13 Jun 2023


Miina Hujala & Arttu Merimaa


Photo by Chuma A on Unsplash

In mid-June 2020 HIAP launched an Open Call for Trans-Siberian Land-based Long-distance trip where we asked people to join a group that would together plan a trip from Helsinki to Japan with train (and ferry) and invited those interested to send a letter stating their motivation as well as experience and activities from their background that they felt relevant in terms of questions related to art, research and ecological aspects linked to travelling. The focus was to find people from the field of art and research that could think of ecological modes of travel and also map how this method of travelling (long-distance land- and group based) could be utilized more commonly and consistently in the future.

We received 432 responses from different artists, curators, and researchers around the world – an unexpected amount for us – especially as it was stated that in this situation it will be hard to define when the actual trip would be possible. The Covid-19 pandemic made mobility questions very tangible, the inability to even leave one’s home pointed out that there are many things we are used to that can become suddenly impossible. The ongoing climate change with the accelerated reality of ecological destruction demands our attention, and many responders to our open call felt just so, that they need and want to address the situation – find ways to do things differently, be with others, take time and also actual measures towards a different future.

It became obvious when reading the motivation letters that there is a strong desire to move forward and to actualize other ways of travelling than flying, and that flying is a strong symbol for our fossil capital world – where we expect to be very flexible and moving constantly from place to place, producing fast-paced encounters in regions that will be left mostly unknown for us after we leave. Also that the stress, and the demands that our contemporary societies carry are actualized in the form of fossil fuel based forms of mobility and the need to counter that with other methods (slower ones) is also an aspiration towards another kind of life(style).

We as Connecting Points programme curators, aren’t against airplanes and flying and speed as such, but currently as a carbon emission intensive way of travelling, utilizing aerial mobility methods creates a huge impact on personal emission load, and as in the current moment no other energy source is available to enable that speed whilst travelling we want to look for options and alternatives.

In terms of climate change impact, reducing all consumption is crucial. The sources of energy that we use in the production of heat, food as well as other products is elemental in the impact that we have. Our project thus aims at only routing one particular element involved in this: finding ways to travel with less amount of CO2 impact. Using this as an opportunity at the same time – whilst travelling – to engage more deeply with each other and with our surroundings. Sharing the travel experience and time can enhance connections between people, enable discourse, provide further links and understanding related to the places and sites one passes by. In many ways as this open call was directed to art field professionals, it is a question of abilities – those that can and afford to travel in the first place, and those that are expected to. As mobility is built in to the structure of the art field operation (as for instance in relation to residencies), which has close links to being able to share ideas, thoughts and one’s practice more widely and more versatility–  there is a lot that we would lack if we wouldn’t aim at widening the reach of discussion by creating and forming links and contacts between different spheres. This is more than just exporting, that is often supported by cultural and international connectivity systems, often based on securing the needs from certain, already established, perspectives. With the project, we want to also note that it takes time to share resources and abilities.

We won’t be saying that this project isn’t built from a certain privileged position, and we acknowledge that when thinking of the possibilities of travel it is in many ways unbalanced. Taking a month (or more) to travel a long-distance is a thing that many cannot afford, regarding the time or money. This opportunity favours the relatively wealthy and societies that can support arts and culture activity, and we recognize the deep inequality that our contemporary societies are laden with. Receiving applications from India, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Colombia, Mexico, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, France, US, Canada, Turkey, Slovakia, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, UK, Lithuania, Sweden, Austria, Czech, Singapore, Norway, Malesia, Japan, Israel, Peru, Poland, Croatia, New Zealand, Belgium, Argentina, South Korea, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Australia, Nepal,  Brasilia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Island, Belarus, Vietnam, Switzerland, Taiwan, Serbia, Luxembourg, Botswana, Denmark as well as Finland and Russia, means that there is a wide amount of perspectives that create a mix of needs and wishes.  We do think that the connectivity with others, in dealing with the issues of trying to find other ways and methods of doing things –is about creating a source for opportunities and possibilities.

Last year, as the actual possibility of making the trip as we planned crossing Siberia became impossible due to the full-scale Russian attack on Ukraine in 2022, we wanted to reroute the journey, now going sea-based to Iceland. In the framing of the project we also have wanted to expand the scope and deal with the issues of mobility from a wider perspective, thinking about the ecological aspects and their roles in artistic practices further. The group of participants are travelling jointly by train and ferry to participate in the LungA festival taking place 9.-16.7. in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland also visiting Fabrikken art center in Copenhagen, Denmark on their way. By supporting group travels, we hope also that the multiple perspectives involved within artists’ practices will enable us to bring forth crucial attention to the varied relations towards the questions of mobility. We also wish and hope that the Land-Based Long-Distance trips will become a recurring possibility and a form of a residency providing a mobile shared time and space.

Text written by: Miina Hujala curator and the initiator of the Land-Based Long-Distance project together with curator Arttu Merimaa.

Participating artists in the LungA collaboration and the trip to Iceland in 2023:
Bea Xu
Dana Neilson
Nastja Säde Rönkkö
Niamh Schmidtke
Radek Przedpełski

Attending to the trip in Copenhagen: Inari Virkkala

Project is supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation that provides opportunities for residency stays and supports artistic mobility.