Sougwen Chung: Assembly Lines, 2022. © Paula Virta / EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art.


In Search of the Present is a broad international exhibition of contemporary art that takes a profound look at our world, which is defined by technology and its impact on who we are. EMMA has invited 16 visionary contemporary artists to the exhibition. Through their work they explore the relationships between nature, technology, human thought and artificial intelligence. In Search of the Present will open to the public on Saturday 27 August 2022.

You can follow the streaming of the press event on Zoom via this link on Thursday 25 August at 10am (Finnish time). Members of the media will have the opportunity to present questions via live stream chat. 

Technology is sometimes seen as the opposite of nature and artificial intelligence as a threat to humanity. To the artists of In Search of the Present, technology mainly represents an opportunity to create a new kind of art and a tool for visualizing things that can help us to enrich our relationship with nature and understand our selves better. Curated by EMMA’s Chief Curator Arja Miller and Curator Ingrid Orman, the exhibition explores the complex interaction between humans, technology and nature. Many of the artists draw our attention not only to the potential of artificial intelligence but also to other intelligences found in nature.

According to the curators, “Artists have a special ability to think outside the box; this is why it is especially interesting to turn to them for new perspectives on our own time. The artists of the exhibition deal with contemporary phenomena through processes that combine art, technology and science. However, all of the art works can be experienced firsthand, without having prior understanding of technology.”

EMMA’s exhibition offers a varied selection of artworks from the artists Refik Anadol, Dora Budor, Sougwen Chung, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stephanie Dinkins, Teemu Lehmusruusu, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Agnieszka Kurant, Brandon Lipchik, Jaakko Pietiläinen, Sondra Perry, Anna Ridler, Raimo Saarinen, Jenna Sutela, Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Lu Yang.

The works of the Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer model and visualise vital functions such as heartbeat, breathing or speech in various ways. EMMA has commissioned Lozano-Hemmer to create a new edition of the work Last Breath for the exhibition, made in collaboration with the Finnish actress Seela Sella. The piece has been acquired for EMMA’s collection.

Refik Anadol, a Turkish-American artist, uses machine learning to create data paintings and sculptures. He investigates creativity that emerges from encounters between humans and machines. The American artist Stephanie Dinkins investigates algorithmic structures that create inequality. She is particularly interested in creating more equal technological systems through her art.

Chinese-Canadian artist and researcher, Sougwen 愫君 Chung creates a kinetic installation activated through a live performance which links the neural pathways of a human subject with a multi-robotic system — together collaborating across the space, creating brush strokes on an ambitious configuration of three paintings. The resulting paintings form part of the installation, and the production of this new work has been supported by the Saastamoinen Foundation.

The Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen revives an extinct Hawaiian bird and its habitat through extensive fieldwork – his video and VR work RE-ANIMATED explores extinction, immortality and our ecological future. The Polish artist Agnieszka Kurant investigates the relationship between digital and biological phenomena.

The exhibition will also extend to the Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection exhibition, Touch. Dora Budor’s large-scale installation The Preserving Machine – and the robotic bird flying within it – takes over an entire space, making use of its intrinsic features and site-specific materials. Works by Sondra Perry, Jaakko Pietiläinen and Jenna Sutela, previously acquired for the foundation's collection and closely linked to the exhibition’s theme, will also be shown in In Search of the Present.

The programme of In Search of the Present has been planned and implemented in cooperation with Aalto University, Espoo City Theatre and Helsinki Festival. The exhibition will feature the virtual-reality work Love Simulation EVE: Water Spirits by Eero Tiainen and the EVE work group, which is an independent part of a work that will be shown at the Espoo City Theatre in 2023.

The exhibition is the second part of EMMA’s series In Search of the Present, which began in 2016. Its title refers to Finnish author Olavi Paavolainen’s collection of essays (1929), which explores the experiences and identities of modern humans in a rapidly changing time. EMMA’s overall theme for 2022 is Crystal Ball. The artists of In Search of the Present examine the essence of our time in a visionary, experimental and bold way.

In Search of the Present will be on from 27 August 2022 to 15 January 2023 at EMMA.


Source: Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA)