Kone Foundation’s funding for research and the arts rises to 40 million euros in 2020

Kone Foundation has awarded EUR 37.8 million to researchers and artists for their work in the annual grant call of 2020. Funding was awarded to a total of 300 individuals, organisations or working groups. The total sum of the grants and awards allocated for the year amounted to EUR 40 million. The funded projects give the Foundation the opportunity to take a broad look at what is happening in the world today and what are the effects of the past on the present day, as well as to build a positive future. This year, the pulse beats particularly strongly for themes related to children, technology and cities.

In the application round organised in September, the Foundation received a total of 6,563 applications. In addition to the general grant application round, the Foundation organised the final thematic grant call called “Sustainable Development, Russia and Finland” within the funding programme The Changing “Neighournesses” of Finland. It also provided the opportunity for people running projects already funded by the Foundation to apply for additional funding to ensure they could continue projects that had fallen through or been slowed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. There was also a call for applications for residencies at the Lauttasaari Manor, intended for international cooperation.

“Kone Foundation is more than happy to support long-term work that requires immersion into a subject. The applications we received convey the full spectrum of life, encompassing both burning issues and timeless topics. They also always include seeds for the future for things that don’t exist yet. The coronavirus has had a major impact on the livelihoods of people working in the art and cultural sectors in particular and this was reflected in the number of applications we received relating to art. The pandemic was not clearly reflected, on the other hand, in the application themes or the working methods suggested by the applicants,” says Executive Director of the Foundation, Anna Talasniemi.

“The research funded by Kone Foundation is firmly rooted in the present day, but offers variety to people who are tired of the pandemic and the presidential elections of a superpower. Academics look beyond daily politics,” says Kalle Korhonen, the Foundation’s Director of Research Funding.

“Interdisciplinary research and especially collaboration between research and the arts emerged stronger than ever this year, perhaps because the forms of cooperation have evolved. The effects of the work funded previously by the Foundation were clearly evident in many of the projects, while the Foundation also granted funding to several postdoctoral researchers and doctoral candidates who have come to Finland from other countries. I admire the hundreds of researchers and artists who write well-informed recommendations for applicants every year. They play an important role, especially in the assessment of less experienced applicants.”

Kone Foundation supports research in the fields of arts and humanities, artistic research, social sciences and environmental science, as well as artistic work in all sectors of art. The Foundation maintains the Saari Residence for artists and researchers in Mietoinen, Southwest Finland and the Lauttasaari Manor residence in Helsinki. Kone Foundation’s 2021 grant call will take place from 1 September to 15 September 2021.


Highlighting the children affected by the exercise of power and power structures

How could society’s institutions better support children? What can we learn from the mistakes of the past to ensure that the rights of a child are realised and that children are treated as full members of the family and society? A number of projects this year address these and other similar questions.

In order to make sure that no more young people in Finland become marginalised, the association Aseman lapset (“Children of the Station”) will embark on an administrative science project to study what they call “the devil’s polka” (EUR 324,800). Their aim is to find out how service structures should be developed in order for them to better meet the needs of young people who commit crimes as a response to their distress and unhappiness. By devil’s polka, the project researchers refer to the state of the current services whose structures make it difficult to address the needs of young people as a complete whole, which is what facing complex problems requires.

Marjo Laitala, M.Ed., leads a project that explores the childhood and school experiences of deaf Finns of various ages and uses these experiences along with music and various media to create a new kind of dialogue between deaf people and people with no hearing impairment (EUR 386,000). The project involves collecting oral history in sign language in collaboration with deaf communities, after which the research will be popularised as a podcast and vodcast, a song and music video.

Master of Fine Arts Juliana Hyrri is writing the script and creating the drawings for a comic novel called Pöydän alla piilo (Hiding Place under the Table), in which they examine the child as the other, as foreign and as a figure equated to animals (EUR 30,000). Partly biographical, partly fictional, this work explores, among other things, a child’s sexuality and social inequality from the child’s point of view. It is in part based on Hyrri’s own history and stories from their immediate circle about their childhood experiences, which have long been taboo. Director Visa Koiso-Kanttila’s film Tyttö ja korppi (The Girl and the Crow) is a story about a teenage girl who has been confined to a child welfare institution and who begins to rebel against the abusive staff and their arbitrary rules (EUR 43,200). The film is based on interviews with young people who have lived in child welfare institutions and their stories.

