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Winter at Grazer Kunstverein

Alma Heikkilä
not visible or recognizable in any form
11–18 December 2020, 10 February – 19 March 2021

Alma Heikkilä, found living in total darkness, 2020, Grazer Kunstverein, Photography by Christine Winkler

Energy (food / organic matter) going through my body, my colon. Soil (food / organic matter) going through the worm’s body. A neat pile of poop after us. Soft and flexible tunnels that are our bodies. Slowly, twisting around each other, humidity, and us reaching towards the rhizomes or them reaching to us.

Alma Heikkilä is fascinated by the collective activities of soil creatures; from nematodes to fungi, spores to mycelium. Heikkilä’s artistic work evokes a deep sensorial knowledge of ecosystems and the interdependencies of myriad organisms in mutual co-existence. Finding form in sculpture and large-scale painting, she strives to create a space for humans to imagine an up-close encounter or experience with the invisible processes that occur in the soil, often at a microscopic level.

For her solo exhibition at Grazer Kunstverein Heikkilä presents a newly produced body of work, radiating around a macroscale double-sided painting, titled found living in total darkness. This painting is a luminous meditation on the processes that take place in slow continuum within soil organisms nestled under the surface of the earth.  In paint and plaster Heikkilä portrays webs and filaments, microbes and insect life, depicting rhizomatic structures of interdependency and symbiosis. She is interested in non-human agencies of change, for example the role of soil in the climate crisis. Through her painting and sculptural work she illuminates these largely imperceptible biotic communities in order to focus our attention towards their dark and complex ecologies, not only beneath the forest floor, but also inside our bodies.

According to Heikkilä the basis of life is constantly created and remade by microbes. Given that only 1 percent of soil dwelling species have been identified to date, this field offers fertile ground for the imagination. Heikkilä is a founding member of Mustarinda, a group of artists and scientists in Finland who promote and strive towards an ecological transition of society. The space she inhabits through her artistic practice is both embodied and performative. In 2018 Heikkilä received the Kiasma Commission by Kordelin, the support of which enabled her to invest in the purchase of an 11-hectare old-growth forest close to Koli National Park in Finland. She purchased this land with a view to doing nothing with it, and in doing so, to protect it.

Heikkilä’s exhibition in Graz is a focal point for further discussion around our institution’s process of reflection, awareness, and consciousness in terms of energy production and consumption. As a mid-size contemporary art institution we try to understand our role in the world, our physical impact, and our carbon footprint. Currently we are conducting an energy audit for 2019 to begin to comprehend the scale of our consumption. We want to understand how to enact meaningful change from within, in ways that are sustainable, generous and imaginative, and that enable us to maintain our international agenda working with artists from all over the world in a context that remains geographically local to Graz. In this way we hope to engage with the slower, more invisible processes that underpin our outward facing activities as a production agent for contemporary art.

Alma Heikkilä (born 1984) lives and works in Helsinki. She is a founding member of Mustarinda, a multidisciplinary collective located in the old-growth forests of northern Finland, that hosts residencies at the intersection between art and ecology. Heikkilä graduated from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2009. She has shown her work in solo exhibitions at Kiasma, Helsinki (2019), Casco Art Institute, Rotterdam (2018), Gallery Ama, Helsinki (2017, 2013), and elsewhere. She has participated in biennials in Fiskars, Finland; Timisoara, Romania; Gwanju, South Korea. She was awarded the Ducat Prize of the Finnish Art Society in 2014. Her work is included in the collections of Kiasma and the Finnish National Gallery.

Alongside Heikkilä’s exhibition our public program and speculative feasibility study—Grazer Kunstverein is moving!—continues with events (both digital and physical) throughout the city in the frame of Graz Kulturjahr 2020. As part of this the findings of our energy audit will be analysed and made public by way of a conversation with artist Markus Jeschaunig in the frame of Breathe Earth Collective’s Klima-Kultur-Pavilion in Graz, Summer 2021.

Alma Heikkilä’s solo exhibition not visible or recognizable in any form is kindly supported by Frame Contemporary Art Finland.