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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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