When the sun sets at 3.30 and rises at 9, and sometimes never, leaving us with dull, dreary days, LUX Helsinki is a welcome escape. Light installations flicker, shine and thrust through the city drawing in the crowds, brightening up our nights until 10 pm. Here are some visuals:
LUX Helsinki 2018 is held annually at the beginning of January. This year it’s from 6 – 10 January 2018.
See the link for a map and more details about events.
When I first arrived here, my eternal optimism ruled my determinism to not allow the weather or seasons to affect my upbeat nature. That was a long time ago.
I have often wondered about Finns that leave their mother country behind for warmer climes during that time of year when not even Santa Claus can lure them back. Doesn’t one get used to the darkness and cold? Surely after spending most of one’s life in a place like this, one should have found coping mechanisms to alleviate the onset of gloom? Since snow seems to be more of a rarity than typical precipitation in Helsinki these days, the shadowy skies reveal dusk most of the day and night time shamelessly descends at around 3 pm. There is no light and whatever the Bible says about people loving darkness instead of light, taken out of context but anyway, it just ain’t true. We stumble along and try to find our way through these long, dark days and if we can afford it, we leave for Spain or Portugal where it’s all a lot jollier and friendlier and lighter and warmer than organised, well-run Finland can offer us. We live here because we work here and there’s no denying the fact that this angle of life is well taken care of in this egalitarian society. But it’s still ultimately the weather that has the upper hand and makes us dream of sunnier skies and smiles on the faces of the people walking by.
No wonder the bars are full and no one’s laughing.
Violetta Teetor is a freelance journalist in Helsinki and President of the European Journalists Network, the Finnish section of the Association of European Journalists.
Most of us will agree that democracy, in whatever broken shape or form, is preferable to other ideologies that have been promulgated over the past few hundred years. There is a point though, where the noble narrative of the empowerment of every eligible citizen can be taken a step too far. We’ve just seen a bawdy Christmas party spree called ‘pikkujoulu’ in the vernacular, in which it has once more been demonstrated that not all elected officials are worthy of the trust imbued in them. Take for example Teuvo Hakkarainen, the truest Finn of the Finn Party formerly the True Finn Party, who has once again demonstrated his complete lack of self control and good manners. The Parliament of Finland joins in on the jollifications of the festive season by throwing a party. What should he do but grab no less than former Taekwondo Olympic athlete and MP Veera Ruoho of the National Coalition Party to firmly plant a French kiss on her. Needless to say, alcohol was the driving force behind his passion. This incident was and probably will not be the only one that can be blamed on the odd tipple too much. Two weeks before this, his expensive Audi came to blows with the barricading pillars at the entrance of the parking hall to Parliament House. He claims they ‘suddenly rose up and lifted the front of the car’.
Seriously, who votes for people like this? And he’s not the only one. The buffoonery that is politics has become the laughing stock in more than one country. Surely some basic education should at least be a premise for adding your name to a ballot? Teuvo Hakkarainen was first elected in 2011 which means that he’s not been elected once, but twice!
Now there are no excuses! It’s easy, simple and quick. Everything you need to know for your new life in Finland.
Under one roof
The bureaucrats have come up with a brand new idea which is brilliant. If you’ve just moved to this country and you’re totally confused as to jobs, registering, taxes, pensions, whatever the case may be, just pop over to the Magistrate’s Office at Albertinkatu 25 where you’ll find International House Helsinki. All the services you need to make a smooth transition into society, are here, under one roof.
No more stuffy government office
The staff are friendly and seem like polyglots with the number of languages they speak. The atmosphere is fun, colourful and so simply laid out that even a monkey can find its way around the procedure. Services that are covered include:
Multilingual information and counselling
Advisory and counselling for employers
Registration, personal identity code and change of address
Tax card/number and tax info
Social security and benefits
General info about TE (employment)
Registering as a job seeker
Pension insurance and A1 certificate from abroad
Employee rights advice
Where to learn Finnish
Use the app to make an appointment and find out what documents you will need to bring along. Go to App Store and look for Service Advisor App.
Moving at the best of times is a stressful operation and moving from one country to another can test your limits. With help like this, you are assured of the fact that everything is in order and that you’re doing the right thing. Relocating to Finland’s a breeze, if you can stand the weather.
