Working with over 6,000 grant applications gave me hope in the dreariness of the autumn and the bleak situation in Finland and the rest of the world. I immersed myself in art and culture applications, in particular, that were sent to Kone Foundation, and the compassion, and boldness of thought and action in these passed through me like a tidal wave. I also felt anguish, but there was another reason for this.
It feels as though the world itself is asking us to respond, make active efforts and participate in change.
Many of the applications and funded projects deal with topical issues, such as the refugee crisis, environmental crisis, economic issues and racism. The projects highlight stereotypes, break down prejudices, help us to understand differences, provoke discussion of differing opinions, feel and help us feel empathy, and reach out to the future with hope.
I often wonder how the world stays intact with all the hate and indifference out there, but I feel slightly less worried about this now after reading the applications.
A year ago, when we sent letters to the successful grant applicants, we included a card with the following aphorism:
“There would be no birds without incubation”.
This aphorism was thought up by Jonimatti Joutsijärvi, the Saari Residence’s invited artist at the time. We included the aphorism in Kone Foundation’s new strategy, to highlight the importance of slowness. Creating new ideas and insights takes time, which is why we often fund projects over several years.
Laura Lindstedt, whose work has also been supported and will soon be supported again by Kone Foundation, said it took her eight years to write her novel which received the Finlandia Prize for Literature. I admire the perseverance that is needed in this work. I also admire Laura Lindstedt and other artists and researchers for their creation of the new and their imagination.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat in August Lindstedt said the following: “–– It is not worth writing about something that is already coherent and clear and which has already been resolved.” (HS 23.8.2015) Most of us are satisfied with thoughts that have already been resolved, things that have already been done and texts that have already been written. I am glad that there are still people out there who think new thoughts, work with unclear and indistinct matters and cultivate obscurities and inklings.
In the following, grant recipient Heli Meklin described her plan: “By applying for funding for work without having a clear idea of the final results and by giving space to inklings, I want to give value to the invisible parts of artistic work and to cultivate active obscurity.” Akseli Virtanen, who received a continuation grant, wrote about “the infinity or obscurity, which always characterises the birth of something new” and how “the energy of a funded project rises” from this.
A large amount of all the work done is invisible. Eggs are incubated but nothing happens. You need faith, skill and boldness to live with obscurity, paradoxes and slowness. The passion, commitment and persistent approach –that, in grant recipient Jaana Kokko’s words, “goes against the grain of the quarterly economy”– of doing things is something that this world needs in order to create the conditions in which birds can be born.
We were looking for bold initiatives in research and the arts in the grant applications. Johannes Ekholm, one of this autumn’s grant recipients, offered an excellent summary in his application of the joy that often comes across in the applications, and the feeling of looking towards the future and questioning the general scheme of things:
“–– I don’t think that progressive art will get stuck moping with a critical attitude. I think it will reach out into other directions, wherever there is joy to be found and joyful situations that can free the body of its paralysis, overthrow power with laughter, push down the walls of prejudice, blow warmth into frozen hearts, ask us to play, give life.”
And what about the anguish? That was related to the fact that so many excellent projects did not receive funding. Again, I hope that many of these projects will receive funding from elsewhere. I am pleased about the projects that received funding in Kone Foundation’s autumn 2015 application round, and it makes me feel even better knowing how many wonderful, beautiful and insightful projects knocked on our door.