Quick – unique opportunity for slow art!

A person goes online all innocent, just curious to find out if there’s a quick statistic somewhere for numbers of cars in Helsinki in the 1980s. There were a lot, but certainly a lot fewer than today.

So I found a recent issue of Suomen Kuvalehti which wonders why Finland is being so slow to fall out of love with the motor car.

Apparently in the USA and the UK car buying peaked some years ago. Alas, Finland’s administrators and ministry-level people believe there is no alternative to expanding car use and ownership. So says the article. It also notes that the decline of the car has been dramatic even in America’s car-dependent suburbs. Actually, so says Fred Pearce on whose article in the New Scientist that one was based.

Still, there is an undeniably vast amount of rock being blasted from underneath Helsinki to make way for places for all these cars to hide (sleep?). Which brings me back to this post’s opening line.

Which is to say that there I was, all keen to blog about something positive (read on) when I bumped into yet more incomprehensible prose from an old city document.

Here, in Finnish the offending paragraph from a municipal document from 2004:

Uusimpien selvitysten pohjalta on osoittautunut, että kantakaupungin  uudet merenrantaiset asuntoalueet, on syytä erottaa omaksi  alueekseen, jossa autopaikkatarve on jonkin verran suurempi kuin  vanhassa kantakaupungissa.

or in translation

Evidence from the most recent studies has shown that the new waterfront neighbourhoods in the central part of the city should be treated as special cases where the need for parking is somewhat higher than in the older parts of the centre.

(For those interested in this, ehem, it appears that the current parking norms are from the early 1960s and have been tweaked a bit since then. Still – in many cases they were tweaked upwards!!) Anyway, the text then goes on to note that the current (2004) density of 350 cars per 1000 inhabitants is expected to rise to 410 by 2025.

It’s not that increase that caused the blood to boil but the idea that there could be a “need” for more motorcars. As I understand it, the Eira neighbourhood is among the densest for car ownership although it clearly has vastly more shops and services close by than most Finns can even dream of. So why all the 4x4s? Need?

So it’s great that we also have artists who take such great pains to produce delightful commentaries on all this stuff.

If you have time go to Taidehalli/Kunsthalle before the SLOW show closes on 20.11.2011. Exceptionally beautifully curated but thought-provoking too and in such a beautiful building.

If you go don’t miss the piece on the ground floor: a story as told by Hannu Karjalainen for any architect to tremble over!

And Ilkka Halso’s digitally manipulated photos of the Museum of Nature are a must. His English is a bit ropey but the man’s photographs of the repository of all that’s being either denigrated or fetishised by contemporary society are fantastic. Then there’s “House with garden – unique opportunity”. Brilliant!

Whether you’re into ideas about voyeurism and escapism or just appreciate a finely crafted picture that conveys more than words, I recommend it. Along with the rest of the exhibition.

And what’s so fabulous about Halso’s pictures is that he doesn’t limit himself to soft and obviously organic stuff. One of his best repositories is of rocks and boulders. Presumably they’re ones saved from the surface of the earth before they were turned into rubble by the blasting going on everywhere in Helsinki.

I just wish Halso made smaller versions of his pictures too. Being the sizes they are, they’d fit just perfectly into a big home, one of those where they also need big cars.


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