THE HELSINKI SCHOOL
Helsinki School is one of the most exciting contemporary art and
photography movements. The concept of the “Helsinki School” can not
defined specifically by discipline, nationality or style, but rather, it
represents an approach, a way of thinking that has evolved out of a
process of teaching at the Aalto University School of Art and Design.
Its members are, rather than photographers, considered conceptual
artists who chose to express their artistic vision through the use of
the photography- or film camera, or light sensitive materials.
Additionally influential is the extraordinary Finnish light and the
specific conditions of almost complete darkness or endless days that
result in distinctive interpersonal attributes and social conduct. The
show gives an insight into the most recent works of these selected
artists, presenting both the school as a strong entity and the power of
unanimity, and the artists’ distinctly original and individual styles.
Numerous internationally acknowledged artists, who were once graduates of or taught at the Aalto University School of Art and Design (formerly the University of Art and Design Helsinki), have over years drawn together to form the group of artists celebrated as the “Helsinki School”. More than a group of artists from a specific locality, this “group” represents an approach that has grown out of a teaching process at Aalto University, where the emphasis focuses on critique, cooperation and exchange of ideas, and where theory meets reality. The concept of the “Helsinki School” is not defined specifically by discipline, nationality or style, but rather, it represents an approach, a way of thinking that has evolved out of a process of this teaching. Including both photography and video artists, photography, the cornerstone on which the “Helsinki School” was built, remains the quintessential tool each of these artists employ creating his or her own photographic process and using the medium as a conceptual means.
The “Helsinki School” is the unique phenomenon in the field of contemporary photography. Now internationally recognised, this movement began in the mid 1990’s as a teaching project by the Director Professional Studies Timothy Persons, who has played a fundamental role for the establishing of both this school of thought, as well as the formation of this artistic group. Collectively exhibited and considered, the “Helsinki School” plays a pivotal role in determining a forward-thinking vision of where photography fits into the world today. The artists, as a group, demonstrate a spirit of association while nonetheless, and perhaps due to, lay emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual.
No one style or genre defines the “Helsinki School”, nor can it easily be categorised by theme or material. Yet what these artists share is an intense and precise aesthetic awareness; an “approach taken to making photographic art that is uniquely its own and uniquely Finnish in intent, design and execution”. They work with thoroughly planned concepts and whole thematic series: artists of the school are encouraged to produce series of photographs, to think about an overriding concept and realising it, and to learn both the history of, and the practice of, conceptual art.
Photography has developed into one of Finland’s most successful cultural exports, and the “Helsinki School” one of the most famous Finnish art movements ever. The international reputation of the school’s artists has continued to rise with major exhibitions worldwide including the current show Touching Dreams at the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen.
THE AALTO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL
The Aalto University School of Art and Design is an international school, which gives education and pursues research in the fields of design, motion picture, new media, audiovisual communication, art education and arts. Originally founded as the School of Arts and Crafts in 1871, it has evolved into a dynamic university of its areas of competence. It is the largest university of design in the Nordic countries and one of the most highly respected institutes in its field in the whole world.
Timothy Persons is the Director of Professional Studies Program and a Senior lecturer at the Aalto University School of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland. Along with his position at the Aalto University School of Art and Design he is also Gallery TAIK’s (Berlin) curator, artistic leader of VIPS (Video Photography Stockholm), in Kulturhuset, Sweden, and senior advisor to the Borås Art Museum, Sweden. Furthermore Persons is a member of selection committee of Paris Photo, Senior Curatorial Adviser at KIASMA (2008-2010), Museum of Contemporary Art Helsinki, Finland, for the Kulturhuset in Stockholm, as well as the Danish National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, and has been an adviser to the board of the Claremont Museum of Art, California, as well as juror of the Swiss Photo Award.