Even though we will have to wait for the effects of the vaccination and we are likely to remain in the current situation for a while, there are still many things we can be grateful for. When the world came to a halt in the spring of 2020, we all had to go through a sudden change in operating models and habits, the pace of which has been bewildering. In just a few months, we have become experts in digitalisation, and we now use several new technical platforms on a daily basis with (more or less) success. Many things that once seemed impossible are part of our everyday lives today. Personally, I hope that many of the changes will become permanent. We travel less, hold fewer meetings, spend less (if any) time on commuting. It feels like we finally have the time and, above all, the mental space to focus on what we are doing more.
When meetings, trips, and public events have to be cut down, a lot is left out. At the same time it makes room for creating something new and looking at new ways of working. Since last year, we have developed our internal policies considerably and focused in particular on creating accessibility and diversity policies. The Benelux Institute is the chairman of the Diversity working group of The Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes, and we will continue to actively cooperate with all 17 member institutes in our network in 2021. Although there is still work to be done, it was amazing to see how swiftly our global network was able to respond to the enormous changes taking place in our societies, both in terms of projects and the development of operating models.
While the nagging feeling that there never is enough time unfortunately remains, a more gentle and slow approach has simultaneously become an integral part of working. My hope is that, as taught by the pandemic, we could do less in terms of quantity, but more in terms of depth of the content.
OUR PROGRAM FOR 2021
Our theme for 2021 is DIALOGUES. While a pandemic is capable of halting societies, it can never end the possibilities for debate and the exchange of ideas, locally or internationally. While we cannot meet physically, we can still engage in human encounters through meaningful dialogues, through cross-border collaboration between artists, and emphasise the importance of arts and culture as an imperative strength of our societies.
Our program for this year will surely change many times along the way, following the instructions of the authorities. However, I want to believe that unforeseen situations can also bring a lot of freedom and creativity, which would not necessarily be possible without the situation. Despite the harsh reality, change and struggles can also act as seeds of opportunity – and that is where we need to focus all our energy.
We start the year with design discussions, which are a continuation of our multi-year design project. In January, we will discuss the impact of colours on design and architecture with the Ghent Design Museum, with Linda Bergroth and Tuomas Siitonen as Finnish guests, in conversation with local names such as Lionel Jadot and Doorzon. In February, ‘Making the Market’, our joint discussion with Ornamo and our colleagues at the Institutes in Paris and Berlin, will discuss how the design industry can function in the post-pandemic world. For the final talk, we have invited Marianne Goebl, Managing Director of Artek and designer Jonas Lutz. Several other design projects are in the running, but we’ll share more about these once we know if they are possible to realise.
Every year we have collaborated extensively with festival organisations that represent various fields. Several festival collaborations are also planned for 2021, but it remains to be seen which of these can eventually materialise. If the plans progress as we hope, there will be both communal works of art with fascinating artists and a permanent sculpture park created by a Finnish artist. In addition, we expect to hear a lot of Finnish music at various summer events.
Our societal program consists of the annual Women’s Day Nordic breakfast discussion, and several joint European projects. The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux will chair the EUNIC Brussels network from autumn 2021, so we will find ourselves in close dialogue with various organisations of the Member States working with international culture collaborations. Equally, we will continue to work with the Dutch counterpart, where the EUNIC network is actively organising events.
Before the turn of the year, we published an online publication in our Masculinities project, which includes an impressive selection of authors and artists from our countries of operation. During the spring, we will get the publication into print, and will get to further promote the project’s upcoming events and programmes. The redefinition of masculinities is a societal topic that is frequently discussed and re-evaluated, and we are very pleased to continuously find more fantastic voices and partners to help us push our project further.
Our large A I S T I T / coming to our senses project in 2021, realised in partnership with the Finnish institutes in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom and Ireland, will kick off at the beginning of the year with the launch of the project website. The project consists of individual arts events realised in each partner country, which a selection of will be seen in Finland later this year as part of the Helsinki Festival. The project is curated by Satu Herrala and Hans Rosenström, and the programme in Belgium presents a newly commissioned work by Kid Koko and their working group. With the current pandemic situation in Belgium, the performance will likely take place in early 2022.
Inspired by the sensory theme, we have additionally created a programme that touches upon each sense, partnering with Mediamatic in Amsterdam, the Design Museum in Ghent, the music festival Subbacultcha, and COLLECTIBLE – the fair for 21st century design. The programme introduces Finnish artists to local audiences and contributes to creating a dialogue that we hope will continue into the future.
In addition to the above mentioned projects, we will continue to run the TelepART mobility platform according to local travel regulations, and will continue to work with commissions. The institute’s language courses were moved online in 2020, which to our delight led to even more participants, as people learned about the possibilities of Zoom language courses.
We hope that the year will become as diverse and rewarding as possible – and we hope to meet you soon, either online or in real-life events!