In their anthropological research, Katja Uusihakala, Dr.Pol.Sc., and their team examine the imprints that colonial history has made on Western welfare states. They do this by comparing the apologies made to the victims of child welfare systems (EUR 433,000). The case studies focus on colonial childcare systems and the forcible removal of children from their families, put into practice in the name of saving the children and providing them with an education and a better future in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Professor Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen and their team study children’s and young people’s experiences of poverty and deprivation in crisis-ridden Finland from the 19th century to the present day (EUR 436,300). Combining research of history and welfare work, this multidisciplinary project produces information on how everyday experiences of poverty differ from one era and one crisis to another and, at the same time, explores which parts of the experiences of poverty suffered in childhood and adolescence are the same, regardless of the era and social circumstances.

Human rights activist Ujuni Ahmed and author Elina Hirvonen are writing a book of essays on the experiences of a girl who has moved from Somalia to Finland (EUR 55,000). It is intended for women and girls who want to determine their own path in life, but who live in communities and families where a girl’s freedom of action and self-determination are controlled by invoking the norms set in place by culture or religion.

What happens when dance pedagogue Tuire Colliander spends several months in a municipal daycare centre? In their doctoral thesis in artistic research, Colliander examines dance pedagogy for young children which is based on ethical and respectful encounters (EUR 133,400). The aim is to dismantle traditional dichotomous adult-child, teacher-student and performer-spectator set-ups.

Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate and, especially in cities, children’s connection to nature is limited. Senior Researcher Jenni Lehtimäki’s team (EUR 174,000) examines the impact of the quality of home environments – i.e. their biodiversity and how close to their natural state they are – on children’s risk of developing diseases of affluence. The project utilises the data of over a million children in Finland, which will result in the largest international analysis of the topic to date.

In their multidisciplinary project, Professor Kristiina Kumpulainen and their team explore children’s ecological imagination and its promotion using stories emerging from cultural heritage and the technology of augmented reality (EUR 196,500). The research project aims to discover how the pedagogy previously developed by the team and the materials related to it stimulate and broaden children’s ecological imagination. It sheds light on how children form their own relationship with nature in a changing society and ecology, and how they see the future of the planet.

Comic strip artist and cartoonist Maria Björklund is writing a script for an animated series called Planeetta Z (Planet Z) for children aged 6 to 9. It describes the strange ecosystem of an odd planet and its inhabitants (EUR 72,000). The challenge for the various creatures living on the planet is to get along with each other, which often requires cooperation.

The future is always built by a new generation, and today’s generation of young people have a strong desire for change. This is the subject of Goeun Park’s doctoral thesis, in which they study young people’s communal climate actions. Park explores how young people undertake communal climate action and how the do-it-yourself approach helps in making a collective change in attitudes (EUR 33,000).

The circular economy, forests and civic activities

In the final thematic call “Sustainable Development, Russia and Finland”, which concludes the funding programme known as The Changing “Neighbournesses” of Finland, ten research projects or initiatives combining research and art were funded with a total of more than EUR 3 million. Docent Ekaterina Shorokhova’s research project, which involves researchers from the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is linked to a discussion on forest felling, which is very topical in Finland (EUR 257,250). The four-year research project deals with light selection felling, which means pruning trees selectively to support the sustainability of forests. Various types of retention forestry, which avoids clear felling, have been carried out in the Soviet Union and Russia for 100 years. The effects of different forest management methods can therefore now be monitored over a relatively long time series.

Led by postdoctoral researcher Angelina Korsunova-Tsaruk, Finnish and Russian researchers from different universities study the various mechanisms of circular economy in Finland and Russia (EUR 361,800). The counterpart to Finland’s institutionalised circular economy in Russia are civic activities which aim to develop recycling in circumstances where the institutional framework is weak.

Another research project related to civic activities is one led by Professor Eeva Luhtakallio. It examines the ways in which Russians and Finns politicise environmental crises at local, national and cross-border levels (EUR 430,500). The researchers involved investigate what kinds of visual tools are used in these countries and what kinds of emotions and arguments are brought forward in the environmental debate.

The largest of the projects funded within the thematic call is Assistant Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen’s project which combines a research-based and artistic approach and explores the energy transition in Finland and Russia (EUR 637,700). The researchers examine the entire cycle of fossil and renewable energy in three areas: in the energy sector, at the level of civic activism and in the media. The project will also produce documentary film material and art photography.

Master of Fine Arts Miina Hujala’s project is even more closely associated with the art sector. It examines the ecological nature of the activities of artist residences in Finland and Russia (EUR 358,000). In it, curators and journalists work together to find out how residences can create practical solutions to achieve sustainable development goals.


Justice for people in cities!

