April 1, 2023
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Life & Culture

Finnish art finds place in Handwerker exhibit

The idea of utopia is hard to fully conceptualize, especially since utopia is something to strive for that can never be attained.

“No/Good Place: Utopian Art in Finland” creates a conversation about utopia from the lens of one of Europe’s most northern and isolated countries. Photography, installation art and animation are some of the media used in this exhibit to communicate and understand aspects of our world and the search for a better version of it.

“Many people think utopia is the goal, but it’s actually a way of continuing to push one another to create a space where we can all exist harmoniously,” said Mara Baldwin, director of the Handwerker Gallery. “The goal isn’t to make anything perfect, but instead about mediating with one another. In a way, I think this exhibition we’ve been anticipating for two years is timed very interestingly, especially with all the things that’ve been happening on campus this year.”

Baldwin said Finnish artists focus much of their work on utopia because of how isolated they are from the rest of Europe. She said the country has a huge system of islands and lakes that creates internal isolation within Finland itself, causing artists to revisit a theme of socialization and bringing people together.


The Handwerker Gallery’s latest art gallery, “No/Good Place,” features work from several Finnish artists commenting on the boundaries between utopia and dystopia in society. Fernando Ferraz/The Ithacan


Paul Wilson is an assistant professor of art history and the curator for “No/Good Place.” He focuses much of his research on utopia, nationalism, nostalgia and globalization. In addition to the exhibit’s being connected to Wilson’s research, it’s also connected to the art history class he’s teaching about contemporary art and utopia.

“The focus of this exhibition is on Finland because Finnish art is something I’ve been researching, and it gives us the opportunity to see artists from another society and think about what it means to make a better world,” Wilson said. “This kind of work helps us to reflect on our own culture and makes us think about the problems and potentials that exist in our own society.”

Since the concept of this show is so relevant to issues happening on a local, national and global sphere, Baldwin hopes that students can deeply connect with the work that’s shown.

Prairwa “Sunny” Leerasanthanah is a senior film and photography major who thinks the works in “No/Good Place” are all drawn from an interesting, singular concept.

“We take the word utopia for granted, and we think this is what we’re trying to achieve, and that it’s this perfect place, but what this show is arguing is that to get to the perfect place, there are so many sacrifices you have to make,” Leerasanthanah said.

“No/Good Place: Utopian Art in Finland” will be featured until April 22 in the Handwerker Gallery.