IHME Project

Discussion: Perspectives on IHME Project 2017 on Saturday, April 29

On the last day of the The Black Charismatic video installation, Saturday, April 29, at 23 p.m., invited commentators share their experiences of IHME Artist Theaster Gates’s artwork The Black Charismatic in the Finnish Salvation Army Temple (Uudenmaankatu 40). The discussion will be held in Finnish, but comments in English are welcome.

Every year IHME has invited people from different fields and backgrounds to share their experiences of the IHME Project. This year the people commenting on the Project and participating in Saturday’s discussion forum will be feminist, one of the members of the new Ruskeat Tytöt (“Brown Girls”) collective and web media Maija Baijukya; architect and musician Tuomas Toivonen; and Finnish Salvation Army PR officer and digital marketing developer Joona Junkkari.

After Saturday’s discussion, those in attendance will have the chance to win a record by Gates’s musical ensemble The Black Monks of Mississippi in a raffle.


“Sound can function in many ways, like color.”

– Theaster Gates

The Black Charismatic in April

The Black Charismatic, the IHME Project by Theaster Gates and The Black Monks of Mississippi, in April in Helsinki:

Wednesday, April 5 at 18:00 World premiere of the film The Black Charismatic, the film’s only screening at the Festival, Finnkino Tennispalatsi, studio 2, Salomonkatu 15, Helsinki. By booking in advance you make sure of your place. Register by March 29 here >

April 6–29 The Black Charismatic installation, open 10:00–18:00 Mon–Sat (closed on Sundays), Finnish Salvation Army Temple, Uudenmaankatu 40, Helsinki.

Thursday, April 6 at 19:00 The Black Charismatic concert, Rock Church, Lutherinkatu 3, Helsinki. By booking in advance you make sure of your place. Register by March 29 here >

Saturday, April 8 at 18:30 Conversation about the IHME Project between Theaster Gates and Director of the Van Abbemuseum Charles Esche at the Gloria Cultural Arena, Pieni Roobertinkatu 12, Helsinki.

Free admission to everything.


Theaster Gates on Power of The Voice

In the IHME Festival trailer Theaster Gates speculates on whether music has the power to depict the history of contemporary art in ways that an art object exhibited on a pedestal cannot do. Where does the power of the live performance, the unique, shared experience lie? In The Black Monastic concert at the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal, in autumn 2014 The Black Monks of Mississippi ensemble included both Chicagoans and Portuguese musicians. Led by Gates they performed an uninterrupted piece lasting more than an hour, in which various materials were heard, including some from Joseph Beuys. It is not hard to recognize the importance of an artist like Beuys in Gates’s production: both are characterized by an attempt to expand the notion of what art can be, the idea of every human being’s potential as a creative individual, and trust in the capacity of art to influence society.

“Well, music does lots of things or rather, sound. Sound can function in many ways, like color. There is form and there are varying ways of understanding abstraction or non-form-based sound. When you start to make these correlations between sound and color, really wonderful worlds open up for you. Maybe you leave the burden of explaining what you see and enter a world of expression. Perhaps, I am returning to expression as a way of understanding and making meaning,” Gates says.

Of his musical starting points, gospel and spirituality have a special place in Gates’s work. And yet this is not the goal of The Black Monks of Mississippi, but provides a basis for joint improvisation. “The music I hope to create is not limited by Gospel music, although I know that Black Gospel music is a very particular music with things that you can point to as having a structure and tradition, and way of making sense. The music we aspire to allows for the expression of ecstasy, while perhaps leaving the charge of religious encounter to the listener, viewer or witness. The sound can do lots of different kinds of work, and we are only at the beginning of understanding what sound does.”

The assimilation of cultural influences, or, more strictly defined, cultural appropriation, has been a topic of vigorous conversation in Finland with Laura Lindstedt’s Oneiron and the response to it in Koko Hubara’s blog. The discussion was continued by Jenni Hiltunen’s Grind video, which uses Sámi costume in a way that offends the indigenous people. Works related to this topic can also be found in Gates’s production, in which he approaches the issue, for example, by borrowing elements from the works of the famous modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi. He has also copied ancient African sculptures and signed them with his own name so as to give them at least some name. In other words, he comments on the way western artists borrow from African culture without acknowledging the sources. Does this topic have any connection with the forthcoming IHME Project The Black Charismatic?

”I am not sure if appropriation is something that I’m engaged in, or borrowing. It is reasonable to say that I’m engaged in the question of where power comes from (in this case sound-power) and how it works. The work of the Monks is an attempt to find power through the body and durational projects. It is true that people all over the world are engaged in very specific acts of meaning making, and that I am often influenced by those things, but the beauty is that the conversation is not a black/white binary or a majority/minority binary. These are actually quite banal ways of engaging the charismatic. We make black music. It birthed many musics. I am very interested in the offspring of spiritual sound power.”

More about Theaster Gates’s ideas around The Black Charismatic >


Artist’s Talk by Theaster Gates on October 27

The artist who will create IHME project 2017, Theaster Gates, gave a public talk at 18:00 on Thursday, October 27 in the Exhibition Laboratory, University of the Arts Helsinki (Merimiehenkatu 36). Gates’s topics were his artistic practice, music as a contemporary art-making practice, and art in public space. The members of Gates’ experimental jazz group, The Black Monks of Mississippi, will join him in the discussion.


