Institut finlandais

Untie Knots, Weave Connections

January 5 - March 21, 2021

Weavers of Utopia

If you had to weave history
With the threads of your memory
And catch up with the lost time
How would you go about it?
Yves Duteil (1)

Weave, untangle, bind, assemble, reassemble. These actions create the rhythms of the exhibition Untie knots, Weave Connections, a collaboration between MACAAL (Marrakech), Institut finlandais (Paris), and Lokal (Helsinki), through the propositions of the four artists who have been invited to question disciplines, apprenticeship, knowledge, craft and language in order to make sense of the concept of connection.

Immersing the visitors in the heart of the process of creation, sometimes even of reparation, the exhibition explores the complexity of the words, language, silences and silencings that shape the narration of history. The installation Back Up (2020) by Sasha Huber (Finland/Switzerland) and M’barek Bouhchichi (Morocco), product of reciprocal residencies in Marrakech and Helsinki a year ago, bears witness to this. Armed with giant brass staples engraved with words by the Canadian novelist and essayist NourbeSe Philip from her book-length poem Zong! (The Mercury Press, 2008) the two artists engage in a duty of memory, honoring the hundreds of victims of the massacre on the slave ship Zong (1781), a symbol of the barbarism of the Slave Trade. Metal thread bent at the ends that typically attaches and fixes, the staple here spreads in a monumental way over the entire wall, making a place of verbalisation, demand, and call for responsibility emerge from its silence.

In his analysis of the considerable social importance of the mass media, Marshall McLuhan observes that the content of the medium, whatever it is, is already another medium. Therefore, the content of writing is… speech. Without ever having met in real life, Amina Agueznay (Morocco) and Janna Syvänoja (Finland) appropriate natural materials — one wool, the other paper — as the support and the common thread of a subtle dialogue North/North which reflect their own personal experiences of the poetics of space. Responding to each other mainly through a color scheme reminiscent of Northern forests, the works of Agueznay (Instant – Moments, 2020) and Syvänoja (Hidden Homes, 2020) play with speech and texture – here, the medium itself is the message. The works share, transmit and build strong connections while blurring the distinction between metaphorical and literal weaving (2): the act of weaving is the knot passing from one world to another, from traditional to contemporary, from past to present.

To weave connections between times and customs, architecture and its context, memory and creation, between craft and innovation — these are the ways of this exhibition that invites the artists to the task of reimaging, remapping and rewriting. A Moroccan proverb says, “Some will learn through pain and sorrow, others through joy and laughter, so it is written.” Untie knots, Weave Connections offers a multitude of lessons on nature and human beings for our learning.

1. Yves Duteil, from the song “Tisserand”, album J’attends, EMI Group, 1976.
2. The word text comes from the Latin textus, “to weave”.

Untie Knots, Weave Connections
at Institut finlandais gallery from the 5th of January to the 21st of March 2021.

Amina Agueznay
M’barek Bouhchichi
Sasha Huber
Janna Syvänoja

Meriem Berrada: Artistic Director, MACAAL, Marrakech
Janine Gaëlle Dieudji: Director of Exhibitions, MACAAL, Marrakech
Katja Hagelstam: Director, Lokal, Helsinki

The exposition is organised with the support of Pro Helvetia.

The Art of Encounter

Institut finlandais began its activity in Paris in autumn 1990. During these past thirty years, its activities have highlighted contemporary themes of changing times with artists and professionals from fields as varied as art, science, culture and creative industries. An open and curious mind, desire to meet and connect people, creativity and international cooperation have been at the heart of the Institute’s activities since the beginning.

In spring 2020, this polyphony was reflected in Finland in a historical way when the national broadcasting company YLE published and shared news content related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Finnish, Swedish, Sámi, Arabic, Kurdish, Dari and Somali. During the spring, a broader discussion was opened on anti-racist work in the activities of art organizations, communities and networks in Finland. Within the arts, it is important to reflect on change, to work towards a pluralistic world, and to be open for new perspectives.

Throughout the season, we have wanted to work with many new partners and expand and deepen the dialogue in our operations. The Institut finlandais’ autumn/spring 2020-2021 programme and this publication reflect the current debate on origin, identity, multilingualism, civilization, solidarity, preservation of cultural heritage and colonialism. Our autumn program engages with the politics of memory and belonging, layers history with the present, yet still looks ahead. It has been produced through many numerous discussions, artist residencies and encounters between Marrakech, Tangier, Tunis, Paris and Helsinki, among others. International cooperation has been actively pursued during the year 2020 without physical encounters in a situation that has put familiar mindsets and practices into consideration for alternative options.

Last year, author Hassan Blasim commented on his neighborhood in Helsinki in the national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat: “I enjoy living in Kontula. This is where you can see true Finland.” The institute wants to strengthen the international debate in the context of different artistic and creative fields and highlight the voices of professionals of different fields who represent and enrich contemporary Finland, from artists to researchers, and from curators to chefs and translators. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has contributed to this publication and this season’s programme.

I hope that the next thirty years of Institut finlandais will continue to be filled with an open, curious and empathic atmosphere, and that the art of encounter will remain in the heart of the work.

– Johanna Råman, Director of Institut finlandais

Foreword part of the Institut finlandais publication 2020-2021.

Photography: Aurélien Mole

The exhibition is supported by The Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland, Pro Helvetia and Alfred Kordelin foundation.