2018 IHME Project conceived by the Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson
IHME 2018: The Case of a False Click Beetle: Halavasepikkä
The Hylochares cruentatus – in Finnish the halavasepikkä [literally: halava = bay willow, sepikkä = false click beetle] – is less than a centimetre long and lives on the old Mätäoja riverbed in Vantaa, Finland. According to the entomologist, Professor Jyrki Muona, the halavasepikkä is an indigenous insect that has lived in the geographical region now known as Finland since the end of the last ice age.
The beetle is named after its living environment: the setting for its entire lifecycle is a rotting species of willow, the halava or bay willow (Salix pentandra). It also lives on the dark-leaved willow (Salix myrsinifolia), which is even more restrictedly a floodplain species. It is in this willow species that it lays its eggs, hatches out as a larva, and inside this willow that it pupates and then turns into a beetle.
Being a beetle, the life of Hylochares cruentatus or the halavasepikkä lasts about a week. In Finland wild-growing willow forests have been systematically eradicated: they are tangled, wet and impenetrable. In the case of the bay willow, dark-leaved willow and halavasepikkä a crucial factor in their decreasing numbers is that the flooding of rivers that they need to survive has been prevented, while their favourite areas have been cleared out and dredged. As a consequence the halavasepikkä is now classed as being critically endangered, particularly as it is at present only known to live in part of Vantaa.
Henrik Håkansson met Jyrki Muona and the halavasepikkä on his first background-work day in Helsinki in December 2016. As a result of numerous conversations during spring 2017, the halavasepikkä was given the leading role in of the 2018 IHME Project. Filming of the material for the forthcoming moving-image work began in June-July 2017, assisted by Jyrki Muona. The forthcoming IHME Project may also acquire other component parts, some of them possibly sited near the beetle’s native habitat in Vantaa. The film aims to show the beetle as being of its own definite kind, and presents the site and the beetle in terms of learned and experienced facts.
In choosing the halavasepikkä as the starting point for his work, Henrik Håkansson links it with some major questions about climate change: species diversity, the relationship between humankind and nature, interspecies communication, but also about the difficulty of verbal communication between people. Insects have been the most successful class of animals on the planet for millions of years, but now their populations have radically declined. This is a particularly worrying observation, since insects play an important role, for instance, in the food chain of many other species and as pollinators of plants. The IHME Project, entitled THE BEETLE, also has links with post-humanism, which explores boundaries between human and non-human, the separation of nature and culture, the special status of human beings in the world and the possibility of breaking away from this, and alternative ethical practices. In Håkansson’s thinking, nature and culture cannot be separated: there is a culture of nature and a nature of culture.
The next IHME Festival and the premiere of the film will be held in May 25th and 26th 2018 in Korjaamo Culture Factory, Helsinki.
About the Artist
Henrik Håkansson (b. 1968, Sweden) is a trailblazer whose works have dealt with the diversity of species and their migration, and who, since the start of the 1990s, has been joined in the creation of his art by living plants and animals. His works combine the interests of the artist, the biologist and the ethnographer in a manner that is reminiscent of 19th-century explorers. They frequently focus on small details of the natural environment, which are displayed in extraordinary installations, videos, pictures or performances. The works put the spotlight on technologies of science and looking, technologies that make it possible to observe other species and their living environments differently in the context of art. Håkansson has participated in numerous major international exhibitions, such as the Venice (1997 and 2003), Berlin (2001), São Paulo (2004) and Sharjah biennales (2007), the Yokohama Triennale (2011) and Kassel Documenta (2013). In Finland he has taken part in Kiasma’s Under the Same Sky and ARS 01 exhibitions (2000 and 2001).
The insect world is frequently a main protagonist in Håkansson’s output. The leading character in The End is a common fly that appears in a film, the musical score composed for it having so far been played by three different orchestras in three different contexts: THE END ensemble (2011), Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2014) and Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo (2016). This dark musical drama holds the fly in its grasp and unpicks its lifecycle. The composition is for multiple instruments and the human voice, with the powerful moods of tension, melancholy, fear and vulnerability carrying the person experiencing it through this intense work.
