AGF, credit: Aino Väänänen (2021)

About the Pavilion Without Walls

Launched in 2013, Performa’s renowned Pavilions Without Walls program showcases vibrant artistic practices from Taiwan and Sweden, following extensive research and engagement with curators, historians, artists, and educators in those countries. The Pavilions aim to reflect the social, geographical and political landscapes of each country, and to present the work of emerging and established artists to the New York arts community and public at large.

Close Watch: Pilvi Takala, Still of Close Watch, 2022. © Pilvi Takala 2023, courtesy the artist; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; and Stigter Van Doesburg, Amsterdam.

About the Finnish Pavilion

The Finnish Pavilion Without Walls is organized by Performa in collaboration with the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, Frame Contemporary Art Finland, the Consulate General of Finland in New York, and HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme, and generously supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, and Saastamoinen Foundation. Together, they will commission and present new works from contemporary artists based in Finland, many of whom will make their U.S. debut with Performa, including the New York premieres of Teo Ala-Ruona, Anna Maria Häkkinen, and Niko Hallikainen; Jenna Sutela in partnership with Swiss Institute; an event at the Performa Hub with chef Antto Melasniemi and artist Rirkrit Tiravanija; a two-part sound series curated by PUBLICS, titled SONIC TONIC ASSEMBLY featuring AGF, Bhavisha Panchia, Chris Williams x Lester St. Louis, DeForrest Brown (aka Speaker Music), Tony Cokes, Lamin Fofana, Islaja, KMRU, Lau Nau, and Cucina Povera at Pioneer Works; and artist Pilvi Takala as the Performa Hub’s Artist-in-Residence.

Beginning in 2013, Performa’s Pavilion Without Walls was conceived to reflect the social, geographical, and political landscapes of various countries within the Biennial’s program and present the work of emerging and established artists in New York. As a long-term strategy to build relationships and solid networks around the world, the Pavilion program is motivated by a strong belief that the arts foster tolerance and a deeper understanding among world cultures. Over a two-year period of extensive research and engagement, Performa collaborates with the Pavilions’ cultural partners including curators, historians, artists, and educators to create a program that showcases vibrant artistic practices. Previous Pavilions include Australia, Estonia, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, and Taiwan.

Comments Founding Director & Chief Curator, RoseLee Goldberg: “By forging generative connections with cultural institutions around the world, the Pavilion Without Walls program not only brings new artistic voices to New York, but also supports the creation of new work that continues to expand the understanding of performance today. The Finnish Pavilion promises to be an extension of this experimental ethos that has been at the heart of Performa’s mission since its inception.”

Comments Senior Program Advisor and Curator at Large, Defne Ayas: “Thanks to the vibrant cultural ecology, visual art scene, and clubbing culture in Finland with its generous cast of artists and thinkers, our program will stimulate a dynamic conversation around sonic politics, along with deep listening opportunities and conceptual inquiries through the medium of performance. Not only will we delve into uncharted soundscapes, but also experience a myriad of textures from the cosmic and macroscopic to the intimate and microscopic, connecting them to the various histories of New York and its intersectional resonances today.”

Comments Artistic Director, Paul O’Neill (PUBLICS, Helsinki, FI): “This collaboration with Performa and the Finnish Pavilion makes it possible for PUBLICS to showcase our ‘work together’ curatorial model, gather some of the most innovative artists working with sound in Finland and across the world today, and place them in dialogue with some of their global feminist peers from New York and from the African diaspora. This assembly of sound practices and live sonic performances will share unique political viewpoints and collective approaches to site-oriented recording, live voice, and aural world-building as part of an extended listening session with audiences in New York.”

Comments from Executive Director, Kati Laakso, Finnish Cultural Institute in New York (FCINY): “The Performa Biennial is the most significant contemporary performance event in North America and offers a unique opportunity for Finnish artists to develop their practices, connect with American artists and audiences, and seize new opportunities. We are extremely proud to be presenting a variety of emerging and established contemporary artists for audiences in the U.S., many of whom are on view for the first time in New York.”

Teo Ala-Ruona is a multi-disciplinary artist, performer, and writer whose work investigates the construction of gender through digital technology and ecology. In the New York premiere of Enter Exude, Ala-Ruona takes audiences on an ominous joyride, where the once-idyllic landscape is put at risk by the energy industry. The ever-changing nature of the body is symbolized through the sleekness of a sports car, as Ala-Ruona explores techno-trans-masculinity as well as familial bonds in the age of fossil-fuel capitalism.

