Vibrant contemporary art

Between 2014 and 2015, the North Ostrobothnia Regional Fund carried out the biggest ever regional project of the Finnish Cultural Foundation. The project budget was nearly EUR 300,000 in total, of which the Cultural Foundation contributed EUR 250,500.

In the Pohjavirta project, eight works of contemporary art were produced for the region of North Ostrobothnia. The works are a gift of the Regional Fund to the municipalities involved and will remain their property. All the works are public art, and they are placed in busy locations not normally known as sites of contemporary art. The locations include a port, alongside fields and a town square. In fact “New locations for art” was used as the project’s working title.

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Aki Roukala: Contemporaries, Pudasjärvi. The work consists of eight life-size portraits on glass panels placed in different locations in the centre of the small municipality.
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Jouna Karsi: Spirit of the Poem, Haapavesi. The work shows a folk poet who lived in a small village and who was shunned by his community. In this work, the poet finally gets access to books, demonstrating his right to learn and express his opinions. The work also reminds us of the importance of tolerance.

The project was carefully prepared, and local actors committed to it early on. All works involved local companies as partners. Local people were also engaged; the works were about them or they took part in the implementation process.

An open idea competition was announced in early 2014. Artists were given a free hand, as the aim was to produce something entirely new. The entries were expected to be surprising, placed in untypical locations and combine different types of art. A total of 116 ideas were
received, and they included a broad range of different entries, from visual arts to dance.

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Eeva-Kaisa Jakkila and Jussi Valtakari: Over the Time, Taivalkoski. This is an 18-metre-long footbridge that re-establishes the connection between the centre of the municipality and a small island in the middle of a river. The river is also part of the work.

The final selections were made by a group of curators consisting of Antti Tenetz from the North Ostrobothnia Regional Fund, Janne
Kauppinen from the Oulu Museum of Art and artist Petri Sirviö. Mike Watson, a curator from Britain, was also involved in the process.
One of the pieces was chosen by a jury, while 12 others were selected for further processing by the artists and the curators.

The curators played an important role in the project. They discussed the criteria and realisation of the entries with the artists,
encouraging them to adopt new thinking and use new materials. Even though the curator–artist partnership is now common in the Finnish arts scene, not all artists are familiar with the practice. For this reason, the aim was to introduce the artists involved to the arrangement.

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Joonas Mikola: Isolation, Oulu. This is a large steel cylinder with a bare outer surface, encouraging local graffiti artists to cover it with their work.

The curators selected the remaining seven works of the project on the basis of the revised entries. In the end, only works that will remain on permanent display in public spaces were selected. In fact, a continuous and permanent physical presence was one of the selection
criteria applied by the curators. As expected, high artistic quality and local relevance were the other criteria.

The North Ostrobothnia Regional Fund needed expertise in a wide range of areas for such an extensive multi-art project. The curators and the Fund secretary were extremely busy throughout the project. The producer played an important role in issues concerning contractual practices, permit processes and funding. One of the main aims of the Fund in the project was to share the expertise that it had accumulated over the years. For this reason, an online arts acquisition package aimed at facilitating such acquisitions was produced as part of the project. This means that the project will have a lasting impact.

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Minna Jatkola: Sound of the City, Raahe. Wind and steel are the main elements of this piece located in the port of Raahe. The sounds of the piece are created by the combination of wind and the immobility of the steel structures. This is a joint undertaking involving local schools, the port and long-established industrial firms. It reflects the changing character of the city.
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Rita Porkka, Johanna Riepula, Niina Jortikka and Tero Mäkelä: Giants of Mankila, Siikalatva. This is a concrete visualisation of an old story about two giants that lived on opposite banks of a river. The working group and the village residents erected these five-metre-tall sculptures, which now stand in the centre of the village.

Text: Anni Saari

The first photo:
Jaakko Mattila and Jussi Ängeslevä: Pylväsvuo, Ylivieska. The work was inspired by the architectural elements of the local farmhouses, local landscape and the tools used by farmers in their daily work.

 

 

The Pohjavirta project by the North Ostrobothnia Regional Fund was the biggest ever regional project of the Finnish Cultural Foundation.
, Jenni Heikkinen.

Chinese tourists as target group

– The best way to reach Chinese tourists is to use their own social media channels, explains researcher Yu Guopeng.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 Chinese tourists visit Finland every year, and the Chinese are the biggest spenders in their travel destinations. The Chinese often pick their destinations on social media.

– For this reason, Finnish tourist companies, too, should learn how Chinese tourists use social media, says Yu.

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– Social media in China is very different from Western social media because it is under strict state control. Nevertheless, Chinese tourists use it more or less in the same way as Westerners.

Facebook and Twitter, which are familiar to Finns, are banned in China, but the Chinese have their own channels, some of which are even more influential than their Western counterparts. The most popular of them is WeChat, which resembles Facebook.

– The Chinese know little about the sites used in the West, and for this reason publishing information on them is futile even if the content is excellent. For example, YouTube videos are useless because the whole channel is banned in China.

Translating company websites or Facebook updates into Chinese is therefore not practicable, and tourist companies should have a presence in the services used in China. Links to other sites rarely function, which means that they, too, are of little use.

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It would better to encourage Chinese tourists to talk about Finnish destinations in their own channels than to produce updates in Chinese.

– Chinese tourists trust stories appearing on WeChat, and information spread by word of mouth is very important to them. Communication in WeChat is mainly between friends and family members, and their recommendations are trusted.

According to Yu Guopeng, tourists should be encouraged to share their experiences and those who post updates should be rewarded.

– Many people are lazy when travelling and do not post any updates afterwards even if they liked the place, while others are too shy to share their stories.

Rewards also encourage people to say more and in a more interesting manner. The rewards could be in the form of gift vouchers.

People could also be offered suggestions for updates, or they could be urged to pick the things that interested them most in the destination. The important thing is to have tempting updates.

– I have noticed in my research that the credibility of previous updates and service ratings used to be important. Creating interest is now the top issue, and the updates must also be appealing, explains Yu Guopeng.

– When consumers get interested, they ask further questions about prices, locations and so on.

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Photos by Harri Tahvanainen

Yu Guopeng, a student at Åbo Akademi University, has received two grants from the Finnish Cultural Foundation totalling EUR 34,000 for a dissertation on tourism and social media applications.
, Jenni Heikkinen.