Looking back on 2023
posted by Milla Millasnoore on 29 December 2023

As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the phenomenal year at Bioart Society. In 2023, we have propelled forward and continued to run and develop our transdisciplinary programme in active collaboration with numerous artists, practitioners, organizations, and other actors to create a diverse program of exhibitions, workshops, and other various events. Below are more details of the myriad of thrilling things we made into reality in 2023.

Residencies – Finland and Beyond

In 2023, we continued the extraordinary Ars Bioarctica residency programme at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Sápmi in collaboration with the University of Helsinki. Overall, 11 artists, practitioners, and groups traveled to the North delivering a diverse array of incredible projects and artistic research. The selected artists and collectives included Camille Auer, Cynthia Blanchette, Jon Cazenave, Hannah Hallam-Eames, Aino Johansson, Jérôme Le Mest, Sanni Priha, Senja Vasunta Penttilä, Dale Rio, Soile Voima and the Critical Gardening Collective (consisting of Arnaud Mery, Beatriz Herrera, Éva Giard, Thierry Bardini and Bastien Gauthier Soumis). You can read more about their experiences on the Ars Bioarctica blog on our website.

We were also happy to facilitate two The North Escaping residencies and Science Trails residency under the umbrella of Ars Bioarctica: Jacek Smolicki as well as aRzu and Maria Lepistö. ARzu and Maria Lepistö had their residency in May 2023, after which they hosted a public sharing at SOLU Space in Kalasatama. Jacek Smolicki had his residency at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in July-August 2023 and hosted a public sharing at Helsinki in the form of a guided soundwalk in October 2023. Science Trails residency was organized in collaboration with the University of Helsinki and Till Bovermann was selected for this opportunity to produce a work in digital form for the Kilpisjärvi Science Trails online trail app.

In 2024, we are excited to continue not only the Ars Bioarctica residency programme but also The North Escaping residencies.

Jacek Smolicki at Kilpisjärvi

In addition to the residencies taking place at Sápmi, we also continued with the Tokyo Art & Science Research Residency programme. Antti Tenetz was selected via an open call for this month-long residency in early summer. Tenetz had his residency in late autumn of 2023 and spent his time in Japan by exploring symbiotic, other-than-human relationships.

We also got a chance to enable residencies closer to home, as our friends from TUO TUO offered Bioart Society members an amazing opportunity to join them in Joutsa for a week-long residency. Ellenor Rose Nish and Elena Cirkovic were chosen for this opportunity via a member-exclusive open call. Nish had her residency during autumn, and Cirkovic's residency is scheduled to happen in 2024.

On top of residencies, we also made other forms of mobility possible via the Rewilding Cultures Mobility Conversation. With this open call, the Rewilding Cultures partner associations wanted to initiate a conversation on cultural exchange by offering grants for mobility as well as backing work and experiments that contribute to the rethinking of mobility and cultural exchange in novel ways. Andrew Gryf Paterson was selected as the Bioart Society's grant receiver. They commenced their mobility in October-November 2023, traveling from Finland to Montenegro, exploring potential future routes of human climate migration in reverse.

Workshops, Exhibitions and Other Events

In addition to residencies, we organized and hosted a multitude of different events, including workshops, presentations, discussions, a networking event, a book launch, and a field laboratory.
For the first months of 2023, the Bioart Society staff were working in a somewhat nomadic way, as we had said our goodbyes to SOLU Space, our former office and gallery space at Katajanokka in September 2022. This however did not hinder us from continuing our program, and in March we organized our first event as the Fish Leather workshop, hosted by Hanna Kaisa Vainio and Christina Stadlbauer, took place at the Kuusiluoto islet in Helsinki.

During spring 2023, we were on the lookout for a new space hoping to locate our office and gallery in a more central location and accessible space. In April 2023, we moved to our new premises at Kalasatama, started renovations, and were able to host our first event in the space soon after as Hannah Star Rogers gave a presentation about Metabolic Arts on the 26th of April. We continued with the renovation in the new space, and our program proceeded later in May when aRzu and Maria Lepistö presented their project and residency results.

Fish leather workshop at Kuusiluoto islet

In June, the Critical Gardening Collective gave a presentation about their project at the new SOLU Space, before the collective traveled to Kilpisjärvi for their Ars Bioarctica residency. Later in June, we hosted a networking event Networking in the Margins for people and associations operating in the cultural field in Finland, other Nordic countries, and the Baltics. Bioart Society's spring culminated in the final closing gathering of State of the Art Network (SOTAN) which took place in the Vasikkaluoto islet in eastern Helsinki from 19–22 June, accompanied by the book launch for State of the Art – Elements for Critical Thinking and Doing publication. During these four days, many of the diverse cultural practitioners from all over the Nordic and Baltic countries, all of whom had been involved with the SOTAN network, came together for artistic interventions and discussions. During the gathering, the partners also took a look back at what the network had achieved and planned for the future and continuation of the important work.

After the summer holidays, the Bioart Society continued its programme in mid-August with the Night of the Arts. During the evening, Paulina Gretkierewicz and Aga Pokrywka introduced visitors to the art of making tea of wild herbs and plants.