The Foundation funds a number of projects that explore the fairness and democratic nature of urban spaces. J.D. Ari Hirvonen’s project The City as a Space for Rules and Dreaming aims to make the urban space more democratic (EUR 379,600). The project uses artistic research, empirical urban research, political theories and legal science to develop a fair urban space. The project will introduce new and more inclusive methods of “soft law” for urban judicial decision-making.

PhD Tiina Männistö-Funk’s project Whose City explores the same topic. It studies the aspirations for equality and justice in urban environments from the 1960s and 70s to the present day, and involves making art and doing research (EUR 322,600). The project delves into the roots of traditional practices and examines them critically from a feminist perspective. In Männistö-Funk’s opinion, current urban planning benefits some, while harming others based, for example, on their age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and ability to function. They compare current urban planning to that of the 60s and 70s, when policies were made and systems were implemented in community and traffic planning that to this day largely form the basis for how our cities operate.

Miina Pohjolainen, MA, and artist Salla Valle’s project Ostaritutkimuksia (Shopping Centre Studies) focuses on the same era, examining shopping centres built in the 60s and 70s in Helsinki through art and curation. The basis of the study is the idea that the physical framework of the space does not necessarily need to be changed in order to change its purpose. Furthermore, is it possible to imagine shopping centres as spaces whose utilisation and design is not led by the paradigm of continuous growth, but by ecological and social sustainability?

The project by artists Tuike and Simo Alitalo seeks methods and practices for people to protect and defend their everyday auditory environments, so that they remain pleasant to listen to (EUR 180,800). Alitalo’s working group wants us to learn to demand control over our auditory environments, instead of learning, for example, to close our ears to noise. Artist and journalist Sara Kärpänen will continue writing their handbook on taking possession of the public space (EUR 7,500). The book reminds us that everyone has the opportunity to participate in shaping their own urban everyday environment.


Research on activists’ technology, digital drugs and drugs in the dark web

For years now, Kone Foundation has been funding research that explores, using an analytical and often critical tone, the impact technology has on society. In their doctoral thesis of political science, Sonja Savolainen examines how political movements, such as the environmental movement, Black Lives Matter and the Hong Kong protesters, use communication technology in their operations and how some of them plan their operations based on high visibility and others based on invisibility (EUR 135,000). Savolainen investigates the matter using material from the social media. The research project led by Matti Nelimarkka, PhD, focuses on studying how the power of information systems works (EUR 318,000). Studies have been made on the political significance of algorithms and online platforms, but we do not yet know how the design and construction of these information systems affects the role they play in politics, for example.

In recent years, people have started to use technology – especially psychedelic virtual reality and soundscapes – as tools for expanding their consciousness. The researchers in a project led by Professor Juho Hamari analyse these “digital drugs”, which also highlight the intrusion of technology into more and more areas of human life (EUR 256,000). This is a new field of research in which hardly any basic research has been conducted as yet, but its importance will increase in the next few years. In their post-doctoral research, Johanna Ranta, DSocSci, studies real but illegal drugs and the issues related to dealing them online (EUR 124,000). Using ethnographic methods, they explore anti-drug work carried out in the dark web and on the streets, and explore what kinds of opportunities, weak spots and risks the dark web and the streets as meeting places afford for this kind of anti-drug work.


Cultural heritage affects us all

Cultural heritage and history affect present-day people in many ways. Various narratives from history and traditions preserved through the ages are present in our lives today, but in order to understand their presence, they must be made visible.

Docent Elina Hytönen-Ng, PhD, and their working group’s project Kyynelkanavat (Tear Ducts) focuses on modern-day practitioners of lamenting traditions, such as those described in Kalevala, and the meanings they give for the laments (EUR 399,100). Through art and research, the group reflects on the role of laments in a modern person’s life: what do laments and lamenting traditions consist of today? The researchers/artists also intend to take a closer look at the decaying communality of society which is clearly highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Master of Arts Jenni Haili will implement a work based on their family history and the memory of a place. In it, they will visit and photograph the landscapes of their family Haili’s past both in the rural municipality of Vyborg and in New York (EUR 30,000). Maria Ylikoski, MFA, on the other hand, will compile a portrayal of her aunt, Ester Markkola, who was a maid to President Urho Kekkonen, for more than 30 years (EUR 20,000). Markkola lived in the attic of the presidential home Tamminiemi, travelled with Kekkonen to Hawaii and Buckingham Palace, ironed shirts, bought ties, served evening tea and was always available. She didn’t move out of Tamminiemi until after the president had passed away.

