Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “School Encourages the Imagination”


Koulu tukee mielikuvitusta,
meidät kävelytetään museoon.
Maalauksissa naiset kampaavat alasti ja selkä kyyryssä
keltaisessa huoneessa. Teema on toistuva.
Pellot lämpiävät lanteilla, auringonkukat
kiertyvät henkensä kaupalla kohti sineä, himon silmää.
Taivaalla kultaiset, raskaat kehykset.

Simpukkasuu kääntyy ja kuiskii pienin hengenvedoin:
Kuolenko mä kun mä en saa unta?
Jossain käynnistetään sirkkeli
ja ajattelen terää joka viiltää nopeasti ja syvään.
Joku sanoo hys ja simpukkasuu lopettaa:
Ei mulla muuta moi.

Menemme museon myymälään ja alan etsiaä julistetta seinälle.
Simpukkasuun sormet ovat hikiset sipulinvarret
ja hänen kaulansa ulottuu joka hetki ylemmäs,
puut, metsät enää vain kukkakeppejä, niin korkealle hän venyy.
Ajattelen terää joka viiltäisi niin nopeasti ja syvään,
että kaikki muu tuntuisi sillä hetkellä yhdentekevältä.
Enkä minä julistetta täältä löydä, myöhemmin vasta,
vuosien päästä kun se on valmis.


School encourages the imagination.
They walk us over to the museum.
In paintings, naked women comb their hair, backs hunched,
in a yellow room. The subject is recurrent.
Hips warm the fields, the sunflowers
turn their breath in spades towards the blue, the eye of lust.
The heavens are chockablock with heavy golden frames.

The clamshell turns and whispers, slightly gasping,
“Do I die when I cannot sleep?”
Sometimes a circular saw kicks in,
and I think of a blade that slashes quickly and deeply.
Someone says “Hush!” and the clamshell wraps it up,
“I haven’t got anything else. Cheers.”

We go to the museum store, and I look for a wall poster.
The clamshell’s fingers are sweaty onion stalks,
and her neck extends higher each instant.
The trees and forests are mere beanstalks, she stretches so high.
I think of a blade that slashes so quickly and deeply
everyone else would feel indifferent at that moment.
Nor do I find a poster there. Only later,
after years when it was ready.

—Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 45. Translation and photo by Living in FIN. Dedicated, belatedly, to Alexander Skidan on his birthday.

Hannu Salakka, “It Cools Slowly”

imatra-destroyed sculpture

Viilenee hitaasti,
miedot tuoksut kohoavat aaltoina.
Valvoa myöhään, herätä varhain,
olla jouten koko pitkän päivän.
Mutta jokin huolestuttaa.
Ehkä kadonnut taito päästä irti asioista,
jotka eivät tapahdu täällä.

* * * * * * * * * *

It cools slowly,
the mild smells rising like waves.
Staying up late, waking up early,
being idle the livelong day.
But something is unsettling.
Perhaps the lost art of getting loose of things
that did not happen here.

—Hannu Salakka, Kesä kesältä syvemmin (Otava, 1977), p. 36. Translation and photo by Living in FIN.

A few years ago, citing “numerous” complaints from the “general public,” the Imatra municipal parks and maintenance department summarily loaded the lovely brutalist modernist sculpture in the middle of the picture, above, onto a flatbed truck, took it to the local rolled steel plant, and melted it down in the plant’s blast furnace.

It was left to the Imatra municipal culture department, which had not been warned by the parks and maintenace department it was planning to commit this act of iconoclasm, to telephone the sculptor, who is quite famous in Finland and alive and well in Helsinki, to explain what had been done to his artwork by the yahoos in Karelia. It was reported that he took the strange news quite well, all things considered. LIF

Krimifest (11-12 August 2017, Imatra)


11–12 August 2017

In the second weekend of August, Krimi will celebrate the houses’ last summer as a festival touchstone with an extravagant garden party. Let’s do it one more time, sisters and brothers!

The festivities officially kick off at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 11, with the opening of a show by painter Santtu Määttänen. The audience will be entertained after the opening by musical mastermind Joose Keskitalo.

On Saturday, partygoers can arrive at Krimi early in the day and spend quality relaxation time with the whole family if they like. The music again blasts off at nightfall, supplied by Joutseno-based power duo Suominen & Härkönen, multimedia Guggenheim Projektz, and Australian-born Kitto, a great singer-songwriter who now hails from Sweden.

In addition to music, on Friday and Saturday, Krimi will have a really special program featuring performances, caricature drawing, and a holographic piece by the Power Builders art group. Partygoers are also free to express themselves and bring games, musical instruments, etc.  The party will be conceived and celebrated together.

A detailed schedule for the weekend will be available shortly, and other changes to the program are also possible. While admission to the event is officially free, we hope that participants support our work by donating money as they see fit.

General Info

The party is organized by the Krimi Art Center in cooperation with the Krimi Houses, located at Koulukatu 1A in Imatra. Except for Friday’s art show opening, the entire program will take place outside. With an eye to the fickle weather, it would be worth your while to bring warm, waterproof clothes just in case. You should also bring something or other for sitting on in the yard. In addition, the sauna will be warmed up on Saturday. Bring your own towel along if you want to have a bath.

There are plenty of shops and other services nearby. The nearest campground is around three hundred meters away, in Varpasaari Fishing Park. People traveling long distances may also ask to stay the night at Krimi.

If you have specific questions, you can contact us by email at

Krimi Art Center
Koulukatu 1A
55100 Imatra

Translated by Living in FIN


* * * * *

The Krimi Art Center, a home and haven for Imatra’s current art students and recent art school grads, celebrates its last summer in existence with a festival on August 11 and 12, 2017.

Why has the city decided to demolish the two modest wooden buildings that make up Krimi?

I’ve already forgotten the “official” reason the houses have to go (the dreaded “toxic fungus” that lumbers round this fair land like the plague during the Middle Ages? austerity for students at the hands of the current bourgeois government?), but I have no doubt they are at odds with the city’s current development plan, which involves

    • demolishing as much built heritage as possible, even officially listed built heritage;
    • holding as many loud, vulgar public mega events as possible, such as the recent “concerts in the park” that ripped up huge swathes of the parkland situated cheek by jowl with the complex housing the city’s library, concert hall, museums, and city hall, while sonically terrorizing the mostly elderly residents of the nearby Mansikkala neighborhood for several nights in a row, and the latest iteration of the Imatra International Road Racing Championship, an event that should have been left buried in the 1960s, when it crashed and burned, but has been unwisely dusted off by the local powers that be and made an annual fixture just as worldwide climate warming kicks into high gear, as if sending huge clouds of smoke into the atmosphere is now cooler than it was back in the swinging sixties;
    • building as many big box stores for the now-mostly nonexistent “flood” of Russian shopping tourists and building most of the stores in the same neighborhood, Mansikkala, thereby making life nearly intolerable for residents of the city’s most populous district, most of whom are old-age pensioners who built the place and, when they were still working, actually made real things in the city’s once-mighty factories;
    • building something useless or expensive or both in the so-called Imatra Free Time Center (Imatran Vaipaa-Aika Keskus), which was once a wooded paradise on earth, featuring a pine tree-shaded swimming beach so pretty and picturesque it made you want to cry. Nowadays, however, the Imatra Free Time Center is chockablock with vacation cottages, a revamped beach in which most of those shade trees have been axed, a biathlon center (soon to be useless in a warmed-up climate hardly capable of producing large quantities of snow), a new Finnish baseball stadium, an indoor sports field, sheltered by an inflatable dome, a new camping ground (moved there to make room for the vacation cottages), and a new fish restaurant, erected right on the shoreline of Lake Saimaa. Hilariously, the fish restaurant was blueprinted and built by the city and its allies in the construction sector even though it had no one lined up to lease and operate it after plans for it were mooted and officially approved and, now, at least a year after it has been built down to the last doorknob, the mythical fish restaurateur is still waiting in the shadows, too bashful to emerge and take over the eatery custom built for him or her. Construction of the fish restaurant (which, were I a bad, lawless person, I would suggest the soon-to-be-homeless art students and young artists from Krimi should squat, because it’s not serving any other purpose at the moment) necessitated the clear-cutting of so many trees and the pouring of so much asphalt that it changed beyond all recognition the particular tract of now-vanished shady forest on the shores of Lake Saimaa where it was plopped down to no apparent purpose. Basically, it turned that part of the Imatra Free Time Area into a “human-friendly” desert of the kind that puts Russian shopping tourists at ease, or so the local Finnish developers imagined. It never occurs to the local Finnish developers and city planners they could be wrong about anything, least of all about Russians, about whom they pretend to know everything, but about whom they know almost nothing, which would be ironic if were not so funny and sad at the same time;
    • attacking and annihilating nearly defenseless cultural and artistic endeavors like the Krimi Houses, the now-defunct Taiderastit one-day art crawls, the International Semiotics Institute and its renowned summer seminars, and other things that had made the town attractive to a different crowd of tourist, as well as to local residents who don’t celebrate soul-, eardrum-, and earth–destroying noise and smoke as “culture.” Needless to say, none of these events cost the city or the federal government much money at all, but they were easy targets for hard-minded city councilors, MPs, and deputy ministers wanting to produce results when it came to the most sacred thing in Finnish governance: “savings” (säästöjä)
Ukonlinna Beach, Imatra, South Karelia, 31 July 2012. Photo by Living in FIN

