In the Finnish art yargon artist are always portrayed as underdogs of contemporary society. This status requires critical reassessment. By claiming an underdog status artists exclude themselves from the responsibility of developing more sustainable systems. I think artist are very powerful and their work has an impact in the city. Losing the underdog status will force us to make claims about the world and open our practices up for critique. We can do this together, so let’s agree on something.
Visited the Sorbus crew exhibition at SIC with Pietari. The audience of the exhibition was a positive mix of elderly folk and kids. The group presented a 30min movie which was a celebration and critique of contemporary yuppie culture. The artwork showed how a group of entrepreneurs search for inspiration from urban countercultures and utilize anti-authoritarian, horizontal organizational strategies for their personal economic gain. The movie was a subvertisement which kept the audience hooked with splatter movie tricks and clean cinematography. I enjoyed the exhibition and the afterparty.
The movie felt like a response to recent critique of Sorbus and SIC, which states that these organization (funded by the Kone foundation and Kulttuurirahasto) inadvertently advance economically liberal values and partake in gentrification processes of developing city areas. The critique presents these organizations as youthful lubrication for liberal city development (Much like the Restaurant days and other startup incubators). Jussi Koitela’s text also portrays these organizations as undemocratic and non-transparent. I think the non-transparency part is true.. I really don’t know how Sorbus or SIC curate their events. I don’t know how to befriend them or even where to meet them.
The way they function is very different from the way the older, national artist union associated art spaces are organized. These organizations elect members by voting and board members can have an significant impact in the direction the associations takes. Unfortunately the Muu Association (which serves performance and media-artists) feels corrupted as it has been run by the same small inner circle for years. But in theory I could join the ranks and work for change inside the system. I would have a better opportunity impacting the Finnish (and European) art scene through Muu Association then I have through any other artist run platform in the world!
What’s keeping me from joining the association? The 70€ yearly union fee? After paying the fee I would be entitled to legal council from the national artist association lawyers and various other benefits (like discounts from local arts and craft shops). Paying the fee would give the opportunity to expand my practice. 70€ cannot be the reason. I guess it comes down to the feel of the organization. Muu Association feels like it belongs to a different era. It feels old.
This debate resembles critique concerning the DIS collective. The question is that can artists appropriate entrepreneurial start-up business strategies (tactical media, sponsored beer & sex) for changing the world and still stay true to their cause. I think that the Burning Man festival commodification process is clear evidence that organizations which fail to establish themselves financially will be squatted by corporations. To remain independent artist organisations need to accumulate their own capital. I think union fees is the best way for doing this. After enough capital is accumulated it could be used to acquire property and to use it to benefit the community. Exhibition in this space would advance communism through an acutely curated program of events and publications. I’d call the space “International Muusicbus Space 2.0”.