Many of us consider tweeting and hanging out on facebook to be work, and for most Finns at least, reading a newspaper, on-line or on-paper, is second nature. (At least it was until Helsingin Sanomat began so unashamedly to do politics that many people have stopped following it).
But at times like these, a news blackout would be bliss. Keeping up is exhausting and frustrating!
The troublesome G-issue just will not go away. Until it does, anyone who cares about the future of Helsinki, particularly Katajanokka and the South Harbour, won’t sleep too soundly.
The last few days have been a circus of news, opinion pieces, letters to editors, fb-updates and spoofs that, despite their number and their often colourful language, possibly fail to do justice to what is going on.
Many a man with power really, really wants Helsinki to collaborate with the New York based Guggenheim bränd. Day by day Helsinkians become more wary, while proponents’ arguments become more pompous and over-optimistic. Alexander Stubb, the popular minister, would like to see a landmark in Helsinki to rival the Eiffel Tower… Emeritus professor Y. Sotamaa says “do not be afraid” (letter to HS editor today).
Given this I wonder how Helsinki has survived as the liveable city it has!
And I realise that were it not for active citizens, “les trente glorieuses” and the fine buildings that that period of capitalist history bequeathed to us, would long ago have been replaced by some form of neo-feudal horror. Were it not for critical thinkers, there would be urban unhappiness so startling that even the naive optimists and the cossetted rich would see it.
JHJ’s view is that unless one keeps one’s eyes closed and imagination switched off, one must know that cities are in crisis. (The brand new tome, Cities for People, Not for Profit edited by Brenner, Marcuse and Mayer looks like a good up-to-date take on this. Later…)
Selling the family jewels – e.g. handing over that plot in Katajanokka to a global franchise – is not be the answer to such crises. Besides Helsinki’s track record with making international deals is not good, as reported here, in English.
Using HS, a number of arts professionals have criticised the rush and warned that embracing the Guggenheim will serve neither Helsinki as a city nor Finland’s visual arts. If anyone should be a partner, why not Paris’ Louvre, asks Maritta Pitkänen 19.1.2012.
Nils Torvalds, (relation of Mr Linux) also offers sage warnings. The bafflement of the troika Rossi, Kivirinta, Johansson, arises out of impeccable (international) credentials in arts management. They note, among other things:
Museokokoelmat ovat osa kulttuurista muistia, ja on surullista huomata, miten yliolkaisesti Helsingin oman museon johto ylipäänsä suhtautuu kokoelmakysymykseen. [Museum collections are part of cultural memory, and it is sad to note how nonchalantly the leadership of Helsinki's own museum approaches the question of collections in general.] HS 19.1.2012
If our money is spent on a Guggenheim, will cosmopolitan Finnish artists like Jorma Puranen or any of the others from the Helsinki School not face more icy prospects?
And if a global blockbuster exhibition were to come here, would it invigorate or emaciate?
But oh, if this were the only problem.
Questions about Janne Gallen-Kallela Siren’s connections to the Guggenheim’s board have been dealt with. But his leadership of the City Art Museum has taken an odd turn. According to reports he is about to go on holiday.
Before any decisions have been made in any public bodies – the Guggenheim not qualifying – the Museum’s staff have received an announcement that “yt-neuvottelut”, perhaps best translated as restructuring negotiations, are on their way. The reason given for the surprise announcement? The imminent impact of the Guggenheim!
Exhausted, frustrated – and stunned.