Museum of Impossible Forms (MIF) is a cultural center for alternative practices in suburb of Kontula, East Helsinki, formed in 2017. As artists, curators, researchers, art workers and ‘Others’, a significant part of MIF’s practice is of enquiry, research and representations of experiences as well as parallel personal and public histories. We are striving towards legibility – a vocabulary. At its core, MIF houses a multilingual library, a multimedia archive, and a workshop and exhibition space. It facilitates curated discursive art programs, with an opportunity for norm-critical dialogue framed within the discourse of decoloniality, postcolonial feminism, and queer theory. MIF is envisioned to be a free space with the mandate to avail our resources and expertise to the immediate community in which we are embedded, and to support a cultural labor which is all too often underpaid and underappreciated. MIF wants to steer culture towards a decentralised and non-elitist position and co-generate it with the community as its own creative common.
Kontula was conceived of as a Utopian project marking 50 years of Finnish Independence, largely constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. With the end of the cold war in the 1990’s, Kontula witnessed the devastating effect of economic crisis as well as an influx of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. Today, the business ventures of Kontula Mall that also houses MIF, serve the needs of a growing demographic change (Iraqi and Syrian eating houses, immigrant run barbershops, hairdressers and bakeries) have created hybrid sites practicing the politics of togetherness, by reviving dying shopping malls to serve its own needs, engages the performativity of its own culture and as a contemporary institution remaking its own center.
As members of Museum of Impossible Forms, we want to nestle our artistic and curatorial praxis within these contexts of counter-hegemonic intervention. MIF members are primarily ‘border thinkers’, and are of native, foreign and/or immigrant descent. The importance of such initiatives lies in their working within the margins – margins, as opposed to the commercial, historic and political centers of the city. Historically, we know that even though marginalised areas were underdeveloped culturally, it does not mean that culture does not exist. Rather they have tended to be voiceless and invisible, without hegemonic capital. Can we engage with these communities sincerely, ethically, and from within meaningfully? We want to take culture away from a centralised and elitist position. As such, our aim is not to import culture into “cultural deserts,” but to co-generate it with the community, as its own creative common. This project questions the dynamics that the role art can have in its own environment.
The MIF collective is born out of current and former members of the Third Space Collective, which has for the past three years, successfully operated a gallery in Punavuori, Helsinki. Third Space was born out of necessity of the lack of accessible free spaces especially for artists on the margins of the Finnish art scene. By ‘necessity’ we mean the need to rethink the elitism being nurtured by the Finnish gallery system, the need to be independent and critical, but still engaged, and the need to have a space where failing is embraced as a counter normative action. As we worked as a collective, this necessity encountered again and again the inexorable ‘alteriority
It is the tension-space of these necessities that forms the vector of The Museum of Impossible Forms, which aims to create what curator and critic Okwui Enwezor calls ‘parallel economies of artistic production’ as opposed to ‘alternative spaces’ – to engage not just with the “art-world” of Helsinki, but marginalized communities as well. As a powerful everyday concept, “the economy” has affective purchase; people pay attention when we start playing around with it – thinking about it differently, for instance, or working to build a ‘parallel economy’. Adopting a category that has become common sense, we are attempting to make it “useful” for projects of non-capitalist development. If we abandon the concept, and resort to an ontology that doesn’t involve an “economy,” we are at risk of being ignored. But by placing “economy” alongside “parallel” and “community,” we draw on resonant contemporary values of social inclusion and interdependence, transforming the “economy concept” into a platform for ethical approaches to surviving and thriving.
The curatorial focus for our first year will be Pedagogical Forms. How do the acts of bookmaking, the creation of a multi-lingual library, propagation of literature in Helsinki outside the purviews and restrictions of Finnish language, and inclusion of art practices in school learning constitute Alternate Pedagogy? This is, in a way, homage to the multicultural space of Kontula, and a step for us towards absorbing and embedding The Museum of Impossible Forms within it. To this end, we host Ruskeat Tytöt Media to share workspace; writer Hassan Blasim to conduct a writing course for immigrant writers; artists Anastasia Artemeva and Arlene Tucker to work with local schools through their project ‘Dear You’; to engage through their practices, a further understanding of what does it mean to create an Alternate Pedagogy. We invite Renuka Rajiv, artist and zine maker, working in the space of popuar culture and criticism, to an artist residency. We are currently collaborating with Aalto University Art Masters’ programs, where the ViCCA (Visual Culture and Contemporary Art) and CuMMA (Curating, Managing and Mediating Art) lectures, discourses and seminars will be open to public. Most importantly, we invite people to join us and participate in The Museum of Impossible Forms.
The project has been made possible by funding and gracious support from Kone Foundation.
For more about our program and updates, please check our website & Like/follow on social media:
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 The concept of ‘border thinkers’ was first used in the context of Decolonial Theory by Gloria Anzaldúa in her book ‘Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza’ and has subsequently been developed by Decolonial thinkers, most prominently Walter Mignolo. Border thinking is thinking from the outside, using alternative knowledge traditions and alternative languages of expression.
 Here ‘Alteriority’ is used as a psychoanalytic and phenomenological term pertinent in the discourse of the other – to have a sense of otherness, understood as the entity in contrast to which an identity is constructed, implying the ability to distinguish between self and not-self. It may also be read in context to post-colonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who uses the term to articulate possibilities for alternative histories. Thus, another ‘necessity’ announced itself: the need to interrogate why, despite immigrants and queers being ubiquitous in Finnish society, a disproportionate absence within the art scene specifically, and culture in general.