika Kassnel-Henneberg , Germany
José Luis Torres, Canada
Ulrica Beritsdotter, Sweden
Vera Arjoma , Finland
Jouko Alapartanen, Finland
Olga Prokhorova , Russia/Finland

Opening programme on Wednesday, 19.6.2013:

18:00 Valo Gallery (Arktikum):

Marjaana Lahdenranta from the Lapland Union opens the exhibition.
-introductions by the artists and a performance by Japanese artist Tokio Maruyama.

19:15 Online speeches by the curators in connection with Luleå and Severomorsk.

The opening continues at Galleria Napa (Kairatie 3), Lainaanranta and Valtakatu.

X-Border Biennial open:

Valoo Gallery, 19.6-31.8.2013 daily 9-18 and 1.9-6.10.2013 Tue-Sun 10-18, closed Mon.
Napa Gallery, Kairatie 3, Tue-Sun 12-18, Fri 11-17, Sat 12-16, closed 21/6-22/6.

For more information:

Leila Lipiäinen, Leila.lipiainen(at), P. 040 4844417.
Pilvi Keto-LeBlanc, curator, pketo(at)
University lecturer Maria Huhmarniemi, New Horizons Project, maria.huhmarniemi(at), P: 040 4844376