Stuba Nikula: Why are we featuring the work?

An error occurred in our process. I said as much on 1 December. The error was that I failed to understand in time that Katariina Souri’s work Pohjan kosketus contains parts that emphasise stereotypes from the point of view of Finland’s indigenous people. 

I’ve now understood the matter and have tried to find the best of the poor options available. The milk has been spilt, but how do you stop the spill from spreading?

Since one of the paintings use in the artwork became a topic of discussion even before it was shown, I consider it important for the entire artwork to be seen as part of Lux Helsinki. Each viewer can – and inevitably will – form their own opinion of the matter. When you look at the work, I hope it will trigger warmth and understanding in you. Don’t just look at the work as beautiful, colourful images. As you look at it, think about the reality where your identity would be used as a source material by someone else. 

I would like everyone who views the work to stop and think about what it would be like to be part of a community whose existence has been questioned and made part of the culture of those in power. Why the work is considered offensive. And why artists should have freedom in the content of their art. This approach builds understanding and enriches society. 

I’ve asked the artistic director of Lux Helsinki to pen his own view of the matter. Why the work was chosen for inclusion in Lux Helsinki. I hope you will read this viewpoint and that the ensuing dialogues will increase art lovers’ understanding of how this work is part of the discussion about the function, impact and responsibility of art.

I’m pleased that the discussion on art imagery through this work is being updated and that audiences and artists are becoming more sensitive to the ambiguity of art. At the same time, I’m appalled by the unrelated argumentation generated by the work. My choice has not created a meaningful debate on reconciling artistic freedom and the right of minority peoples to self-determination, but rather stirred up hatred that had been in the depths. 

To those of you who have considered it your right, even before the final work is shown, to use it to channel your own anger, I hope for recovery. The role of art and events is to synchronise us to experience and reflect on the same things at the same time. These reflections should be respectful.

Stuba Nikula
Helsinki Events Foundation