Visiting LUX Helsinki in 2024

It was cold; the city had been covered by snow for months. Still, thousands of people were in the streets, all on their way to visit the sites of LUX Helsinki, “… and despite the freezing temperatures, all the technology worked perfectly,” said Stuba Nikula from the producing Helsinki Events Foundation. Since 1995, LUX Helsinki is the first in the annual calendar and took place from January 3 to 7, 2024.

The decentral parcours included sites in the city’s center and the suburbs. There are three galleries, four cultural centers, and the Korkeasaari island with a zoo hosting light and light-based media interventions. On top, the exhibition programs of the KIASMA museum for contemporary art and the AMOS REX media art space were worth seeing. During LUX, Helsinki reveals itself as a living repository of cultural heritage, technological innovation, design thinking, and artistic research, inviting inquiry into the evolving role of art within contemporary society.

Katariina Souri (FI) – Pohjan kosketus
Katariina Souri. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo: Superreel.

Senate Square: Janne Ahola, Katariina Souri, Weltraumgrafik

In the center of the Finnish capital lies the Senate Square. The surrounding buildings are designed by architect Johan Carl Ludwig Engel and form a classicist ensemble with the cathedral, the old Senate building (now the seat of the Finnish government), and the main building of the University of Helsinki. Here, the Finnish artist Katariina Souri showed large-format projections of (analog) paintings focussing on the myths of the north. These were juxtaposed by projection mappings for Helsinki Cathedral by Janna Ahola and Weltraumgrafik.

Janne Ahola (FI) – Symmetria
Weltraumgrafik (DE) – Helix
Weltraumgrafk. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Petri Antilla_1499x1000
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Janne Ahola. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo: Superreel.

Töölönlahti Event Park: Eeere Helle

Also, in the city’s center, near the Oodi Central Library and the Kiasma Art Museum, Eero Helle presented the installation “EQ”, a static composition of bright white light lines. One half is mounted linearly on a 2D surface, and the other forms a kind of wave with different lengths and angles of inclination. They cross each other. When circling the installation, the responsive eye created movements of light that did not exist in material reality.

Eero Helle (FI) – EQ
Eero Helle. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Petri Antilla (2)_1499x1000
Eero Helle. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Petri Antilla (1)_1499x1000
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Eero Helle. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo: Superreel.

“Art and Science” was the theme of the festival in 2024. “The theme acts as a link between the different works and locations … it helps the curators and the artists to create custom-made works for LUX,” explained Juha Rouhikoski, the artistic director, in retrospect. Juha Rouhikoski is a freelance curator, artist, and art historian, and his curatorial team for LUX Helsinki 2024 included Matti Jykylä, Mia Kivinen, Jyrki Sinisalo, and Jere Suontausta.

They are all members of FLASH, the Finnish Light Art Society founded in 2017. “FLASH is an association for promoting light art, i.e., to support artists, curators, producers, and art lovers. With FLASH, we started establishing light art as a separate field in the art scene …” stated co-founder Ilkka Paloniemi, artist and former LUX curator (2015 – 2023). Europe has no comparable initiative — driven by artists and curators — for promoting light in art, stage lighting design, and architectural lighting design. With almost 80% Finnish artists, LUX Helsinki is FLASH’s national platform.

BLAF Finnish Light Art Platform

A digital platform for light art in Finland called BLAF (Best of Finnish Light Art in Finland) is part of the FLASH activities. Mia Kivinen and Anna Björklund are the BLAF curators, and they explained: “Our main goal is to create options for our artists and to show the artworks.” The FLASH network regularly realizes its own exhibition projects: “Next November, the fourth FLASH Biennale will take place, this time in Tampere. We mainly show gallery projects, objects, and installations designed for interior spaces. These projects are now being reported in the local news, feature pages, and art magazines …”.

New productions for LUX Helsinki

FLASH produced new, site-specific projects for LUX Helsinki, such as the “Vanishing While Viewing” installation by Saana Volanen or the transmedia intervention “SUBURBIUM.0001” by Niko Tiainen. Both installations work with image and data material that was recorded and edited at the site of the performance. They translate their “raw” materials into very different compositions, in which the light of the LED strips, screens, and projections becomes the sensually perceptible medium of the digital world. They are also part of FLASH.

