”An artist’s work involves such a game and an ability to consider your personal relationship with the world that I find difficult to see in another profession.” Terike Haapoja says that even if she could not do it full-time, she would still definitely do art.
Haapoja is known for her issue-based and political works. As a grant recipient herself, she has witnessed how Kone Foundation’s funding towards the middle ground between academic research and art has made the field grow in Finland.
“Helsinki is known internationally in the art and science scene as an interesting place to do work,” explains Haapoja.
Her own pieces have been connecting research to art for years already. When Haapoja began to analyse her relationship with the world, for example with death and nature, she happened to find the tools for it from science.
“Ten years ago there weren’t really any networks between scientific research and art. I set foot to the university corridors myself and took basic courses. Creating a dialogue between different actors is extremely important for the birth of new and diverse things.”
According to Haapoja, dialogue and cooperation are also needed at present between the public and private sector, especially in the realm of social responsibility. A foundation such as Kone Foundation, together with the public sector, can guarantee that all voices get heard.
At the moment, Haapoja is shocked by the kind of culture of hate and inequality that Finland is slipping into.
“It is hard to imagine any situation that is more urgent at the moment. We have to produce platforms for other voices than fascist and racist ones. With cooperation we can also preserve the safety net of society, which is infinitely important.
Structures produce contents
Artists are usually pictured as bohemians, but they too can be made into pedants when provided the right tools. In the middle of the interview, Haapoja taps the screen of her phone and gets her car twenty more minutes of parking time. The phone application in control of parking time has saved her life, Haapoja laughs.
”I used to get two parking tickets a day”, she says.
Haapoja strongly believes that structures create certain kinds of behaviour. When you can increase parking time with a few swipes of the screen instead of coins and walking, it is less likely for a person to weasel out of parking fees.
According to Haapoja, structures also have a direct influence on what kind of content an artist can produce.
”Finland has a good support network, so choosing an uncertain profession does not mean you will die of hunger. For this reason, during fifteen years I have been able to make very political and non-commercial art. At Kone Foundation, I would like to get to research more precisely how structures can be further modified so that more and more voices get to be heard.”
An artist is always an artist
Haapoja knows what she is talking about. She has been spending a lot of time in New York recently, where she is now planning to settle down more permanently. Making non-commercial art there is practically impossible, which is why Haapoja’s experience has been very positively received.
”In New York, the only way to make a living from art is to make very commercial art or teach full-time. Art school graduates have hundreds of thousands in student debt. There is a complete lack of support systems to promote daring there,” Haapoja clarifies.
She is grateful for having been able to do what she loves for a long time already.
“In my twenties I was rebelling against my artist parents and was a roadie for a while. Then I ended up studying lighting design and through that visual arts. Now I couldn’t imagine doing something else than art. I still bring what I’ve learned from lighting design into my works, so eventually that path proved important too,” Haapoja smiles.
Not bold, but fearless
Although Haapoja is now also a member of the Kone Foundation Board of Trustees, her identity does not change.
“I’m here just as an artist. My background is in the area between art and science, so I know both fields, as well as arts policy. I was very happy when I was asked to join the Board of Trustees.”
At Kone Foundation, she wants to keep in mind a thought that she also values in art: Boldness means taking risks. Taking risks in turn means anything could go wrong. This has to be accepted, according to Haapoja.
“It is paradoxical that risk-taking is usually encouraged in our society, but failure is far from loved,” Haapoja ponders.
How is boldness apparent in her own art, then?
“I can’t think of myself as bold. Fearless, perhaps more so. I dare to keep the focus on issues that are important to me. Then questions of boldness and fear become irrelevant. I have learned to recognize when something feels certain to me. Recognizing our inner experience is a radar that helps to switch off the noise of the environment.”
Boldness is: ”Independent thinking, accountability and commitment. Play is also bold. Loving too, of course.”
Boldness is not: “Just looking out for your own interests is not bold. However, fearing for yourself is human. Fear breeds not only anger and aggression, but bad art too. That’s why we should try to create structures where people can be fearless, and through there do bold, genuine deeds.”
Terike Haapoja, born 1974, is the only child of an artist family. She has spent her childhood at the tip of Porkkalanniemi, Kirkkonummi, playing in the woods. Later on, Haapoja obtained master’s degrees in Theatre and Drama and in Fine Arts, from the Helsinki Theatre Academy and Academy of Fine Arts respectively, and studied abroad.
Nowadays Haapoja is constantly on the road. Her work takes her to New York and Finland and she also has an apartment in Berlin. Her spiritual home is still always in Finland in her family’s old cottage, where she spends her summers.
Text: Enni Sahlman, Kaskas media