Docent Jukka Kortti and the writers of the working group Suomen tarinat (Stories of Finland) are interested in the processes through which the narratives of Finnish history were created, how their content has been negotiated and what kind of a narratives are conveyed to the public about being Finnish (EUR 243,000). The research will focus on studying the exhibition of the National Museum of Finland, created for the one-hundred-year jubilee of Finland’s independence, and the fiction and documentary films funded by the Finnish Government’s Suomi100 project.

There are hardly any studies on the cultural impact of Finnish fascism. The project of Kimi Kärki, PhD, and their working group focuses on the cultural heritage of Finnish fascism and, in particular, its emotional influence (EUR 351,300). In today’s cultural climate, patriotism, fascism and nationalism have become intertwined and intermingled. The project also has an artistic element: theatre director Fiikka Forsman and sound artist Petri Kuljuntausta, PhD, will implement a performance series within a project called He sanoivat: Rajat kiinni, uunit auki (Close the Borders, Open the Ovens). The aim of the project is to analyse and dramatise the dark cultural heritage behind the Finnish identity.

Doctoral researcher Marika Kivinen and their colleague Maren Jonasson study descriptions of Afro-American slavery in the Finnish press from 1860 to 1930 and exoticism in Finnish music in the 1910s and 1930s in order to trace colonial thinking, stereotypes and recurrent patterns in Finnish culture (EUR 114,000). Kivinen and Jonasson call this “colonial background noise” and “tinnitus”, and at the time, society was full of it.

In their project combining research and art, Tiina Äikäs, PhD, and their working group explore the life cycle of factory chimney-stacks as part of today’s cultural heritage (EUR 343,600). Many old chimney-stacks have been dismantled due to the safety hazard they posed, but while the factory communities flourished, the chimney-stacks were the community’s landmarks and symbols of their vitality. The project includes research and field work in four old factory locations, work to develop an interactive map application, and an art project, which involves turning interview material into sound works and a text installation.


How do museums and libraries promote equality?

Many new grantees are interested in cultural institutes that have the strength, if they wish, to promote equality and dismantle power structures. The aim of the research project Otetaan museo takaisin! (Let’s take back the museum!), led by Professor Lea Kantonen, is to decolonise the world of art and museums by highlighting the tacit knowledge of indigenous peoples, present in stories told in their communities and in their everyday practices (EUR 359,000). The project seeks to support indigenous art and museums in locations where indigenous peoples live and, in this way, to strengthen indigenous peoples’ knowledge, autonomy and independent self-expression.

Doctoral researcher Shikoh Shiraiwa starts their work from the observation that the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have made colonial power structures particularly visible and highlight the way museums reflect and perpetuate global inequality (EUR 80,000). In their doctoral thesis, Shiraiwa examines how museums can achieve cultural and social sustainability and promote equality between cultures, ethnic groups and other minority groups.

Riie Heikkilä, Dr.Pol.Sc., and their research group study the use of artificial intelligence in libraries (EUR 198,800). Heikkilä asks how the use of algorithms as a tool for managing library collections affects the public’s use of libraries and how libraries’ basic function is realised in this age of algorithms. The project provides tools for interpreting the role of algorithms in public culture and the understanding to nurture the role of Finnish libraries as a bastion of cultural equality.


Environmental and art journalism gain strong new initiatives

Long Play Media will publish special issues on environmental change in which journalists and environmental scientists together will produce research-based journalism. Led by Hanna Nikkanen, MSc, the project combines the best practices in current and narrative environmental journalism. By combining narrative and investigative journalism with the findings of multidisciplinary research, the environmental publication will produce entirely new information on environmental topics. The project is made possible by co-funding from the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation and Kone Foundation, totalling EUR 160,000. Their funding decisions exemplify good cooperation between foundations which is based on a common understanding of what is topical and important.

Vidha Saumya, MA, and their working group will start publishing the monthly NO NIIN online magazine, which will focus in a broad way on Finnish contemporary art and its phenomena (EUR 214,000). The magazine aims to close the gap between the country’s active cultural life and the currently insufficient cultural media. Observing and challenging art by writing and other means makes what is happening in the cultural field right now visible.

In his project, author Antti Nylén seeks to develop the structure of the self-publishing of art books to promote the professional production and distribution of small-scale multi-arts publications (EUR 90,000). Nylén wants to create a space where independent, marginalised literary content that requires immersion – such as art essays and small-scale translations of classics into Finnish – converges with a new visual arts-related concept of non-institutional publishing.


Grant recipients 2020 – a list of all grants awarded

Statistics and listings of grants, prizes and donations 2020

Take a moment to listen to Kone Foundation’s new grantees