Nowhere in Helsinki

Nathalie Chambart's light art installation

    • Nathalie Chambart, Nowhere, LUX Helsinki 2016; photo by Rob Garrett

Nathalie Chambart (BE), Nowhere (2012)

LUX Helsinki 2016
Alvar Aalto Erottaja pavilion at the crossing between Erottajankatu and Bulevardi

This LUX Helsinki 2016 project by Belgian artist Nathalie Chambart was perhaps my favourite work in the light art festival; and to my mind, shows that even re-presented works, that are not actually site specific, can be included in ways that create both a direct art experience and draw people's attention to the site and where they stand (or sit, in a tram, for instance) to view the work.

It was a personal pleasure to learn about some of the happenstance connections: The first is that it sits at the top of stairs to 'somewhere'. In fact the 'Erottaja Pavilion' is an Emergency Shelter Entrance at Erottaja designed in 1941 by Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) and built in 1951-52, about which I heard local rumours that it was secret or disused because they had tried the doors and couldn't get in. But I witnessed a couple with bikes (see photo below) entering the (now) underground carpark after punching the right numbers on the keypad at the right.

The second 'somewhere' about this Nowhere site is that it is located at the start of Finland's longest road: National Road #4 which runs 1295 kilometers from Erottaja in Helsinki to Sami Bridge in Etsjoki.

The project also afforded me one of my pleasurable Aalto-architecture moments, in a city with many fine examples of the reknowned Modenist architect and designer's work - for instance I also enjoyed visiting Cafe Aalto at Akademinen kirjakauppa (Academic bookshop) with its fantastic white interior (just marble and books! Perfect!). Also in that building, the skylights are like weird spacecraft descending in the building. In a similar way the architectural form of the Erottaja Pavilion is like some pop-media image of a space ship descending or emerging; reminiscent of the hybrid mix of the familiar and the other-worldly encountered in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner...

Even apart from these associations, the light work is rather good - and part of its quality lies in the fact that it could act a catalyst for associations about almost any site it was placed in. The choice of site here in Helsinki was perfect visually too, because it was possible to keep coming across it, both by day and night, from various distant vantage points, and it always acted as a magnet to come closer for a better look.

    • Nathalie Chambart, Nowhere, LUX Helsinki 2016; photo by Rob Garrett
    • Alvar Aalto's Erottaja Pavilion, site of Nathalie Chambart's Nowhere, LUX Helsinki 2016; photo by Rob Garrett
    • Alvar Aalto, the Academic Bookstore building (1961); photo by Rob Garrett
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