Kone Foundation awarded more than EUR 30 million for art and research

The grant application process of autumn 2019 saw Kone Foundation award EUR 30.6 million to bold initiatives in art and research. Grants were awarded to a total of 325 people, organisations or working groups. The largest funding amounts of about half a million euros will provide the artists and researchers involved the opportunity to study, for example, childbirth experiences, justice within the music culture, the history of disability activism and the relationship between nature and humans.

A total of 5,559 applications were received during the grant call in September. A grant was awarded to 5.8% of the applicants.

“In the 2010s, the Foundation began to support fascinating projects spanning several years: many of them involve basic research, while others have a strong societal link. The selection criteria are academic excellence and the boldness of the project. These highly sought-after projects are important merits in the careers of the researchers involved. In addition, the Foundation grants substantial grants to individual researchers,” says Kalle Korhonen, Director of Research Funding at Kone Foundation.

“Kone Foundation has worked hard for several years to bring academic research and art together by funding joint projects between researchers and artists. It is gratifying to see researchers and artists work together in a growing number of research projects in particular. I am also happy to see such variety in the projects: it is essential to support thinking that approaches the world from different viewpoints, because it helps us to understand the complexity of the world today,” says Executive Director of Kone Foundation, Anna Talasniemi.

Kone Foundation supports research in humanities, social sciences and environmental science, artistic research, and artistic work in all sectors of art. The Foundation maintains the Saari Residence for artists and researchers in Mietoinen in Southwest Finland. In all, Kone Foundation has funded research, art and culture by approximately EUR 31.7 million in 2019. Kone Foundation’s 2020 grant call will take place from 1 September to 15 September 2020.


Research spawns activism and activism spawns research

The largest single grant this year was awarded to the Research Association Suoni, which focuses on music research. The association received EUR 563,000 in funding for its project, which develops the forms and methods of action-oriented music research and seeks to remedy unequal practices relating to gender, race, citizenship, and environmental problems in Finnish music culture.

Other projects also combine research and activism. Educationalist Reetta Mietola’s project (EUR 454,700) explores the present day and the history of disability activism and the disability movement. The aim of the project is to re-identify and describe the Finnish disability movement.

The project (EUR 491,800) of sociologist Kaisa Kuurne’s research group is the first extensive social science study on childbirth, its care and culture in Finland. It is founded on the campaign Me Too in the Birth Room, which has compiled women’s experiences of violence during childbirth. This four-year research project explores the turning point of Finnish childbirth culture, various delivery experiences, the role of midwives and other professionals, as well as the underlying institutional structures behind the treatment. The project is based on the activism of women who have given birth. Drama instructor Karoliina Kuvaja also addresses the topic in her podcast series on childbirth experiences (EUR 10,800).

Anxiety about the environmental crisis and the state of the world is a defining quality of more and more people’s lives, perhaps especially in the Nordic countries, but how do you cope with it? Can people rebuild their relationship with nature in a more sustainable way? The research project (EUR 489,600) led by Kaisa Hiltunen, PhD, harnesses the joint skills of ecologists, researchers of art and culture and artists to awaken people to the depletion of biodiversity before it is too late.

The aim of the project (EUR 400,000) led by Professor Päivi Honkatukia is to turn young people’s environmental anxiety into well-being through agency in environmental policy. In addition to scholarly publications, the research collective develops, in cooperation with young people, researchers and professionals working with the young, practical instruments and means of action within the field of environmental policy for young people between the ages of 12 and 16.

Educationalist Antti Saari and his working group (EUR 239,000) approach global warming as a challenge of self-education. This challenge is particularly evident in climate activism which seeks to influence the structures that accelerate global warming. The project shows that the challenge of preserving people’s ability to function is particularly linked to hope and hopelessness. It is not enough to rely solely on hope, but the complexity of the situation may lead to hopelessness. That is why self-education should strive to reach beyond these concepts.

In art, choreographer Mikko Niemistö and his working group (EUR 112,500) combine political activity with sleep – or the digital world’s constant state of being awake. According to Niemistö’s observation, timeless time, which is based on the eternal waking state, seems to break the familiar circumstances of sleep and political activity. Artist Antye Greie-Ripatti is putting together an audio work (EUR 19,400) that creates the soundscape for systemic oppression, such as militarisation, arms trafficking and the murder of women and journalists, but also presents visions to help overcome it by highlighting the authors of change, the often overlooked peace activists.

