SASHAPASHA: Kanava V 14.2.–8.3.2020

Over the duration of this project, artist duo SASHAPASHA has been working in different places around Russia researching the history and impact of the Gulag.

The KANAVA V exhibition is the result of five years of research by the artist duo SASHAPASHA. KANAVA is an art project dedicated to the memory of the Soviet Gulag (ГУЛАГ) – the forced-labour camp system which operated from 1929 to 1953. The project was named after the White Sea-Baltic canal in northern Karelia. The Finnish word Kanava highlights the connection between the Gulag system and the history of Finland. Nowadays It is commonly known that Finns comprised of a large percentage of Gulag victims in Karelia. 

Over the duration of this project, SASHAPASHA (Sasha Rotts and Pavel Rotts) has been working in different places around Russia researching the history and impact of the Gulag. KANAVA V utilises the framework of a five-year plan, in keeping with the national economy of the Soviet Union called “Pyatiletka”.

The construction of the canal was the first project of the Soviet penal labour system, constructed under Stalin and proclaimed as a tool for “re-forging” the inmates into ‘normal’ Soviet citizens. In fact, the project was a way to accelerate industrialization with a small outlay, while simultaneously eliminating the opposition. Following the spread of the gulag system over the Eurasian continent SASHAPASHA has travelled through different post-soviet territories from Karelia, all the way to Vladivostok.

One of the points through the endless map of the Gulag is the city of Norilsk, situated above the polar circle in the Taimyr region in Russia, where one of the biggest and harshest forced labour was situated. It specialised in excavating copper and nickel. Artists are travelling to Norilsk during the KANAVA V exhibition to bring the result of the work to Helsinki. 

From Onego lake, the canal moves over the high ground and descends towards the White Sea. The gradient of the gallery with the stairs up and down is very similar. The canal contains nineteen gates from beginning to end, and this gate system was used by the artists as a structure for arranging the exhibition space. 

As an exhibition, KANAVA V puts a comma in this five-year-long research project. It attempts to deal with the dehumanizing scale of the subject matter by allowing the artists to respond to work inside a cohesive frame.

SASHAPASHA is a Helsinki based artistic duo created in 2009 in St.Petersburg by Sasha Rotts (born 1985) and Pavel Rotts (born 1982). Artists are working in various media: installation, performance, painting, sculpture, sound art, animation, object, video-art etc. They have graduated from St.Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design and Pro Arte Institute, St.Petersburg. Currently they are studying in Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki. Founders of the SAHSAPASHA fashion jewellery brand took part in a variety of fashion shows in St. Petersburg, Moscow and London.


13 Feb Opening 17:00-20:00 Drum Hat performance by SASHAPASHA 18:00-18:30 

4 March Penal Labour Performance by SASHAPASHA 16:00-18:00

5 March Guest lecture by Dr. Jyrki Siukonen 18-20 (ExClub)

8 March Uncle Joe Performance by Pavel Rotts 17:00-17:30


14.2.2020 at 11:00 – 8.3.2020 at 18:00

Further information

Exhibition Laboratory on esteetön.