IHME Project 2017: The Black Charismatic

The IHME Contemporary Art Festival in Helsinki has invited the artist Theaster Gates to conceive the next year’s IHME Project – a new artwork in public space commissioned annually. Gates’s project will present to audiences in Finland one of the cornerstones of his collective artistic production: the experimental jazz group The Black Monks of Mississippi. The project will be carried out at the beginning of April 2017 in four parts: a video installation in public space, a film about the Monks, their three debut albums and a live concert.

Theaster Gates, together with other members of the group, visited Helsinki in October and performed improvised music at variety of venues. The documented audiovisual material will be the source material for  both the video installation in public space and the documentary film about the Monks’ in Theaster Gates’s artistic production. Two highlights of the Festival, to be staged at the beginning of April 2017, will be the world premiere of the documentary and an album-release concert starring The Black Monks of Mississippi.

The title of IHME Project 2017 and of all its four parts is The Black Charismatic. The history, culture and current situation of black people in the United States and elsewhere is always present in Gates’s projects in one way or another. For Gates, in this context, the word ‘charismatic’ means a gift that black people have, the power that comes from the animation of the body, from being with others, and yet focusing on the internal, the meditative and the durational. He says the aim of The Black Monks of Mississippi is to simultaneously achieve holiness and humanness, ecstasy and restraint. The performances do this through improvisations that combine the soul of the blues, the spirit of gospel, and the meditativeness of Buddhist chants. According to the black poet and theorist Fred Moten, improvisation is a good starting point for understanding black aesthetics, not only in jazz, but in all aspects of black culture. Improvisation is a means of transcendence as collective effort surpasses the limitations and understanding of the one.

IHME Project 2017 is an invitation to join in this journey – a cross between a spiritual moment in the midst of the everyday and an exploration of the unifying forces of human nature and the power of art.


Introduction to the artist

Theaster Gates (b.1973) is a Chicago-based African-American artist whose work includes sculptures, paintings, performances, restoration and re-use of derelict spaces, re-activation of deserted archive materials, and activation of communities. He has three degrees: in urban planning, ceramics and religious studies. These three fields intriguingly intertwine in his artistic production, in clay objects and dishes, in the re-activation of social life and buildings in the South Side of Chicago, and in the musical performances by The Black Monks of Mississippi. He gained international recognition with his Dorchester Projects in the South Side, in which local carpenters used recycled materials to restore deserted buildings, which then took on a new life as a cinema, library, artists’ residence etc. Gates has multiple roles as an artist: ceramic artist, catalyst, and developer who connects communities and is interested in reverse gentrification. He has an ongoing interest in what kinds of spaces and actions are enabled by gastronomy, spirituality and culture.

Another breakthrough that Gates made into the international artworld was his project for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Twelve Ballads for Huguenot House. For this project he got access to a 200-year-old hotel called the Huguenot House, where he and his Chicagoan-European team built rooms for them all to stay for three months, along with exhibitions spaces. These spaces provided a platform for recorded and live performances by The Black Monks of Mississippi. The Huguenots were Protestants who were deported from France and then settled in Germany. Gates felt a connection between the Huguenots and the African diaspora, and thus this space became a symbolic homage to everyone who has been forced to leave their home, and to those in need of one.

Gates is the winner of the 2015 Artes Mundi prize, the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, and currently Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago.


Selection criteria

The expert teamTuula Arkio (chair), Paula Toppila, Hanna Johansson, Leevi Haapala and Timo Valjakka – invited Theaster Gates to devise IHME Project 2017, and is delighted to have this opportunity to collaborate with him. Theaster Gates was invited for a number of reasons. His artistic production is fascinating in its diversity and depth, and has multiple layers for viewers to discover. He is constantly looking for new approaches as an artist, and thus challenging what contemporary art can be. The project at dOCUMENTA (13), Twelve Ballads for The Huguenot House, which our whole team experienced live in Kassel, is an excellent example of this. Compared with the artists who have already collaborated with IHME, he is the first to be deeply involved in urban development, history and the culture of black people. His approach to public space is inspiring, and we very much look forward to seeing his project and its impact here in Finland, along with his collective endeavour: The Black Monks of Mississippi.

Links to learn more about the artist:

Theaster Gates’ homepage
http://theastergates.com/home.htm

Gates is represented by White Cube Gallery
http://whitecube.com/artists/theaster_gates/

Theaster Gates’ TED talk
https://www.ted.com/talks/theaster_gates_how_to_revive_a_neighborhood_with_imagination_beauty_and_art

In-depth interview with the artist
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/01/20/the-real-estate-artist

Theaster Gates in Brilliant Ideas – a series of interviews with prominent contemporary artists.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1D4ne1jQKs


Previous IHME Artists and Projects

2008: Films and video works: Anri Sala, Jeremy Deller, Lauri Astala & Elina and Hanna Brotherus, Runa Islam, Christian Marclay, Deimantas Narkevičius, Francis Alÿs, Matthew Barney

2009: Antony Gormley: Clay and the Collective Body

2010: Susan Philipsz: When Day Closes

2011: Superflex: Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki)

2012: Christian Boltanski: The Heart Archive

2013: Miroslaw Balka: Signals

2014: Yael Bartana: True Finn

2015: Jeremy Deller: Do Touch

2016: Kateřina Šedá: Tram Buskers’ Tour

Find out more about the history of IHME.