Theatre researcher, PhD Teemu Paavolainen (EUR 130,500) utilises the theory of activism to develop a new theory of human activity in relation to the dual crisis of global capitalism and accelerating environmental destruction. He examines both the humanistic and post-humanistic aspects of traditional theatre and performance research where, on the one hand, there is a risk of nature being reduced to props and, on the other, of releasing the human from responsibility.

What kind of history are we writing?

There are many projects that seek to answer key questions about whose stories and whose history have been and are being told in society and why.

In his publication project (EUR 70,000), PhD Miika Tervonen breaks down the national myths which today’s nationalist movements rest on and in whose creation 19th and 20th century historians have played a key role. Tervonen discusses the “white-washed” Finnish concept of history dating back to the 19th century and analyses the extent to which minorities and various ethnic groups have been ignored in historical research.

The history and traditions of the various minorities and ethnic groups in Finland are recorded and maintained, for example, in two museum projects.

The Museum of Roma Culture (Romanikulttuurin museo) in Helsinki was founded in 2018 and it records both physical and immaterial Roma traditions in its collections and makes the Finnish Roma culture visible through events and publication series. The funding granted (EUR 150,000) is used, among other things, to record Roma songs.

The MUITÁT project (EUR 300,000) of the Sámi Museum Siida and the University of Oulu’s Giellagas Institute explores and interprets the Saami cultural heritage by awakening shared memories. Partly forgotten material returned from outside the Saami region is being reintroduced into the everyday lives of the Saami people by recording the information and experiences related to the set of artefacts. In addition, the project aims to make more visible the idea of a Saami cultural environment in which the landscape is perceived as a repository and data bank of Saami experiential information.

Choreographer Ima Iduozee’s series of works named Adventures in the Sonic Future (EUR 57,600) examines the diversity of racialised cultural identities in Finland and elsewhere. The video portraits shot in Finland raise questions about where the boundary between Finnish and non-Finnish lies and who determines it.

Looking far into the past, the archaeological project (EUR 436,000) led by Professor Antti Sajantila explores the Levänluhta and Käldamäki lake cemeteries in Ostrobothnia, which date back to the first millennium. By studying the DNA of ancient people’s viruses, we gain important information about settlement in the region. The DNA results reveal that some of the people buried in Levänluhta have genetics similar to the modern Saami, although there is among them at least one individual whose genetics point to elsewhere in Scandinavia.

The challenges of biodiversity and smart technology in cities

Cities are intersections where questions about coexistence with other species and technology become concrete.

Doctoral researcher Purabi Deshpande (EUR 105,000) explores, in a project carried out in Helsinki and Bangalore, how interaction between people, birds and plants shapes the habitats of the future. Deshpande examines whether changing environmental factors influence the movement of birds between urban, rural and forest habitats, and whether urban habitats delay birds’ migration. In Bangalore, the research question is whether the plant species planted by people help flying pollinators to live in towns and cities.

Tuomas Aivelo, PhD, and his working group are working on a project (EUR 299,000) which explores how rats move and use urban spaces and how people cross paths with rats in the city and how they strive to prevent and control rats’ movements.

In his project (EUR 110,000), PhD Beñat Olascoaga aims to increase biodiversity in Helsinki. In the project, city dwellers participate in transforming urban lawn areas into grass areas, which are richer in terms of biodiversity than lawns. Master of Arts Venla Helenius and her working group are creating a collection of works named Tyyntyminen (Serenity), which views parks as fantasies created by urban planning (EUR 24,000).

In his doctoral dissertation (EUR 120,000), Mikael Brunila combines new analysis techniques of statistical material with theoretical thinking. Brunila explores how combining computer-aided analysis of natural language and location data shapes society – especially cities – for example, in services such as those of Airbnb and Google.

Alina Wernick (EUR 259,000), LL.M., studies the risks associated with smart urban technology. Wernick is interested in how the legality and legitimacy of the supervision technology installed in modern cities is guaranteed. The project raises questions about the rights of the townspeople, data management and automated decision-making in the interface between private and public actors in Finland, where smart urban technologies are currently being developed at a high rate.

Analysing the plastic crisis and the crisis of lost species

To date, 4,900 million tonnes of plastic waste have been produced on the planet and taken to landfills or left in the wild. The current plastic recycling methods are unable to remove plastic waste; instead, we need new methods because no natural microbe can break down different types of plastic. Kari Koivuranta’s working group PlastBug 2 (EUR 100,000) wants to start developing a microbe that would be able to do this. The project involves developing a biotechnical method to recycle plastic waste using enzymes and microbes.

