Listening to Finland Art and Architecture


Minsheng Lecture


MA Nan


Pettri Nisunen, Zhang Yuxing, Han Jing, Yao Weiwei, Zhao Deli


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

Matter, Space, and Recognition

Guests: Petteri Nisunen (Finland), Zhang Yuxing, Han Jing, Yao Weiwei, Zhao Deli
Host: Ma Nan
Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai, Business Finland, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum
Date: Saturday, November 7, 2020
Time: 14:00-17:00
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.

The works of Grönlund-Nisunen, whether in a museum, gallery context or in public space, are often site-specific by origin. This means that the space or site in which the work is presented is an essential part and even starting point of the work. The work can refer to the historical or societal context of the space or site or simply to its architectural and spatial features. The current exhibition “Flow with the Matter” in Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum focuses on the latter option.
Due to Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen’s architecture background, most of their work involve spatiality, and the structure that combines time and matter. They are passionate about specific space or places. Tommi Grönlund once said, “The features of architecture are always in our works. No matter dealing with space or sound, rhythms, harmonies, and the recognition of them will always be a part of our works.”


“LED Horizon”, 2020

The corridor on the first floor where “LED Horizon” is displayed is not a regular displaying area of Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum. Back in 2019 when the museum was remodeling, Nisunen did an all-round survey about the displaying location. When he arrived at the corridor, he began walking along back and forth for a long time with great excitement. “Spatiality is a core element of our works. Installing artworks is also a process for us to learn about the space.” Eventually, the beam column in the corridor became part of the piece. The 1,600 LED lamp beads in this piece flash in a random pattern, casting mysterious waves of shadow on the ceiling. The space is thus surrounded by an arctic and inexplicable vibe. Taking the site as it is, Grönlund-Nisunen duo usually makes spatial experience an indispensable part of their works. They also use a mixture of artificial lights, natural light, and sound to create the atmosphere they want.

“Acid Rain”, Espoo-Vantaa Institute of Technology, Espoo, Finland 2003

At the public space in Nordic universities, metro stations, and hospitals, Grönlund-Nisunen’s art practice is often contrast to the “sense of mundane” and serves as a waking force for the capability to feel. The artist duo created “Acid Rain” for the library of Espoo-Vantaa Institute of Technology. The piece consists of 784 polished stainless-steel sticks that are hung by a 28*28 grid at the center of the two-floor library. Hundreds of stainless-steel sticks form a cube with powerful visual effect. Looking at it from the second floor, the overlapping metal sticks would strike the audience with the shapeshifting illusion. Anyone approaching this piece will get on alert intuitively, even though the piece itself is harmless.

 “Another World”, New children’s hospital, Helsinki, 2018

While the artist duo is keen in expanding the space with creative forms, they are also considerate, taking user’s feelings into account. In 2018, Grönlund-Nisunen created “Another World” for Helsinki’s New children’s hospital. They replaced some of the square elements of the MRI waiting room’s ceiling with radiant LED panels, whose colors change at a slow pace. Using artificial light, the artist duo created a fairytale-like space, keeping the children away from fear or anxiety when they wait for the MRI exam.

Convex / concave, Student Center of Bergen University, Bergen, Norway, 2017

The artist duo is dedicated to expressing in a minimalism artistic language. They underline the beauty of the material itself, and work on combining the material’s message with the practical function of the building. Convex / concave is a continuation of the architects' exploration of the auditorium at University of Bergen. Here we find round shapes of different sizes that bulge and curve outwards and inwards and play with the surface, painted in the same shade of white as the rest of the roof. Because of these shadows it is from some directions difficult to see whether certain shape is convex or concave. This ambiguity challenges perception of the viewer. Also, the concave aluminum plates collect and change the sound under the. Therefore, standing under a certain point, people can hear the sound from a distance.
While working on on-site commissions, space and place become the most important part of the duo’s works. For them, the architect’s working cycle is prolonged, while similar questions and creativity can be discussed and realized in fine art. Plus, they can focus on what they find interesting. In this event, the curator of “Flow with Matter” Ma Nan, artist Petteri Nisunen, and scholars working in architecture and public art are invited to talk about space, practice, and fusing a vibe.


13:45—14:00   Sign in

14:00—14:10   Opening

14:10—15:50   Themed Lectures

15:50—16:40   Round Table Discussion

14:40—17:00   Q&A

Architectural Space as an Artistic Medium
Pettri Nisunen

Petteri Nisunen studied architecture in early -90´s. Soon after graduation he put up his own office together with five partners, one of whom was Tommi Grönlund. Roughly at the same time, in 1993, Nisunen and Grönlund also had their first solo exhibitions in contemporary art scene. At the time of his studies the Finnish architectural scene was after a long modernist era influenced by postmodernism. Nisunen and his colleagues never found interest in this architectural genre, but rather in early modernism and current architects with minimalistic approach, such as Tadao Ando, David Chipperfield, Peter Zumthor etc. Also, they like the emerging deconstructivism, such as Austrian co-op Himmelblau, Iraq Zaha Hadid, American Morphosis, Polish American Daniel Libeskind etc.

The works of Grönlund-Nisunen, whether in a museum/gallery context or in public space, are often site-specific by origin. The site-specific works of Grönlund-Nisunen take the space or site as it is. Instead of trying to cover or change them, the architectural features of the space are emphasized through simple but carefully planned additions. The current exhibition shows examples of work in both museum/gallery and public contexts but focuses on the latter. The artists found working in public and semi-public spaces both challenging and rewarding, because it is a way to reach new audiences and a bigger scale of work. Due to their architectural background and long artistic career, Nisunen and Grönlund are used to work in close collaboration with architects and engineers, visit building sites and subcontractors and handle large and long-lasting projects. They build a close collaboration with architectures in commission. You can find the trace of their love for industrial aesthetics, construction sites and wilderness.

