The Homelessness Fair
The Homelessness Fair, curated by Finish artists Jani Leinonen and Riiko Sakkinen, introduced a whole new exhibition concept to the Finnish art scene. Exhibited at Hyvinkää Art Museum, Leinonen and Sakkinen have invited different civic organizations that deal with homelessness, social institutions and other active parties in the field to take part in the exhibition.
The curators see the rise in homelessness as one sign of the deterioration of the welfare state and therefore want to tackle the problem. The worse the situation in the world, the more art is needed, believes Riiko Sakkinen. For him and for Jani Leinonen, works of art and works of art are social statements. In particular, they are critical of the consumer society.
The context is art, which at its best is a meeting place of different approaches and viewpoints. When you enter the museum, you first encounter Olavi Martikainen’s (1920-1979) expressionist paintings on homelessness. Martikainen was homeless all his life and, during his last years, lived and painted at the Mankkaa landfill in Espoo.
The first room in the exhibition space has a mirror. From it, you can look at a possible future homeless person. In another room, you can roll a giant dice. Homelessness is not a characteristic of the individual but a social challenge. On the wall of the exhibition you can read:
Try living with your family for a couple of weeks in a tent in the winter.
In the museum, you can get acquainted with hard beds, with huts that seem to belong on a dumpsite and an alternative bed that has been placed under a boat.
The fair also includes countless photographs of both homeless Finns and homeless foreigners. The exhibition project also has documentaries about homelessness. There is also the Finnish Football Championship of the Homeless on 15 June 2013.
Artist Katja Tukiainen instructed a social comic workshop for the homeless. The author of one of the comics has experienced homelessness as a child. And if there was an apartment at times, there was not always room for warm food and at least no pets, let alone trips to the south. This comic shows how social status can be inherited.
The Homelessness Fair focuses on examining the experiences of homelessness, which are often uncomfortable. The visitor needs to distance themself to remain a mere observer.
The space is more reminiscent of a fairground than a museum, albeit without the hustle and bustle of a regular fair. Instead of glossy surfaces, you can see unpainted boards and, between them, glimpses of homelessness.
Homelessness in Finland
Housing is not only a need of a rather fundamental quality but also an object of speculation. The other side of homelessness is always that one party gets rich with the basic needs of another.
In reality, homelessness is a much broader and more multidimensional phenomenon than magazine trash, lodges and cardboard boxes. It is estimated that there are about 8,000 homeless people in Finland, of whom nearly a third are long-term homeless. The proportion of young people and immigrants has increased. One in four homeless people is under 25 years of age.
If those living in institutions that do not have their own address are also counted as homeless, the figures will multiply. The high cost of housing also affects those in employment.
Antithesis to the Housing Fair
Riiko Sakkinen, who is known as a provocative artist, wanted to create an antithesis to the Housing Fair held in Hyvinkää July – August 2013. He says:
I started thinking about the movie NIMBY1 (not in my backyard) in terms of the Housing Fair. In this area, there are only homes above the middle class. When you buy a house from this area, you only see the bright side of life.
If Riiko Sakkinen himself had to draw the city plan, he would also have placed a refugee camp and a shelter in the area.
The Housing Fair focuses on housing technology, environmental issues and the stylishness of interior decoration without problematizing the societal and social dimensions of homelessness. In other words, The Homelessness Fair is a forum that creates discussion about what homelessness is and how it is defined.
The Homelessness Fair will be presented at the Hyvinkää Art Museum, the Artists’ Association’s Promenade Gallery and the city space. The Homeless Fair will see related documentaries and organize a social cartoon workshop for the homeless, directed by visual artist Katja Tukiainen and the Homeless Football Championships.
About the curators
Jani Leinonen (1978) asked his friend Riiko Sakkinen (1976), who lives in Spain, to participate as the second curator in the exhibition. The artists got to know each other during their studies at the Helsinki Academy of Fine Arts. For them, art is a way to participate in the public debate. In this exhibition, they want to highlight the “horrors of capitalism”.
Leinonen is known, among other things, for robbing Ronald McDonald’s advertising statue2 last year. Riiko Sakkinen received attention in February 2013 when he hid 1000€ in 5€ banknotes in a public library in Helsinki as an unauthorized intervention.