A Monument to Precarity: Finland’s Last Remaining Tree Trunks
Finland’s Aalto pavilion, built in 1956, has been rented out mainly to Iceland since 1962, when the Nordic Pavilion got built as shared space of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. For over forty years the three Nordic countries shared the costs and the responsibility of organization rotated between them. In the 1970s the idea of national representation became obsolete for progressive contemporary art and the first thematic Nordic exhibition in 1972 was titled “Work and Behaviour.”
The year 2005 was marked by the failure of the Nordic collaboration in the exhibition “Sharing Space Dividing Time” curated by Åsa Nacking, which resulted in Finnish artist Laura Horelli pulling out and the letters “Finlandia” screwed out from the facade of the pavilion. Now the pavilion is rotating between the three countries. Conveniently, in 2007 the lease of Finland’s own Aalto pavilion expired and Finland could have at least a small Finnish presence in Giardini during each biennial, regardless of the Nordic split.
The exhibition in 2011 was interrupted by a tree falling over the Aalto pavilion. This incident gave birth to yet another tree-themed Finnish exhibition, which Finland is hosting now in two pavilions. Five tons of birch logs are transported from Finland to Venice for Antti Laitinen’s work. In 2007 Turkish artist Huseyin Alptekin transported thirty tons of log wood from dismantled old barns from Finland to Venice for Georgian-style lodges, and employed collective “Cheap Finnish Labour” to work for him for free in the Turkish Pavilion in Arsenale.
Should we consider Finland’s history at the Venice Biennial as a narrative of the shifting role and representation of labor, or of the way in which nature always interrupts narrativization of labor as purely human affair?Minna L. Henriksson