Päivi Tuovinen: Elsewhere Suomi

Nykyajan Galleria 9.9.–9.10.2023

By remote villages and their backwoods there are places that have been given unusual names. To get to these places, one must turn away from the highways and go past small communities on ever-narrowing gravel roads. At the end you have to keep going by foot, usually on wet, mossy ground or wading through snow. These places have crude names. But after traveling long distances in difficult terrain you may be in for an experience that a map or satellite pictures couldn't have prepared you for.

The exhibition consists of photographs with documentarian views of Finnish rural areas - nature, countryside - places, where you don't have to wait for your turn on a viewpoint or compete for the best spot on the beach. In a Finland that's focused on urbanization and growth, these places have been forgotten. The names of these places pop up as words in headlines every now and then, but the bond with the history of those names has been broken over time.

As a child I often visited a pond with a crude name and decades later I wanted to go back to see it. I wondered why a beautiful remote pond had been named in such a strange way - is it the shape of the pond, or is there another explanation? The pond, surrounded by woods, marshland and a bigger lake, has a very dark bottom. The locals guessed that the pond would be a double-bottomed saivo pond, because different parts of it produced different fish that varied in how dark they were.

Crude place names have stayed on the Finnish map thanks to collected oral history and are part of our culture and language heritage. References to the origins of the names may still be seen in the geographical nature of the locations. The origins rarely contain the kind of humour that affects the way we view the names today. The historical records of the names reveal interesting stories about the life that was lived in these places before us.

These remote, crudely named places have something that feels familiar and dear to me. I traveled them every time I made the journey through Finland up North to where I was born. I traveld tens of thousands of kilometers. I stayed in small towns, villages and forests. When the covid restrictions came into effect and most nature destinations were full of people, these places saw no crowds - just like before. To some, however, these places are farming or hunting grounds, or hiking trails near their back yard. The few occupants I met at these destinations wanted in their own ways to be involved in the picture as part of the area and its history. The name Elsewhere Suomi is also a reference to tourism. There's none of it at these places, but how will it be in the future? When you're there, there's only your own echo to answer these questions.

65°13’00.8″N 25°42’33.6″E
Haukipudas-Kiiminki (Oulu)