Perhaps our biggest event came in September-October, as the two-week-long Field_Notes – The North Escaping took place at Kilpisjärvi. Overall, 19 participants and 4 hosts traveled to Kilpisjärvi Biological Station for this sixth edition of Field_Notes. The four groups – Andscapes, soft and messy TranstemporAL Exploration, Wait and Hear and Second Order – ventured to the wilderness to experiment, test, gather data, and speculate and impose questions under the theme of the North Escaping. Field_Notes is a unique opportunity for artists, scientists, and other practitioners to set things in motion through intense fieldwork, organized biannually at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station.

Field_Notes – The North Escaping

In October, Do Plants Dream of CO₂ collective gave a presentation on their project at SOLU Space, Jacek Smolicki guided two soundwalk sessions in the Kalasatama area and Bioart Society organized a film screening and fundraiser in collaboration with Kairos Helsinki and Feminist Culture House in solidarity with Palestine. In November, José Cano hosted a 3D exploration workshop at SOLU Space and we started our new event series SOLU dialogues with Bartaku presenting his new collaboration project Koelleven. In SOLU dialogues, art, science, and society meet as artists, scientists, and other practitioners present and discuss their work.

We concluded the year with Aaro Murphy's exhibition Fickle (Gritty) Memory at SOLU Space. The exhibition opened on 7th December, and was later in December accompanied by an edition of the SOLU dialogues titled A Nose is a Nose? during which Murphy shared more about his process behind the installation. Murphy was selected for the Tokyo Art & Science Research Residency in 2022 and described the residency as acting as a catalyst for Fickle (Gritty) Memory. The exhibition will run until the end of January 2024.

We will continue our diverse program at our new SOLU Space in 2024.

Continuing with Progressive Projects

We feel privileged to keep attracting interest from a wide audience and continue to have an impact on the intersection of art and science, from which, for example, our multiple international collaboration projects are proof. We would be nothing without our buzzing community, comprised of seasoned artists and practitioners, and emerging talents alike, who continue to grace Bioart Society with their unique perspectives. After all, drawing like-minded individuals into the fold and expanding the rich tapestry of skills and ideas within the field of art and science has been our main ambition since day one.

In 2023, we completed one multi-year collaboration project, State of the Art Network (SOTAN) (2020–2023), a Nordic-Baltic transdisciplinary network of artists, practitioners, researchers, and organizations who have come together to discuss the role, responsibility, and potential of art and culture in the Anthropocene. The Bioart Society took also part in the State of the Art – Elements for Critical Thinking and Doing publication, an outcome of the multi-year collaboration project. The publication took a closer look at how practicing artists, researchers, and cultural actors can create elements for critical thinking and doing which can assist us in navigating the complexities of the present.

The final gathering of the State of the Art Network (SOTAN) in Vasikkaluoto

Later in 2023, two new multi-year collaboration projects were also launched, CLUVEX (Climate University for Virtual Exchanges) (2023–2026) and deCYPher (2023–2027) began in the autumn.

CLUVEX aims to bridge students from European and Neighbourhood East universities and to engage them with climate competencies e.g., ideas of adaptation and mitigation to climate change and the green agenda together with interdisciplinary, green, and soft skills. The partners include Odessa State Environmental University Ukraine (UA), Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (UA), Yerevan State University (AM), University of Copenhagen (DK) and the University of Helsinki, Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR) (FI) which leads the project. The deCYPher project will develop a standardized platform to profoundly implement artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques to overcome current hurdles in industrial biotechnology and truly unlock the full potential of biotech engineering. The partner associations include Ghent University (BE), Wageningen University & Research (NL), The Spanish National Research Council (ES), Isobionics, ML6, Biofaction (AT), Lantana (FR), VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) (BE) and Barcelona Super-computing Center (ES).

We were also happy to continue working with our ongoing Creative Europe collaboration projects Restorative Practices (2022–2024) and Rewilding Cultures (2022–2026). We also continued with The North Escaping (2022–2024), a project under which the Bioart Society organizes a series of research residencies at the Ars Bioarctica residency program, accommodated with a public outreach program in Helsinki.

New Members and Winds of Change

As stated above, we would be nothing without our members and we feel very privileged to act as an incubator for networking, learning, and growing in the vast field of art and science. We are happy to have welcomed 16 new members to the Bioart Society during 2023. The new members include Camille Auer, Yvonne Billimore, Larisa Chernyaeva, Alyssa Coffin, Anttoni Halonen, Tuula Jyske, Heli Keskikallio, Egle Oddo, Leena Pukki, Melanie Sarantou, Genietta Varsi, Senja Vasunta Penttilä and Suvi Vepsä. The Bioart Society has currently over 150 members from Finland and beyond. You can find the complete list of our members on our website.

Renovations at the new SOLU Space in Kalasatama

During 2023, we went through some changes in the association's structure, as our long-standing Director Erich Berger moved on to pursue new opportunities in the summer. In August, we were overjoyed to welcome Yvonne Billimore as Bioart Society's new Artistic Director, whilst Piritta Puhto, the long-time senior producer of the Society, became the Managing Director and we moved to a dual leadership model. Additionally, we were happy to be able to continue to host interns throughout the year, including Marjaana Rantala and Monika Leszkowicz.

Thank yous

Throughout the year we have received funding from A.P. Møller Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, City of Helsinki, the Creative Europe programme by the European Union, Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, Kone Foundation, the Nordic Culture Fund, Nordic Culture Point, and Ministry of Education and Culture. We want to sincerely thank all of our marvelous supporters for making our transdisciplinary and ambitious programme possible this year. We also want to thank all other supporters, collaborators, partners, and audiences for a wonderful year. We look forward to seeing you in 2024!