Visual artist Marja Helander is FCINY’s artist-in-residence in March 2017. Helander’s work is based on her Sámi roots. Sámi people are the indigenous people of Scandinavia. Traditionally they have lived by reindeer-breeding, hunting and fishing in the northern parts of Scandinavia and Russia. Through self-portraits, Helander has examined her own identity between the Finnish and the Sámi culture: the contradiction between urbanity and an indigenous identity.
Marja Helander primaly works with photography and video art. In her work the lead role is played by the Northern landscape and its special living conditions. Recently Helander has been concentrating on post-colonial topics among Sámi area; international mining industry is invading into Sámi land and factory and mine milieus leave permanent marks in nature. Helander’s pictures of Kiruna, for example, depict a Sámi landscape where a whole fell has turned into refuse after years of mining industry. In the end, what is going to happen with those industrial landscapes stained by pollution? How do Sámi people fit into this new polluted environment?
Currently Helander is working with Harri Pälviranta and Kari Soinio to organize an exhibition for Finnish Museum of Photography in 2018. The exhibition will mainly consist of self-portraits and landscapes that examine the theme of invisibility.
The questions of invisibility are common for all native peoples. In New York Helander will address the theme of invisibility by studying the native peoples of America. The native peoples have had a remarkable impact on the birth of the modern city of New York – for example, they have been building the skyscrapers of Manhattan. However, these peoples’ work has often been dismissed. They have become invisible in the modern metropolis, just like the Sámi people have become invisible in the middle of the mining industry. During her residency Helander aims to study and work on this topic of invisibility, possibly by cooperating with a native American artist.
http://www.fciny.org/residency/hanna-kanto http://www.fciny.org/residency/johanna-vaino-merja-seitsonen http://www.fciny.org/residency/karoliina-paatos