Helsinki-based choreographer and artist Anna Maria Häkkinen is known for incorporating elements of physical movement, body contact sports, and sculptural composition in her work. For her New York debut, Häkkinen begins with the question: “How to bring back dance?” Using dance principles such as duration, repetition, and precision, Häkkinen interweaves her teachings in Helsinki with New York’s experimental dance communities, paying homage to figures such as Judson Dance Theater founding member Lucinda Childs. Inspired by electronic dance music, the performance will feature musician Keliel (aka Eliel Tammiharju), dramaturg Emil Santtu Uuttu, and a young generation of New York-based dance artists, forming new constellations of movement in space.

For his New York City debut, Helsinki-based performance poet and novelist Niko Hallikainen—whose text-based, durational performances explore themes of class, sexuality, mysticism, and mourning—reflects upon desire and loss through the narrative of a romance. A site-specific work incorporating New York’s queer artistic histories, Lavender Deal is a two-part narrative about a pandemic-era relationship over Zoom with a long-distance lover. Hallikainen contextualizes his affair and longing through the art and writing of David Wojnarowicz, William S. Burroughs, and John Wieners in an intergenerational “séance” inspired by poet John Giorno’s Buddhist ceremonies.

At Swiss Institute (SI), Jenna Sutela will create a live performance responding to her current installation, Vermi-Sibyl, 2023. Taking Marjory­­––a trash heap and oracle figure from the Muppet universe––as a point of departure, Vermi-Sibyl gathers compostable materials by SI’s staff which are then processed by approximately one thousand worms. The vermicompost in turn powers an AI-generated sound installation on SI’s rooftop that transmits oracular messages to the East Village. Sutela’s performance builds upon the installation by collaborating with a choir of voice actors and a saxophonist who will read out Vermi-Sibyl’s divinations and play a musical score. Through this embodied materialization of the formerly AI-generated content, Sutela’s performance addresses post-humanist amalgamations of organic and non-organic life.

Co-presented by Performa and PUBLICS—a curatorial and commissioning agency with a dedicated research library and event space in Helsinki––with PALO Art Productions at Pioneer Works, SONIC TONIC ASSEMBLY is a listening program of innovative sound artists using location-specific field recording as their starting point to create aural worlds at the intersection of sonic poetry, abstracted music, and experimental black and global feminist technologies. For the Performa Biennial, SONIC TONIC ASSEMBLY consists of two “episodes” over the course of a single day, both of which use sound as a means for analyzing the ecological and social landscapes of Finland in a time of rapid change. Episode one, entitled “Sonic Wilderness,” features AGF, Islaja, Lau Nau, and Cucina Povera; and episode two, “Sounding a Black Grammar,” features KMRU, Tony Cokes, and DeForrest Brown, Jr. (aka Speaker Music) with Chris Williams x Lester St. Louis, Lamin Fofana, and Bhavisha Panchia.

Pilvi Takala will be this year’s Artist-in-Residence at the Performa Hub, beginning research for a future commission at the next Performa Biennial. Takala is a renowned contemporary artist based in Berlin and Helsinki working in video, installation, and performance, who explores and challenges cultural conventions, behavior patterns and power dynamics through intervention. She often identifies distinctive communities or environments in which to immerse herself to gain deeper insight into values, beliefs, rituals, and nuances of individual groups. Through keen observation and an empathetic approach, the intricate details of her experiences become material for her process-based exploration into unspoken rules and expectations that govern daily life and decisions. Takala will present video and research material, not only reflecting on her previous projects, but also her experiences during the residency.

The Finnish Pavilion Without Walls is organized in collaboration with the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, Frame Contemporary Art Finland, the Consulate General of Finland in New York, and HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme. The Pavilion is generously supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, and Saastamoinen Foundation.

The Finnish Pavilion is curated by RoseLee Goldberg, Founding Director and Chief Curator; Esa Nickle, Managing Director and Executive Producer; Defne Ayas, Senior Program Advisor and Curator at Large; Job Piston, Curator at Large; and Paul O’Neill, Artistic Director of PUBLICS. Sonic Tonic Assembly is co-commissioned by PUBLICS and Performa, and co-produced by Performa, PUBLICS, and PALO Art Productions. Jenna Sutela: Vermi-Sybil is curated by Stefanie Hessler, Director at Swiss Institute; Alison Coplan, Senior Curator and Head of Programs at Swiss Institute; and KJ Abudu, Assistant Curator, Public Programs and Residencies, at Swiss Institute.