I started my dream job as the director of the Finnish Institute in Paris in August 2018. Until the very last day, I have been grateful and privileged to have been able to do this work in Paris and build on the important work done by my predecessors. The main mission of the Finnish Institute to promote knowledge of Finnish culture and society in France has remained at the heart of all its activities.
The work has been done with great heart and passion every day, with an all-or-nothing mentality, and in a way that has become a strong part of my own wider identity. It is important that some tasks and professions have a time limit.
At the Institute we have brought to light present-day themes and contemporary voices. During autumn 2019 we had the great honor of working with the Sámi community and presenting new artists from Sápmi, the Sámi country. In the year 2020 when the pandemic started we carried on to work for the continuance of international collaborations. In the end of 2020 and at the beginning of 2021 we accomplished many collaborative projects with collaborators from Marrakech, Tanger, Paris and Helsinki: the exhibitions Middle Sea and Défaire des nœuds, tisser des liens to name a few. Throughout the year 2020 we prepared a year-long contemporary art ensemble called A I S T I T / coming to our senses in collaboration with several international partners. In the end, the project came to reality in four European capitals during the year 2021 (in London, Paris, Berlin and Helsinki).
My mandate as the director has been eventful: Paris has lived through the year-long riots by the Gilets jaunes, the Notre-Dame fire, the riots against the pension reform, and the Covid-19 pandemic. This has taught us that nothing but change is permanent in life. Since Russia started the invasion of Ukraine, I have thought to myself daily that art and culture are the best security policy there is.
“It has been a joy to be part of the society in France where art and culture are an integral part of daily life and humanity. For without culture, science, and art, there is no us.”
In January 2022, I participated in a training for restaurant owners when the coronavirus infection rates were 300 000 daily in France. Us, the participants who were all about to start their own restaurant business, found ourselves filled with hope for a good outcome. In April 2022, the Institute opened its own culture café called Café Maa which focuses on sustainable gastronomy, Finnish culinary expertise, seasonal thinking, clean and local ingredients, and organic products. Opening our own café has been an arduous project for the Institute. I am very happy and proud that there is now a café that furthers the knowledge about Finnish culinary culture and acts as a lively and active meeting spot for the people of Paris.
The last project that I have worked on is the group exhibition Imagine Everyday! Outsider Art Finland that at widely showcases contemporary Finnish outsider art for the first time in Paris. The civilisation and social conscience of a society is measured by the way it treats its minorities. The Finnish cultural and academic institutes around the world bring to light the diversity of Finnish culture, promote equality, equity, and the diversity of research and science. The Finnish Institute in France works to ensure that today’s diverse Finland is seen in different ways and from different perspectives.
I have thought to myself many times that the premises of the Institute, designed by architect Juhani Pallasmaa, have a strong and significant memory of the life they have witnessed inside. I am grateful for having been able to surround myself with the beauty of the building, the professionals who work there and the visitors who come by, and for having been able to produce versatile content in the Institute together with our working community and various collaborators.
It has been a joy to be part of the society in France where art and culture are an integral part of daily life and humanity. For without culture, science, and art, there is no us. The joie de vivre of the French, the bon vivants, the culture of debate, and the humaneness that lies behind every encounter will sustain you for a long time. What is essential in life can be found in the encounters between people.
I want to say thank you to my dear Institute and its amazing team, to the Board of Administration of Fondation Institut finlandais de France, to the network of Finnish cultural and academic institutes, to the artists, to the various culture and gastronomy professionals, to the financiers, and to all of you who have visited us and who have been a part of our activities, and to all of those who will continue to be.
I should end here and give my successor, Tuula Yrjö-Koskinen, the privilege and good fortune to start a new dream job in Paris. You are about to commence a remarkable journey.
See you later, sometime.