Another of Håkansson´s favourite categories in the animal world is birds. In Birdconcert Oct. 23, 2005 (Carduelis carduelis) Part 1 a goldfinch performs for a human audience, sitting on a branch brought into a concert hall. That situation, the bird with its audience, has been documented live on 16 mm film. In this context constructed for human beings the local bird comes across as an exotic, fragile sight. The configuration of mutual observation made the audience, too, a performer, especially since the goldfinch – regardless of the recorded song of one of its conspecifics being played in the space – does not sing at any point in the entire performance. The documentation of the performance constitutes its own independent moving-image work, and will be shown as part of the IHME programme along with The End. The work was produced by the Frieze Art Fair in London.
A variety of living plants, and especially ones dug out of the ground along with their roots, have often served as material for Håkansson’s monumental installations. Visit the gallery website links below to see, for instance, A Tree (Suspended) at the Kunstverein Freiburg, A Forest Divided at Lunds konsthall or Broken Forest at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The installations heart-rendingly encapsulate the human relationship with the natural environment, which manifests itself in violent acts.
Read more about Henrik Håkansson’s production:
Why Henrik Håkansson?
“We wanted to show various ways of working as an artist and different approaches to art, the world and reality. The art that Håkansson represents is topical and interesting right now, and is being widely discussed,” is how expert-group member and critic Timo Valjakka explains his own reasons for choosing the artist. “Henrik really has dealt with the acculturation and artificialization of nature, and also worked with living plants and animals in his works since the mid-90s,” Professor of Contemporary Art Research Hanna Johansson adds. “I had an opportunity to get to know Håkansson and his art already at the turn of the millennium, when I was at Kiasma and we invited him to take part in the ARS 2001 exhibition with The Thin Line Between Love and Hate, 2001. That work consisted of epiphytic plants, which live in the forks of tree branches, but do not draw their sustenance from the tree. He has been a real trailblazer in investigating the relationship between human beings, animals, insects and plants. It was a joy and an easy decision to be able to select him to make the IHME Project for 2018,” says the Chair of the expert group, Museum Director Emerita Tuula Arkio.
“Håkansson’s first work in Helsinki was a biotope for sea pink flowers (Armeria maritima) in a seaside meadow on Hernesaari Island in the year 2000, as part of Kiasma’s urban-art exhibition Under the Same Sky and Helsinki European Capital of Culture. Nowadays, Hernesaari’s shoreline is known for its restaurants, sauna and sports activities. Landscape gardening has clearly won out over untamed nature, and the area has been turned into one of the citizenry’s main recreational oases. As the IHME Project unfolds, it will be especially interesting to see what we will learn about the rare halavasepikkä and its chances of survival on wasteland on the fringes of urban nature,” says expert-group member and Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Leevi Haapala.
“In our discussions about choosing artists we have for a long time had in mind artists whose production takes a critical view of the geological epoch known as the anthropocene, the human age. It has been suggested that the anthropocene began in the mid-20th century. It is characterized by the spread of various materials of human origin, such as concrete, plastic and fly ash, around the planet. The influence of humankind is also seen in changes in the atmosphere, and in the widespread migration of non-native species. In his works Henrik has also considered how human activity is reflected, for example, in the incidence of different species,” Executive Director and Curator of the IHME project Paula Toppila says of the ideas behind the choice of artist.
IHME Project 2018 in the media
Helsingin Sanomat 8.11.2017 (in Finnish): Alle sentin pituinen ötökkä on Ihme-festivaalin tähti
Kirkko ja kaupunki 8.11.2017 (in Finnish): Nykytaidefestivaali esittelee harvinaisen, viiden millimetrin kokoisen vantaalaisen
Taiteilija-lehti 8.11.2017 (in Finnish): Vuoden 2018 IHME-teos esittelee uhanalaisen kovakuoriaislajin Vantaalta
Vantaan Sanomat 8.11.2017 (in Finnish): Vantaalla elävä piskuinen kuoriainen on IHME-nykytaidefestivaalin päätähti
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
2017: Theaster Gates & The Black Monks of Mississippi: The Black Charismatic
Find out more about the history of IHME.