The shiny signs show the way to the various sections that this exhibition has been divided into at the Design Museum in Helsinki. Every part points to design in some form or another, not the type of design that one might imagine in the shape of a beautiful object, or a clever tool, but rather ideas and innovations that have influenced our lives in a way that sets us free, that makes our lives easier. While this utopian ideal is admirable, it did and does not always turn out the way the designer intended it to and can enslave as much as liberate the user. Whichever way you look at it, it arouses our curiosity and spurs us on to usage and experimentation.
Go Where You Want dominates the thinking of every over-50 year old male on the brink of fearful decline, with a high-barred Harley Davidson, the speedy, outdoor, La-Z-Boy object of potency. The chopper expresses so much more than a form of transport encompassing the freedom of the surfing culture, in spite of the difficulty of carrying a surfboard while driving one. Going where you want is about motorcycles, but it’s also about lying on the sofa and cruising the world with Google Maps, or finding roads with GPS systems leading you to hideaways to far-flung spots that would have remain hidden or at least, been hard to find in days gone by.
See What You Want plunges us into a world of psychedelics and fantasy. Make-believe is the essence of some of the ordinary objects on display including LSD blotting paper, tiny tabs with decorative pictures, used to administer small quantities of potent trips to Strawberry Fields and other pop-song destinations. It transports you to alternative realities, California’s favourite place, and guides the brush strokes of Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin in sweeps of colour that brighten up the brightest of days. Disney World and Hollywood had their origins in Los Angeles, sparking our imagination in movies as well as video games, the earliest forms of which can be seen and sniggered at compared with today’s sleeker versions, no doubt to be smirked at by later generations.
Say What You Want rebels against the hackneyed memes of the establishment that triggers thoughts, shocks a little and often amuses a lot. The poster of Boston & Boston: Equal Opportunity Designers has a black man dressed up in Ku Klux Klan garb defying the onlooker in a threatening stance. Free speech exceeds all boundaries in the work of Sheila de Bretteville’s centrefold in the feminist Everywoman newspaper with the single word ‘cunt’ spread across it. Wired magazine first published in 1993, stares you in the face with a cacophony of typefaces set on the background of wild, acid-trip-like scenes while giving us the opportunity to make sense of the crazy speed at which technology is overtaking our lives.
Make What You Want brings to life the start-up culture of Silicon Valley where a DIY project, conceived in a garage, can whip through the globe and turn into a multi-billion dollar industry within a terrifyingly short period of time. Presenting the Apple 1 computer, a boxy, grey object with no aesthetic appeal. With a keyboard and a television set, we suddenly became masters of communication, writing and publishing, marketing gurus of our own personal brands, super-efficient robots accomplishing tasks that would have seemed impossible only a few years back.
Join Who You Want started with communes, a cess pools of sexual freedom and drug-taking, or so my mother used to think. Motorcycle gangs, the Gay-In held at Griffith Park in San Franciso, the Merry Pranksters spreading the gospel of LSD with author Ken Kesey and research pioneer Timothy Leary across America, offered a smorgasbord of choices for people on the fringes and wanna-bes alike.
Togetherness and community are words bandied about in acceptable current narratives and social media is the way we do it while real experiences of engaging with your buddies and others happen at festivals as in Burning Man or massive events like the Olympic Games. Symbols, posters and objects of design display these trending ideologies.
California is an exhibition that takes you through a journey of fairly ordinary objects that you look at and think so what? Some are even ugly and distasteful. But there is a ‘but’ coming up – you can’t help but marvel at the innovation of it all, the meander down memory lane for those of us who remember, the ultimate pleasure in knowing that daily living has become a whole lot easier if not simpler and that we can relish the unstoppability of what’s to come.
From the time you pick up the lanyard with credit card attached to the time you drop it off and get reimbursed for the balance left on it, you know these guys have done it right. It’s pro, it’s efficient, the queues are shorter at the entrance and you leave knowing that nobody’s tried to rip you off, you got what you paid for. If you so wish, you could muster up an even warmer fuzzier sense of goodness when you leave the balance to one of the charities they support.