Sitratori Square: Saana Volanen

In preparation, Sanaa Volanen filmed at the installation site. She is interested in the place’s colors, the people’s movement, and the light change throughout the day and into the night. She focuses on what is happening and maps the continuous change process. She condensed and edited her material into a 15-minute sequence for the installation. For the display, she installed vertical LED strips with a total of 16,800 points of light. They were mounted at varying intervals on a balcony railing. The image information dissolved on the deconstructed screen, leaving a kind of colored light echo of the location.

Saana Volanen LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Saana Volanen (2) - Kopie_1500x1000
Saana Volanen LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Saana Volanen (1) - Kopie_1500x1000
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Sanaa Volanen. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photos: Sanaa Volanen.

Stoa Cultural Center: Niko Tiainen

An audio composition could already be heard on the square before the cultural center, continuously changing through computer-generated echoes and delays. The images in the building were based on photogrammetric scans taken by Niko Tiainen in and around the building, which were declined through various media. The colored light and projection events in the room were recorded by cameras and woven into fluid data collages that were shown on two screens.

LUXHKI2024_Havainnekuva
Niko Tiainen. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Petri Anttila (1)_1499x1000
Niko Tiainen. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Petri Anttila (2)_1499x1000
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Niko Tiainen. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photos: Petri Antilla, Niko Tiainen.

New initiative in the history of light art and lighting design

The BLAF archive also contains the performance history of “Finlandia”, the light composition by Ekku Peltomäki, which premiered in 1989 and was performed again for LUX 2024 – “… perhaps for the last time”, said the lighting designer during the preparations. The initiative to perform historical light artworks is another special initiative of LUX Helsinki, as only a few festivals in Europe show light-based positions in the history of art or design.

Ekku Peltomäki (FI) – Retriitti, Finlandia osa 2, valoeepos
Ekku Peltomäki. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo Petri Antilla (2)_1499x1000
Ekku Peltomäki (FI) – Retriitti, Finlandia osa 2, valoeepos
Ekku Peltomäki (FI) – Retriitti, Finlandia osa 2, valoeepos
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Ekku Peltomäki. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photos: Petri Antilla.
Hietaniemi: Ekku Peltomäki

Hietaniemi Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Helsinki. Finnish state funerals are held here. The architect Johan Carl Ludwig Engel, as are the architect Alvar Aalto and the designer Tapio Wirkkala, are buried here. It is also the Finnish military cemetery and the site of war graves, including the graves of German soldiers. The cemetery is also covered in a blanket of white snow. The trees along the central avenue, as are the paths, are painted in various shades of blue. The symphonic poem “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius can be heard. The light work of the same name by Ekku Peltomäki was premiered in 1989 and updated in an adaptation for the cemetery.

Ryoji Ikeda. AMONS REX Helsinki 2024. Photo Stella Ojala (6)_1500x1000
Ryoji Ikeda. AMONS REX Helsinki 2024. Photo Stella Ojala (8)_1499x1000
Ryoji Ikeda. AMONS REX Helsinki 2024. Photo Stella Ojala (9)_1499x1000
Ryoji Ikeda. AMONS REX Helsinki 2024. Photo Stella Ojala (5)_1500x1000
Ryoji Ikeda. AMONS REX Helsinki 2024. Photo Stella Ojala (7)_1499x1000
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Ryoji Ikeda. AMOS REX Helsinki 2024. Photos: Stella Ojala.

Light in contemporary art

The two exhibition venues in Helsinki’s city center – AMOS REX and KIASMA – also presented special exhibition programs. The Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA presented the first Finnish exhibition by South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape. She combines material montages, neon forms, video works, and sound compositions. Her works reflect how and which images shape memory, narrative, and representation. AMOS REX presented the first solo exhibition in Finland by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda. He experiments with the materiality and behavior of digital data. He transposes them into sound fabrics and image systems and performs them as large-format video installations. In the juxtaposition of the various exhibition projects, Helsinki is an extraordinarily dynamic platform for experimental art, transdisciplinary cooperation, and digital culture.

New residency for curators

This year, LUX Helsinki and FLASH jointly started a new initiative and invited a selection of curators and producers during the festival’s days. They built a program including artist talks and studio visits in addition to the festival visit. Mia Kivinen explains: “Our expectation is to see more light art from Finland at European festivals and exhibitions… this requires getting to know each other, exchange and community. This is what enables the mobility of artists and artworks in perspective, but it is also how ideas, advice, and opportunities are discussed. A lively, active community helps light art develop its full potential.”

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Niko Tiainen. LUX Helsinki 2024. Photo: Niko Tiainen.

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