Listening to Finland Black Ice Berg


Minsheng Lecture


Yao Dajun


Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen, Xu Cheng, Xu Yazhu


Consulate General of Finland in Shangha, Business Finland, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum

Selected Works of Finnish Sound Art

Guests: Tommi Grönlund (Finland), Xu Cheng, Xu Yajun
Host: Yao Dajun
Co-Hosts: Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai, Business Finland, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum
Date: Sunday, November 8, 2020
Time: 15:00-17:00
Venue: Multimedia Hall (1F), Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum

Notice:For public health security, please make a real-name preservation and bring your ID for admission of the event. Please wait in line to get your temperature measured, hands sanitized, and information registered with the help of our staff. Please wear a face mask during the event. If you are experiencing a fever, coughing, or short breath, please understand that admission is not granted.

2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Finland. Coincidently, the current exhibition in Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum is the great Finnish contemporary artist duo Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen’s first solo exhibition ever held in Asia. During this exhibition, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum collaborates with the Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai and Business Finland to launch the series of public education activities “Listening to Finland” in honor of the 70th anniversary of China-Finland diplomatic relations. This series of public education activities will cover diverse aspects of Finland, including art, architecture, design, education, lifestyle, people’s relation with nature, etc., in order to panoramically reveal the contemporary cultural climate of Finland and bring in new energy to the current conversation between China and Finland. Hopefully the audience can be inspired to have more perspectives on the current exhibition.

“I love the activity of sound. What it does, is it gets louder and quieter, and it gets higher and lower. And it gets longer and shorter. I’m completely satisfied with that…People expect listening to be more than listening. And sometimes they speak of inner listening, or the meaning of sound. When I talk about music, it finally comes to people’s minds that I’m talking about sound that doesn’t mean anything. That is not inner, but is just outer…Whereas I love sounds, just as they are, and I have no need for them to be anything more.”

John Cage

“Electromagnetic Device” resonates with human temperature

The current exhibition at Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, “Flow with Matter”, consists of 21 pieces created by the Finnish artist duo Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen. Their pieces speak to the audience in a simple and sharp language. Inspired by the way to experience their surroundings, the artist duo is dedicated to creating artworks that stimulates multiple senses. Through a combination of light and sound, they translate the abstract daily details into something visible and audible. In their opinion, though vision is seen as the major sense, hearing, touching, and smelling are also as important as seeing in order to grasp a comprehensive recognition. Different senses hold different functions and convey different information. Aside from colors, listening reveal more direct and unconscious feelings.
Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen have no regular mode of collaboration. It all depends on the specific work. Generally speaking, Grönlund is good at processing sound and image, while Nisunen is in charge of space and structure, drawing the blue print and producing. Most of their works present the action of sound wave as a natural phenomenon, as well as the acoustic effect of the exhibiting space. They rarely use compound acoustic material. The sound in their piece is usually produced by mechanic power and manipulated through random processes.

Aside from the identity of a contemporary artist, Grönlund runs a label called Sähkö Recordings, which was co-founded with Mika Vainio.

The word Sähkö translates to "electricity."
The music on Sähkö tends to be minimalist. Sound is arranged in terms of frequencies and tones, often the very sound of electricity or electrical equipment. Grönlund referred Sähkö as an ongoing "art project," and "an expression of elements that can be found in nature and in your surroundings."

"Sähkö is part of a pantheon. If you go into Hard Wax, there are some things that are always cool. Sähkö is a part of that. There aren't many labels that made that kind of mark."

Ian Fenton

High Frequency Installation 2020, 28.5 x 2.3 x 1.9 m

“High Frequency Installation is a piece that can be regarded as sound art. It includes sine wave, a kind of pure acoustic element that extends the obsession towards it from Finnish music. From a physical point of view, sine wave is the only sound with no overtones—the purest sound in the world.” Speaking of how Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen apply sound to their pieces, Yao Dajun commented: “We can’t discuss sound art separately, just as we can’t discuss visual art without mentioning the other forms of art. Because seeing and hearing are intertwined. There’s no way to just talk about either of them alone.”

Forum Box, 2004, Size Variable

The 2013 “Sound Art China: Revolution per Minute” held at Shanghai West Bank was the first historic event in the first ten years of sound art’s emergence in China. It was the first event that reflected on and presented China’s sound art accomplishments as well as the historic mile stones. The curator Yao Dajun pointed out that, unlike Western sound art which had went through a century’s philosophical and aesthetical reforms since the futurism established in 1913 Italy, China’s sound art is condensed and boomed in a short decade at a speed 10 times faster than the west, due to the specific historical context. How should we admire sound art? What are the differences and similarities among the global sound art practice? In this event, we are honored to invite Yao Dajun, Finnish sound artist Tommi, Shanghai sound artist Xu Cheng, and scholar of sound art, Xu Yajun, who will share about their point of view via online and offline conversations.



Yao Dajun

Curator, sound artist, media artist. Vice director of School of Inter- Media Art (SIMA) of China Academy of Art (CAA), director of Open Media Lab, director of the VR Lab of China Academy of Art. He is an artist and thinker rather anomalous within the Chinese media scene for his intellectual and historical approach to contemporary cultural material. He is now publisher of the already famous Post-Concrete Records, founder of the Fore Taste Radio, the influential China Sound Unit. Since 2003, he has been curating the “Sonar” series, pioneering at promoting audio-visual and media live art in China’s teaching, researching, and performing.  


Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen

Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen forms an influential Finnish contemporary artist duo. They now live in Helsinki. Both of them have a background of architecture. The duo has been working together since 1990s, collaborating in contemporary art, architecture, sound art, etc. The prizes they won include: the 2013 Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts by World Cultural Council, the 2001 Finnish State Award, etc. They have been exhibited in 1996 Manifesta 1, Nordic Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale, the 3rd Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art, 5th Marrakech Biennale, the 27th Biennale of São Paulo, the 1st Yokohama Triennial, etc. Their works have been collected by Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (KIASMA), Mudam Luxembourg Modern Art Museum (MUDAM), Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA), etc.

Xu Cheng

Xu Cheng is a sound artist who works and lives in Shanghai. He is engaged in experimental music, improvisation, electronic music, etc. Aside from ontology of sound, Xu Cheng also pays attention to the correlation between sound and social space, the related behavior and its presentation.

Xu Yazhu

Researcher and organizer of sound culture. Xu works and creates in interdisciplinary fields.