Mänttä Art Festival has been organized by its founding association 'Mänttä Art Lovers' since 1993, first as a biennial and, since 1999, annually. The event was recently awarded the prestigious Finland Prize, recognizing its long-standing work in the field of Finnish contemporary art. The title of the festival held this summer will be Roadmap. The festival, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will open to the public on June 17 and close at the end of August.
Helsinki Times spoke to Veikko Halmetoja, the curator and artistic director of the 2018 exhibition. Veikko, a gallery owner, art critic, and curator is an all-around expert on visual arts, not least because he spent his childhood and youth in Mänttä. He first became involved with the Art Festival as an 18-year-old intern in 1995. Veikko has seen every Mänttä Art Festival exhibition from the very first edition of 1993, most of them numerous times.
When asked about how the exhibition has changed throughout the years, Veikko turns the conversation to the professionalization of the exhibition’s preparation process and the exhibition’s venue. Since 2002, the main exhibition venue has been Pekilo, a former animal feed refinery next to Mänttä's tallest chimney-stack. Veikko articulates that Pekilo has been extensively remodeled and adds that this year there are new gallery spaces.
Despite the aesthetic changes, the principal idea has stayed the same. Finnish contemporary art remains cemented as the heart of the exhibition. This year 56 artists will lead the exhibition visitors on a winding road to map the world. Veikko traveled around Finland meeting with artists of various ages and backgrounds. A wide range of artists have been selected, some of them still unknown by the public at large.
”I have discovered interesting talents while teaching at art schools. Of course, I have also included several established artists and some very well-known names.” Notably, the exhibition will feature pieces by Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and Antti Laitinen.
The festival will display a video piece by Antti Laitinen. Laitinen represented Finland at the 2013 Venice Biennale. (Photo Antti Laitinen: Marionette, 2017, from a still video)
Veikko suggests that viewers and connoisseurs devote some time to emerging artists such as Mikko and Melina Paakkonen, Einari Hyvärinen and Aura Kotkavuori. He sees that the spirit of the exhibition is largely connected to the fact that the viewer is able to view art that is not yet familiar to the public.
This year viewers can expect to find a strong theme. ”Roadmap delves into people's need to understand and control the reality that surrounds us. It offers commentary on boundaries and the exercise of power”, Veikko explains.
Veikko compares the chosen artists to modern day explorers who explore the world on behalf of the rest of us. ”I have also invited artists who I find are seriously investing in the kind of art that helps us understand and discern the world a little better. They are the true mappers and explorers of today”, Veikko notes. ”I am building an exhibition where you are allowed to get comfortable…The exhibition also deals with charting the worlds inside the mind, different worldviews and superpower politics. Even though some of the artworks present a critical point of view into difficult topics, they won't avert laughter.”
|The work of Dzamil Kamanger will be featured at the exbition. Dzamil Kamanger: The Avesta, from the Series Passports to Heaven and Hell, 2016, glass bead knitting, 33 x 20 cm (Photo: Kalle Hamm)|
In other words, or as Veikko eloquently puts it, it’s about trying to find beauty in the world. He pictures the viewer walking through the exhibition and finding a sense of hope. The exhibition also contains abstract paintings that Veikko hopes will allow the viewer to experience meditative moments. He recommends to reserve a few hours to fully enjoy the experience.
”I promise the audience an eventful visit with food for thought, beauty, ugliness and artworks that will leave an imprint in their memories. I myself can still recall several artworks from the first Mänttä Art Festival of 1993, and it would be an honour for me if 25 years from now, someone would say the same about the exhibition of 2018”, Veikko concludes.
More info can be found here.
XXII Mänttä Art Festival
18.6. - 31.8.2018
Jagoda Secular HT
Images: Mänttä Art Festival