A whole string of local micro breweries have come up with selections of beer that speak of real craftsmanship, each one with its own specific punch line and story. Fat Lizard has a sense of humour as in their ‘No crap on tap’ slogan. Topi Kairenius, brewmaster, explains their take on what makes them stand out,“We like American style APAs and IPAs and use mostly American hops. Except for Rib Tickler which contains New Zeland hops.”Their products come in funky cans and are all of a lighter, drinkable style, a hint of their own laid-back approach to life.
Pien meaning ‘small’ deserves a mention. This couple are bold if nothing else. They have two small shops: one behind Ateneum Art Museum on Ateneumkuja and another one in Iso Omena Shopping Centre. Their products are hand-and heart-selected and they’re selling some unique beers and other goodies from their stores. Because of the monopoly Alko, they have to stick to anything under 4.7% alcohol but whatever they have to sacrifice is made up for by big flavours and choice ingredients. They’re the exclusive importer of Brewski, an outfit in Helsingborg, Sweden, that bottle in small sizes using labels designed by a kick-ass artist. The contents are pretty good too.
From Estonia comes Tanker Brewery. Everything’s unfiltered and only American hops is used since 50% of the business belongs to Graham Suske, American himself and the other half by Jaanis Tammela. The Ketser will creep into the corners of your gob and squinch up your cheeks with the sourness it brings with it while Pretty Hard has a touch of raspberry to soften the blow. The latter’s label is pink with a speech bubble for the lady, ‘ It’s so hard to be pretty’. At 7% you’re likely to forget the make-up and get the party started.
Cider has its place at this festival and it’s the elegance of the logo of Kuura Cider that catches my eye. They’re from the little town of Fiskars, about a 60 minute drive from Helsinki. With a still and a sparkling product, their focus is on ripe, local, cooking apples rather than cider ones. Minimum intervention leaves it unfiltered but with an elegance and complexity that put it in a class of its own.
Also from the famous artist/artisan town of Fiskars is Ägräs Distillery. Infused with nettles and fennel is their greenish coloured Long Drink, the freshest hit of herbal delight you can possibly imagine with no hint of sugar but pleasantly accessible. Their Akvavit is also made from foraged nettles and wild herbs and is aged in American oak, a smooth, golden-coloured, velvety drink that caresses your tongue as it slides around the furthest recesses of your mouth.
Food is the focus at Malmgård Brewery where they use their own spelt, wheat, grains to make their products including bread. They’re located in the countryside near Loviisa at a manor house owned by a count.
From the far-flung island of Jura in the Scottish Hebrides, the whisky that comes from there is user-friendly. No heavy peat, no heavy smoke just something easy to drink, terribly enjoyable and made for the market. Their 16 year-old Jura Diurachs’ Own is the whisky of choice for the islanders and you know why when your taste buds get a hint of apricot, marmalade and toffee, a mouthful of rounded goodness.
End your taste tour at Helsinki Distilling Company where their brand new rye whiskey comes with a kick but no aggression. Applejack can only be described as light Calvados, a pleasant apéritif or a less powerful digestif.
In the spite of the archaic alcohol laws in Finland, OlutExpo has managed to put together a thought-through, well organised event, represented by both local and international brands without a single moment of unruly behaviour and plenty of class and luxury in which to spoil yourself.
There are not that many people that can boast about being 100 years old and many of those cannot claim to be artists, especially artists of such renown as Åke Hellman (born 1915). A Shared Atelier is an exhibition at Kunsthalle Helsinki that takes you on a journey through his life with his cherished wife Karin Hellman (née Wisuri, 1915 – 2004). She wasn’t lucky enough to reach her husband’s ripe old age.
A wide scope of genres is represented by the works of this couple that lived in Porvoo, a small town east of Helsinki. Their children Åsa and Karl-Johan are still alive to give some insight into this exhibition of over 150 pieces stretching from the 1930s to the 2000s. We also get a glimpse of what it was like to live with them. Åsa explains,
“Father was quite analytical and cool and loved to discuss and talk about art while Mother was very much in tune with nature and could be described as an earth mother.”
Massive collages line the walls of the museum depicting abstract images and shapes, some colourful, others in ‘black and white’, as it were with fine dark thread sewn onto cream fabric. Themes range from trees to emotional outbursts as in ‘Scream’, prompted by the disproportionately small snake, fear detectable in the eyes of the by-standers. ‘Clay Medals’ show a series of ceramic buttons created by Åsa, a collaboration between mother and daughter. Karin’s paintings too span a range of eras and styles.