PhD Sami Taipale and his working group are also studying microplastics in their project (EUR 300,000). They too are exploring ways to break down microplastics by examining whether microbes are able to use plastic particles as a source of carbon or, in other words, as a nutrient.

The goal of PhD Maria Heikkilä’s pilot project (EUR 60,000) is to find out whether in Finland microplastics end up inside insects that are in their larval stage and consequently inside bats and birds that feed on fully-grown insects. The project utilises as yet unexploited methods, such as samples of bat and bird droppings and regurgitated balls of food, to gain information quickly on whether microplastics end up in nature and how they move within the food web.

Dr. Hayley Clements (EUR 150,000) explores a controversial subject: what is the role of legal trophy hunting in preserving biodiversity and sustainable development in Southern Africa. There are arguments in favour and against. Some argue that hunting is unethical and a threat to biodiversity, while others say it benefits the local residents and thus facilitates the preservation of biodiversity.

The circumstances of the presentation of performance artist and scenographist Milla Martikainen and the Metsäesitys working group (EUR 37,700) consist of an advancing loss of biodiversity, with flying squirrels as the protagonists. The performance artists involved use their minds, bodies, and language to explore they way the structures of the human world open up in front of the eyes of the fictional pair of flying squirrels, Papana & Norkko.

Master of Music Kalle Vainio and his working group want to implement a piece called The Red List (EUR 28,800), which refers to the loss of species and is a large joint composition for the church organ and tape loops containing nature sounds, reproduced with recorders. The diverse soundscape gradually becomes more and more unidimensional and monotonous.


Why does populism draw people in and why is democracy floundering?

The serious challenges facing democracy and the rise of populism are subjects many researchers are interested in. What role will the leading international institution, the United Nations – whose significance in maintaining a safe world cannot be exaggerated – play in the future? Anna Kronlund, D.Soc.Sci, and her working group (EUR 254,500) ask how will the UN find its place in challenges that reach beyond national borders, such as respect for human rights, the climate crisis and piracy. The working group will sink their teeth into the debates that have taken place in the UN and the image they have produced of the organization’s legitimacy.

Associate Professor Inari Sakki and her working group (EUR 377,000) explore how a populist message attracts and mobilises supporters. Belonging in the field of social psychology, this project approaches populism as a relationship that involves the media and citizens, as well as political actors. The researchers interview people who have voted for populist parties and study the rhetoric and reception of populist leaders’ speeches and election campaigns in the hybrid media.

Emilia Palonen and her working group (EUR 376,000) bring a new perspective and tools to the study of hegemony and populism. The group analyses the significance of the use of physical places and the monuments located in them in politics and protests. The test field is Central Eastern Europe, which is known for its history of nationalism.

Palonen collaborates with the literary and cultural magazine Särö. The online version of the magazine publishes researchers’ articles on cultural populism and polarisation in Europe’s modern societies, among other things. Literature and Cultural Association Särö (EUR 247,000) received 4-year funding for the maintenance and development of its publishing and residency activities.

In their research (EUR 267,000), Professor Eerik Lagerspetz and his working group seek to analyse what the different crises of democracy mean. At the same time, they examine the extent to which crises and the necessity to respond to crises are, in fact, permanent, built-in features of democracy. In his doctoral thesis (EUR 86,400), M.Soc.Sci. Jonatan Ropponen examines liberal democracy, which is being challenged by undermining its foundation and introducing alternative governance models, such as illiberal democracies and authoritarian regimes.

Year after year, Finland remains on the list of the least corrupt countries in the world, yet even Finland is not free from corruption. The idea incubator The Dynamics of Groups and Societies (Ryhmien ja yhteiskuntien dynamiikka, Anja Salmi and the working group) conveys understanding about various forms of corruption using research and art (EUR 275,000). Its aim is to influence the Finnish society by identifying the forms of corruption in it and by strengthening, in particular, the ability of political actors to combat and prevent them.


A bunch of makers received grants for ecological encounters

Alongside this autumn’s general call for grants, a separate call was arranged for grant recipients already supported by the Foundation and for those arriving at the Saari Residence in 2020. The purpose of the latter call was to encourage people to engage in environmentally responsible encounters. This call allowed applicants to apply for funding for more sustainable travel, which is often more expensive than flying, or for organising virtual conferences and meetings. New applicants were also encouraged to engage in environmentally responsible encounters.

The separate call provided funding of approximately EUR 240,000 for 28 projects, which involve, for example, travel by road and organising satellite conferences in order to reduce environmental emissions.

Grant recipients 2019 – a list of all grants awarded

Statistics and listings of grants, prizes and donations 2019

The new bold makers report on their funded projects