Checkpoint Helsinki is a new contemporary art organization, established in 2013.
We commission and produce the contemporary art of the future, inviting international artists and curators to work in Finland. We are driven by art and artists' fascinating power to establish a critical space within society.
We work without one fixed venue: all around the year, you can see our productions in major museums and tiny bookshops, on city streets and in local youth centers, in abandoned buildings and online.
Extraordinary, unexpected art is one of the reasons why we love living in the city.
We are not alone. We work in collaboration with dozens of local organizations: museums, galleries, schools, festivals and libraries. Together we create a city where amazing things happen and contemporary art is in the middle of it.
Our program consists of new commissions, developed by international and local curators and artists, specifically for Helsinki. Alongside producing these art works, we actively engage in public debate, campaigns and projects with the aim to support the lively and diverse art scene.
So far, our productions included: curatorial projects by Ahmed Al-Nawas, Joanna Warsza and Clark House Initiative. The Next Helsinki, international competition of ideas for urban development: a handbook on Finnish arts policy, a conference on open-ended models for art organizations, as well as new artworks by Goldin + Senneby, Khaled Jarrar, Public Movement, Bita Razavi, Ahmet Öğüt, and others.
In 2012 Helsinki city started a dialogue with the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation on the possibility of the establishment of a new Guggenheim art museum in Helsinki. For the first time in recent history Helsinki city considered making a major investment in art instead of merely implementing more cuts.
The argument of establishing Guggenheim Helsinki as a way of making Helsinki an internationally known cultural capital worked as a positive provocation for the Helsinki art scene. The public funding for the local culture institutions was getting tighter and tighter, and there were rumors of the Helsinki art museum possibly even needing to close it´s doors.
The million euros per year, which would be payed by the city of Helsinki for Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation just for the license alone, gave an inspirational framework for collective dreaming. The question, that the art world of Helsinki wanted to answer without that anyone really asked it from them was: what would really make Helsinki a vivid and international cultural city - and if we would have one million per year, how would we invest it?In the spring of 2012 a group of Helsinki based artists, curators and other cultural workers organised an open space conference in the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. The theme of this self organised brainstorming was Helsinki as a culture city. The agenda of the day was created on spot by the participants.
During that one day the more than 100 participants had identified over 10 different topics relevant to the theme, and worked in small groups according to their personal interests. The material was further developed on many open meetings at bar Siltanen, after which the hard work to write it into a report was delegated to a smaller group of artists and curators.
The Checkpoint Helsinki report was delivered to the decision makers in October 2012. It's high quality and clear and realistic vision impressed the politicians: never before in recent history had the professional art world of Helsinki been mobilised and organised in that way.
Working together for a bigger goal also made clear that different organisations struggle with similar challenges. Developing Helsinki into the cultural capital would need to be started from building a strong basis for the variety of local activities and institutions to flourish.
Checkpoint Helsinki is now trying to unwrap the ambitious ideas born those days. Meanwhile it has been registered as an association. The step was necessary yet scary, after the phenomenal start where individual roles were not yet defined and everyone wanted to contribute their time, expertice or facilities pro bono.
The core values of Checkpoing Helsinki is investing in the art of the future, creating structures for accumulating the city's own cultural capital, fertilizing the existing organisations and activities, transparency and collaboration.
Checkpoint Helsinki is funded by the city of Helsinki since three years. The organisation has now two branches of activities. The production branch enables the production of exciting new art work from emerging or mid-career international artists.
The starting point of the vision is to prioritize content over institutional structures and thus not start from establishing permanent exhibitions spaces, but from the production needs of very different variety of artistic practices. Thus, the focus of the productions is currently on art work that can take place in public or temporary spaces.
The artists are chosen by invited, independent curators, who work through pre-defined periods. One of the aims of Checkpoint Helsinki is to create an archive of high quality documentation of the production of the invited projects. Checkpoint Helsinki also promotes the idea to purchase the produced work into local public art collections, and thus develop a high quality Checkpoint Helsinki art collection consisting of the most interesting art of 'the art history of the future'.
The other branch is devoted to developing Helsinki as a cultural city more 'from the inside'. One of the newest initiatives is a small scale funding structure through which Checkpoint Helsinki supports great new ideas that enrich the art scene in Helsinki on grass root level. Other initiatives include collaborations such as The Next Helsinki competition for alternative visions for urban development or the Make Arts Policy event that discussed arts funding on a national level. This branch is also facilitating public discourse and networking between art institutions.
Checkpoint Helsinki started as an organic network between different actors of the local scene, and some of that nature is still at the core of the organisation´s style to function. Collaborating with different organisations through shared productions is one way of creating win-win situations for the local scene and getting more out of the scarce resources.
Checkpoint Helsinki was born in a moment where the political imagination was open to envisioning the economic and cultural benefits of making a grand investment in the arts. Instead of putting energy into criticising the Guggenheim Helsinki proposal, Checkpoint Helsinki takes this momentum seriously and works towards the most interesting roadmap that enables Helsinki city to develop into an internationally known cultural capital. Thus Checkpoint Helsinki actively seeks to build an ambitious alternative model for the development of Helsinki.
Tellervo Kalleinen, artist, board member of Checkpoint Helsinki