Portraitist of his time, Åke Hellman has painted many of his contemporaries. The President’s wives Sylvi Kekkonen (1978) and Tellervo Koivisto (1990), bishops, professors, doctors and others have sat in his studio to be immortalised. There’s a distinct change of technique from the 50s to his later paintings. When I ask Åsa about the ‘stick figures’ in some, she explains that one must keep in mind that he was a Professor of Art at the University, that he was teaching art and hence, probably the simplification. It’s extraordinary to compare these naïve, but yet beautiful, works with the more voluptuous nudes which are striking in their maturity. Then he delves into cubism and then into surrealism, a wide palette indeed, not only of colour but of variety too.
As modest as the Finns may be, selfies have caught on here too, dating all the way back to the 19th Century. The exhibition Me: Self-Portraits Through Time is a collection of 160 works by 102 artists from Finland ranging through the Finnish Golden Age to noteworthy contemporary ones.
In the early days they were called self-portraits and perhaps the focus was slightly different from today’s aren’t-I-stunning approach. ‘The eyes are the window of the soul’ is an expression we’re all familiar with, but what if you’re too shy or simply don’t want to reveal it to the onlooker, but you still want to be immortalised? Is it about immortality or just vanity?
Thank God for Justus von Liebig who invented the mirror in 1835. Without it, some of these would never have existed and while they all used it, only a few admit to the fact and show it in their pieces. But even mirrors can be too self-revealing and hence reflections come into distorted focus in the metal of blenders as in Pauliina Turakka Purhonen’s Oaig, referring to the only visible letters on the cardboard Laphroaig box in which she keeps her paintbrushes. Or could it be a groan, an utterance of loathing? Or the sculpture in wood of 84 year-old Radoslaw Gryta strangely staring out at you from the backdrop of honeycombs.
As a foreigner, I find the Finnish style rather intriguing. Seeing the exhibition as a whole, shows that most of these are realistic in the way they bare themselves to the general public. Some are perhaps flattering, some are distinctly distorted, others horrifying and abstruse. While you wonder about the character in the painting or photo or sculpture, it also brings you to a point of self-searching and your own reaction to it. The creator must have had this in mind and while they couldn’t predict the response, they could control it to an extent. This is where emotion comes into play. Seeing the irony and humour in Sampsa Sarparanta’s The White Man’s Burden, the Heidi man-girl ridiculously laughing back at you, the grotesque Last Man Standing evoking fear, the sadness, the playfulness, the sorrow – it all draws you into their world and their feelings at the time of execution. Finally, you walk out with a bag of mixed emotions to sort through and the memory of faces you never knew but will never forget.
The locals lovingly call it ‘Lintsi’ and when the first rays of sunshine start appearing after the long winter, the kids are already tugging at their parent’s nerves to take them to this summer attraction. It’s a happy place and something sincerely has to go wrong for it not to put a smile on your face. Even better, the proceeds go to Finnish child welfare work. It’s the kindest thing you can do for not only your own children but also those less privileged.
A new year brings new stuff to explore starting with Ice Age in 4D with arrows whizzing passed your head, water spraying lightly in your face and plenty of bumps and jumps for you to get the full effect. This is included in the wristband. Magia will take you on a whirl that reaches the heavens while you look down vertically at the ground below, spin you and settle you down back to earth before it all starts again. There’s wild and gentle for the not so brave and if you’re not interested in the rides at all, there’s the wheel of fortune which will add yet another soft toy to your already overflowing collection. Lots of the kiddie rides are free of charge and there is no entrance fee so if you just want to come along and watch, that’s possible too. The American Diner will satisfy your hamburger needs and there’s a lot more besides that. Caruzello has a family buffet while the Sports Restaurant has finger food to go with your beer.
Starting with the Spring Carnival, Linnanmäki has special events happening at times when the park might not be that crowded. Between 2 – 14 May, clowns, ventriloquists, and music are put on to entertain the crowds and you can even take a twirl on the dance floor if the mood hits you. At the beginning of September Iik!week brings zombies to scare you and other eerie phenomena to keep you intrigued. The Carnival of Light is a show to behold with plenty of design teams working on displays to light up the dark time of year.
Linnanmäki is open from 28 April until late October but do check the website if you’re planning to go in September or October.