Terminalized Life
Zhang Yuxing

A “terminalized” way of living has become prevalent due to the Covid-19 situation. This state of living reflects the logic behind the construction of the new urban form, which will eventually lead to the future structure of urban city. The variated
 homes, shelters for quarantine, portable cruise ships, cities turning into ruins, these are the four possible prototypes of future cities that can be seen in this pandemic. After terminalizing, the future cities might include terminal devices with new forms of infrastructure, terminal space with city structure, terminal communities with global sphere, terminal aesthetics with reversed reality.

Integrating and Detaching: Rediscover the Beauty of Daily Life
Han Jing

Under the ubiquitous internet today, virtual space experience has gradually replaced the physical space. Detaching from the daily life sites, we are also losing the sincerity from the physical space. In this lecture, Han uses two cases of micro update in Shenzhen. Through either integrating or detaching, the two on-site city exhibitions transformed two negative space within the urban village into alienated object for seeing, challenging people’s perspective and encouraging them to find beauty in the space they had been too familiar with. On-site exhibitions demand audience to really be there to feel the beauty, which is a way of defying the popular architectures that go viral through virtual image reading.


Urban Art Intervention: An Action Proposal
Yao Weiwei

The dynamics of the contemporary social space is coming into the spotlight of urban studies, with place-making, clusters, decentralization, and the spatial redistribution of labor becoming the centered discussions (Niel Brenner, 2019). As
 a segment of reconstructing the contemporary social space, art intervention gives a hope of “accumulating events to form a force that can change an existing structure.” Therefore, a bunch of architects, artists, and scholars of urban studies are united to put forward a social action proposal, in an attempt to find the solution for urban problems. So, how can art change the city? How are “strategies” and “temporariness” going to deal with the complexity of public space?


The Details of Time—The Works of Zai-Zao Architecture
Zhao Deli

Unlike most presentations that display architecture with the still image of the final work, Zhao is going to share about Zai-Zao’s architecture designs starting from introducing the basic concepts from Henri Bergson,
 Edmund Husserl, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He is going to explore how the details of architecture enable the collective duration of time for a building.


About the Host

Ma Nan

Ma Nan is now living in Hangzhou. Graduated from the Institute of Contemporary Art and Social Thoughts, China Academy of Art with Ph.D. Interested in social and cultural mechanism of displaying culture and the relationship of media and perception. Since 2010, she has been engaged in curatorial studies/practice and translation. Major projects curated include: “Writing Non-writing: Hangzhou International Modern Calligraphy Art Festival" (Hangzhou), “Tribute 2018: Future Media/Art Manifesto" (Strasbourg, France), “Light that Occupied and Forgotten: Jimei-Arles International Photography Festival" (Xiamen), “Meme City: 1st Intermedia Art Festival" (Hangzhou), “Museum Cellar, The Invisible Hand: Curating as Gesture, CAFA Art Museum Biennale” (Beijing), etc.

About the Guests

Tommi Grönlund / Petteri Nisunen

Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen, both live and work in Helsinki, are one of the representative contemporary artists of Finland. Both came from architectural background, Grönlund and Nisunen have been engaged in interdisciplinary creation in contemporary art, architecture and sound art since their first collaboration in the 1990s. Major prizes they won include: Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts (2013), Edstrandska Stiftelsen (2003), Finnish State Awards for Arts (2001), etc. Major exhibitions they participated in include: Manifesta 1, the 49th Venice Biennial (Nordic Pavilion), the 3rd Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art, the 5th Marrakech Biennale , the 27th São Paulo Biennial, the 1st Yokohama Triennial, etc. Their works have been collected by major art museums worldwide, include: Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art (KIASMA), The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg (MUDAM), Espoo Museum of Modern Art(EMMA), etc.

Zhang Yuxing

Zhang, the founder and lead designer of ARCity Office, is also a researcher at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of Shenzhen University with multiple identities such as poet, curator, critic in fields of architectures, cities and arts. He is also a member of Criticism and Academic Board, Architectural Society of China, Urban Design Committee of China’s Ministry of Housing and UrbanRural Development, Academic Board of Shanghai Urban Space Art Season (SUSAS). As the founder and promoter of Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB), he is also the director of the Academic Board of UABB and the chairman of the Art Foundation of UABB.

Han Jing

Co-founder and the head designer of ARCity Office. Independent scholar of urban studies. Curator.

Yao Weiwei

Owns a Ph.D. Young scholar of architecture and urban studies as well as a curator. Mainly engaged in urban curating, strategic urban intervention, etc. Deeply involved in West Bank 2013 Biennial of Architecture and Contemporary Art, 2013 Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB), 2017 Shanghai Urban Space Art Season (SUSAS), and the curating of 2018 Venice Biennale Chinese Pavilion.

Zhao Deli

Zhao Deli is lecturer at School of Architecture, China Academy of Art and the founder of Zai-Zao Architecture. He is also critic at Department of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design in 2017 and the co-lecturer at Parsons School of Design in 2019. Currently he is a course leader of International Master of Fine Art program (IMFA) at China Academy of Art. His theory has been published on Time Architecture, New Art, etc. His teaching, theory and practice interests are focused on re-creating new “trans-scale” architecture and new social space constantly between virtual and actual reality towards future life.