Saari Residence


In Mynä-Mynä-Maa, creators acted as equals, communicating openly

Kuva | Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa

In her master’s thesis, which was approved in early 2023, Veera Saukkonen studied a community work of art organised by Kone Foundation’s Saari Residence in cooperation with the municipality of Mynämäki. This community artwork was open to the public in the summer of 2022, reaching more than 10,000 visitors. The work of art was created over a period of 18 months by more than 250 creators in the municipality of Mynämäki’s former residential care home, which will be demolished in the near future.

The former residential care home gets a new lease of life

Mynä-Mynä-Maa, a community artwork organised collaboratively by Kone Foundation’s Saari Residence and the municipality of Mynämäki, captivated the audience, reaching 10,000 visitors in 2022. It was created over a period of 18 months on the premises of the former Lizeliuskoti residential care home in Mynämäki.

The community art project culminated in an opening ceremony in May 2022, after which it was opened to the public during the summer of the same year and partly also during the autumn. Involving more than 250 people, the community artwork consists of 72 works, of which 43 were made in separate rooms, mainly former patient rooms.

Each work immerses the visitor in its own unique world. The themes of the pieces vary greatly, although some recur more than others. For example, locality and the relationship between humans and nature are recurring themes. The works mostly form their own entities, each with their own story. The stories behind the works are often intertwined with the lives of the creators and deal with, for example, local livelihoods and environmental protection. Despite the many themes, types of material and ways of creating them, the works form a coherent whole that seems to have a common identity.

Experiences of authorship within the project

As a community work of art, Mynä-Mynä-Maa has enabled various experiences of authorship. All the people involved in the creative work of the project are its creators because ‘creator’, as a term, best corresponds to how the people who made the artwork experienced their role in the project. As a term, ‘creator’ does not distinguish between professional and non-professional makers but emphasises the equal role everyone played in implementing the project.

Over the course of 18 months, people from all walks of life participated in the project. Their goals in terms of their share in it may have varied. Although many creators saw the project as an opportunity to work together within the same premises, it is essential to recognise also other kinds of experiences of authorship.

Many kinds of people were involved in the community artwork, including people who were only involved for a short period of time and not always physically present themselves in the Mynä-Mynä-Maa premises. In such cases, the experience of authorship may not necessarily have become strong. However, due to its long duration, the project allowed the creators a particularly committed type of participation. Working within the project for months, and in some cases for more than a year, gave the creators the opportunity to focus on their own works and their goals in relation to them in a special way. Such structured artistic aspirations are prominent among the creators of Mynä-Mynä-Maa.

In addition to its long duration, the community project offered the creators extensive opportunities to realise their own artistic visions, thanks to the large spaces they worked in. As a community artwork, Mynä-Mynä-Maa has been exceptional in that all the creators appear under their own names, which has likely increased their motivation. As a result, their experience of authorship has grown in a very special way.

Art made alone together and the importance of peer support

The different experiences of authorship and, in particular, the focus of the creators on their personal artistic endeavours were made possible not only by the starting points of the community art project, but also by the community artists Pia Bartsch and Meri-Maija Näykki, as well as the atmosphere of trust and mutual and equal communication that existed between them and the creators.

The community artists and their guidance played an essential role in unifying the project and in making the creators feel that they and their ideas were welcome as soon as they set foot in Mynä-Mynä-Maa. The peer support provided by the creators to each other throughout the process increased their sense of the important part they played in the project and strengthened the experience of community.

The different authorships in Mynä-Mynä-Maa manifested themselves, for example, in the creators’ different ways of working. In addition to the artistic activities that took place in the common areas, the creators worked independently on their own pieces, either within a smaller
group or alone. This kind of art made alone together reflects the size of the project and the smaller groups within its community, as well as the inner artistic work and goals of these groups. We must recognise how communality and making art do not necessarily manifest themselves in a community art project only as the actual work to create art together. Instead, the different types of authorship also emerge as communities within the project or as individual creators whose artistic aspirations and the main focus of their work are directed at their own creations.

Regardless of whether the creators worked on their pieces alone or together or how much they participated in artistic work outside their own pieces, the majority of them had the experience of belonging to a group. The common goal of creating a community artwork united the creators into a large group, in which everyone did their best with their own piece, depending on their individual starting points.

Material changes and the nature of the gradually vanishing work

In addition to the creators, the Mynä-Mynä-Maa process was guided by the choice of materials and their availability, as well as the premises of the former residential care home, which is where the community artwork is located. With the exception of the tools and materials required for the work and especially the preliminary work, the materials used in the project were mostly recycled, which means that their availability had an impact on the ideation and implementation of the works. It was also possible for the creators to consciously emphasise the importance of the materials as a means of telling the story of the work. The works utilise, among other things, insulation material left over from construction sites, pages from official lists of medicines and wild plants.

The physical environment of Mynä-Mynä-Maa has partly limited, but also made it possible to realise even the wildest of ideas. The former patient rooms have been turned, for example, into an undersea world and a post-human space that nature has taken over as its own.

Mynä-Mynä-Maa is a multisensory entity whose works can be seen and felt in many ways. In addition to their visual form, the works contain various surfaces, some of which can even be touched. Their multisensory nature is also manifested in the form of sound and movement, which both act, for example, as creators of mood and elements that invite the viewer to engage with them. The multisensory factors are also present in the complete finished work as changes that are beyond the creators’ influence.

The materials have continued to exist during the project and after its completion. They act as independent actors within the community artwork, in cooperation with the human hand.
The material changes in the works caused by such non-human actors are noticeable in their visual appearance when, for example, natural materials wither, paintwork wears out and paper surfaces become warped over time. Months after the opening, changes can be observed in the odour of, for example, works containing natural or clay-based materials.

The way some of the works communicate with the environment outside the borders of Mynä-Mynä-Maa affects the mood they portray. The works may appear different depending, for example, on the lighting or even the season. The way the community artwork settles in its surroundings and adapts to the changes in the landscape emphasises its adaptability.

Mynä-Mynä-Maa is special

The unique nature of the project lies in the exceptionally extensive way of executing it and its location in the former local residential care home. The method of execution, in turn, includes both the duration of the project, its concrete size and the significant number of creators involved. The mutual and equal collaboration between the guiding community artists and other creators, as well as exhibiting the works under each creator’s own name, has undoubtedly increased the creators’ motivation to carry out their work.

In addition to the feeling of working together and belonging to the group of creators, their artistic aspirations and their pursuit of them played an essential role in the project. A prerequisite for the realisation of a creator’s artistic vision was their ability to act as active parties in the project. In the end, the experience of authorship became more important than the creators’ artistic identity, even though the creators felt that they were making art. The way Mynä-Mynä-Maa challenges and expands perceptions of art and artistic identity in a positive way highlights its uniqueness.