Education
Tools
Typography

Running the Disobedience School is artist Jani Leinonen.Next spring Kiasma will host a 15-metre-tall classroom.

There, Finns will be taught the ABC's of disobedience. The aim is to fill desks with children and young adults, but adults are also welcome.

Teachers include, among others, last autumn's tax gimmick opposers Riku Rantala and Tuomas "Tunna" Milonoff from Docyenture, rapper Karri "Paleface" Miettinen and Marjaana Toiviainen, a priest from Kallio who has given the homeless a home in her own.

They will give their own examples of how the world can be changed by doing something other than what is taught at school.

Running the Disobedience School is artist Jani Leinonen, who was also the man behind the highly publicised decapitation of the Ronald McDonald plastic statue a few years ago. His retrospective is built around the classroom.

Leinonen, born in 1978, is a master of visual arts and a media artist, who with his work has criticised the power of transnational corporations and their civil rights violations.

Now Leinonen has started a war against frustration and passivity.

"I love politics and the old electoral system, but I understand how frustrating it is if once every four years you're given the chance to draw a number on a piece of paper and that is your main instrument of influence," says Leinonen.

Rewarding opinions

The classroom's teachers have been excited to cooperate with Leinonen. The Disobedience School is important because according to Leinonen, the Finnish school system doesn't reward individuals presenting their own opinions.

He says that people should be taught to influence in the same way that they are taught to read and count. This is the way to avoid people becoming passive.

"It feels like a large part of the youth is under the impression that they can't change anything, even though each of them surely has something close to their heart that they would like to do something about."

This is why the Disobedience School will be a practical workshop where examples will be used to show how an individual can bring attention to, and do something about what is important to them in forums such as social media.

The artist himself will also sit at the classroom tables with the children and learn, and allow the pupils to use his previous projects in an open source style: anyone can use his methods for their projects.

In February 2011 Leinonen and four other people stole a plastic statue of McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald. Via a YouTube video they demanded fast food chains to answer their questions about the origins of the food used in their restaurants.

When they didn't get answers, Ronald was beheaded.

The stunt eventually gave Leinonen 60 day fines for fraud and forgery, and broad publicity in international media, despite the aim of the project being to bring media attention to taking a closer look at the food industry and its practices.

"Completely shocking info packages" that were assembled with the help of professionals in the food industry went unnoticed by the media.

"The media were more concerned about the police chasing those who had done the job," says Leinonen, disappointed.

Begging to be heard

By June 2014 Leinonen was more experienced. He set up a pop-up restaurant in Budapest, Hungary, and named it Hunger King. The installation criticised a law that came into force in Hungary in 2013 which in practice forbade homelessness.

While people are in line for a new smart phone, they can keep their tents up all night. But if you're not on the street in pursuit of consumerism, being on the street becomes a crime.

"It is completely absurd and says a lot about their, and our, priorities. Even here Ben Zyskowicz initiated an effort to ban begging a couple of years ago," says Leinonen.

Those in line in front of Hunger King were rewarded with Hungary's minimum wage for a day's work – in a hamburger package. Through the project's website it was possible to send a Twitter message straight to the representatives of the Hungarian government, simply by the click of a button.

"We first considered sending emails, but they disappear somewhere. The Twitter feed is visible to everyone, so it was more effective," says Leinonen.

The project was a success both locally and internationally. Local media, along with large international publications such as the Guardian and Vice wrote about it, their website got visitors and they got tens of thousands of messages on Twitter.

Journalists interviewed the people waiting in line, the ones demonising the Hungarian political system, revealing them to be average people who had lost their jobs.

"Hunger King taught us that simple methods can gain unbelievable volume," says Leinonen.

Art isn't Leinonen's only influence.

International schooling

In 2012 a more direct way of influencing politics, a citizens initiative, came in to effect in Finland. Leinonen has been in the background working on different issues: citizen's initiatives on modifying copyright law and the prohibition of carrying irresponsible arms.

A large part of citizens initiatives that have been released have been cast down in Parliament. The Tahdon 2013 campaign for equal rights in marriage did nonetheless show that a small group on a small budget can make a difference.

"It doesn't help if you just put the initiative on the government pages. You have to campaign, and hard."

For Kiasma's Disobedience School Leinonen also wants to bring international guests who have shown this with their work.

An Arabic revolutionary and activist from Sweden, and a journalist who's responsible for writing a revealing article about Kenya, who have both had to leave their home countries to spare their lives would both join the effort. They are also trying to get Pussy Riot from Russia.

Leinonen's project begins to sound like the Slush of cultural influencers, where you look back at successful projects and talk about tricks on how to become successful.

"It would be cool, if people would start looking up to social activists as role models, not just athletes and millionaires," says Leinonen.

So what do you do to change the world?

"Anything, from giving money to Roma people to encouraging your friends to do it too. Get people together and drive for change together."

Jutta Sarhimaa – HS
Alicia Jensen – HT
LEHTIKUVA / KIMMO MÄNTYLÄ

ICP2

Finland in the world press

Helsinki Finland Showers, 6 °C
Current Conditions
Sunrise: 8:28 am   |   Sunset: 3:42 pm
87%     19.2 m/s     33.830 bar
Forecast
Sat Low: 4 °C High: 7 °C
Sun Low: 2 °C High: 5 °C
Mon Low: 0 °C High: 1 °C
Tue Low: 0 °C High: 0 °C
Wed Low: -2 °C High: 0 °C
Thu Low: -2 °C High: -1 °C
Fri Low: 0 °C High: 2 °C
Sat Low: 0 °C High: 2 °C
Sun Low: 0 °C High: 3 °C
Mon Low: 0 °C High: 2 °C

Partners