Uniarts Helsinki offers an alternative to spectacle on the Kuninkaansaari island

The Saari 2020 (Island 2020) programme by the University of the Arts Helsinki will provide visitors an opportunity to visit the Helsinki archipelago and, at the same time, get close to and enjoy art created in harmony with the environment. All of this will take place in a safe way despite the COVID-19 circumstances.

People crossing a neck of land that leads to Kuninkaansaari island. Saari 2020 logo on top of image.

The programme on Kuninkaansaari consists of intimate multidisciplinary performances, installations, workshops and discussions by Uniarts students, artists they have invited, and Uniarts alumni. The opening ceremony will take place on 20 August. The majority of the programme is based on courses launched in spring 2019 on Kuninkaansaari. The courses have discussed ecological issues from different perspectives, and the students have explored the island’s maritime history and sensitive nature. Kuninkaansaari is located next to the more renowned Vallisaari island, and the two islands are connected by a neck of land that can be walked dry-shod.

The Saari 2020 programme was originally scheduled to start in June 2020 at the same time as the Helsinki Biennial on the adjacent Vallisaari island. However, the biennial was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the Saari 2020 events also had to be cancelled, but the majority of the programme will be implemented in the autumn.

“We have closely monitored the development of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions throughout the spring. However, we decided to proceed with our plans, as the original idea of the event is still feasible: we want to offer art on a small scale close to nature and on nature’s terms,” said Aune Kallinen, one of the responsible teachers involved in the project.

The entire programme was designed with respect for the Kuninkaansaari nature. All works and events can be experienced outdoors. The visitors can explore the artworks and installations at their own pace within the timetables of ferry traffic. Performances and events can be attended through preregistration, and the number of spectators will be kept small in accordance with the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some of the works are not open to the public at all. For example, students encamped on Kuninkaansaari for the Ruumiit ja muut elävät (Bodies and other living creatures) course at the beginning of August study the connection between bodies – theirs and plants’ – and image, space, and performance. The students will perform with plants and for an audience of plants, as well as portray and describe their growth. The coursework may also produce open events, which will be announced later in the autumn.

As part of the Island of Relations course, students majoring in fine arts and the Praxis Master’s Programme students have examined the various dialogical and intersecting ecosystems on Kuninkaansaari: biological, ideological, historical, and socio-economic. The result is a series of sensitive site-specific works and events set around Kuninkaansaari – for example, on the rocky coastline of the island or in bunkers that once served as gunpowder stores.

There will also be reproductions of performances by Uniarts Helsinki alumni, now set in a new environment. For example, Pimeässä olemisesta (On being in the dark) is lighting designer Mia Jalerva and actor Pietu Wikström’s interpretation of an ecologically sustainable performance that deals with darkness, fear of darkness, and light pollution.

In addition, an open sound art workshop and the performance art students’ Lapsody Festival – which examines the island and surrounding areas from a distance and up close – will be organised in September.

The Saari 2020 programme will open on 20 August and continue until the end of September. The first performance open for the public is on 11 August. The programme will be updated at: uniarts.fi/island2020.

More information

All works and events in the Saari 2020 programme are free of charge, but a ticket is required for the ferry. Most of the works in the Island of Relations can be experienced throughout the duration of the Saari 2020 programme within the ferry timetables. Preregistration is required for performances and events, and the number of spectators is subject to COVID-19 restrictions. The JT-Line ferry operates to Kuninkaansaari (Vallisaari) from the Helsinki Market Square. The ferry traffic follows COVID-19 instructions.