This is how the city of Imatra, South Karelia, Finland, imagines and actually implements its own future: by getting rid of lots of things and people that, in real and cultural terms, are defenseless, good value for the money, and anything but in-your-face aggressive and environmentally destructive, whether we are talking about trees and beautiful shorelines or mild-mannered art students running an art gallery in their own digs or foreign semioticians. The city replaces them with what is good in the very short term for the demolition, construction, and lowbrow tourism and shopping sectors.

And you thought Finland was different. How wrong you were. LIF

Easy Finnish, Lesson 3: Taking a Selfie

Finnish really is one of the world’s easiest languages.

I was reminded of this again earlier today while taking in Snapshots, a fine show of recent paintings by young local artist Arto Kettunen, in the Käytävägalleria (“Corridor Gallery”) at Imatra’s cultural center, Kulttuuritalo Virta (“Stream House of Culture,” so called because it is situated alongside the once-raging Vuoksi River, dammed up on both ends during its now-short course in Finland—the rest of its length was lost to the Soviet Union during the Winter War (Talvisota) and Continuation War (Jatkosota)—to generate electricity).

Arto Kettunen, Sara ottaa selfien, 2016. Oil, 37 cm x 27 cm.

Sara ottaa selfien means, unsurprisingly, “Sara takes a selfie,” by analogy with the common expression ottaa valokuva, “(to) take a picture.”

Mr. Kettunen’s show runs until October 29. Be there or be square.


Another linguistic point of interest is that the show is entitled Maalauksia arjesta in Finnish—not “Snapshots” per se, but “Paintings from [or, about] Everyday Life.”

Arki is the nominative case of the word, which means, alternately, “weekday” or the ordinary, mundane days in life, the everyday. Given its mundaneness, you hear the word constantly in daily life—for example, in advertisements for daily specials at grocery stores.

The non-Finnish part of me (which is all of me, since I’m not Finnish) would like to wax poetic about the supreme importance of everyday life to Finns and Finnish culture (as opposed, say, to ruling the world), and how that makes Finland such a lovely, safe place to live most of the time, but I lack the words, even in English, to describe its complex simplicity.




I was just reading in yesterday’s edition of Etelä-Saimaa newspaper about a show of cows (lehmiä) and hiehoja at the Kouvola Regional Vocational College’s Natural Resources Center in the town of Anjala. Since I didn’t know what the word hieho meant, I googled it. This was the first entry that came up.

Wöyh! “Hieho” (2012)

Hieho on kultaa
hieho on hopeaa
hieho on pronssia
hieho on nopea
Nivelet maistuu voissa ne paistuu
nivelet maistuu voissa ne paistuu

The heifer is gold
the heifer is silver
the heifer is bronze
the heifer is fast
Joints taste like they are fried in butter
Joints taste like they are fried in butter

South Karelians should have no trouble identifying where Wöyh! filmed this fabulous video.

And I will never forget what hieho means ever again.


Translation by Living in FIN. Photo courtesy of Whippet & Siperiankissa

Queens of the Stone Age

During the Stone Age, Finnish contemporary art looked something like this.


And it was exhibited in site-specific installations such as this.



Since the Stone Age, Finnish contemporary art has gone downhill. Like everything else in Finland. And like everywhere else.

The Kolmiköytisienvuori rock painting is located in Ruokolahti commune in the eastern part of the southern Lake Saimaa region. The painting consists of a single densely painted area on a rock outcropping that is visible far out into the lake. The painting has been dated to the early New Stone Age. The site is signposted before the turn on the road from Savilahti to Sapola on Äitsaari Island.

The painting was discovered in 1977 by Timo Miettinen, who is also listed as the painting’s inventory curator. Miettinen inventoried the painting in 1994, and Minna Kähtävä-Marttinen, in 1996. About two kilometers to the west of Kolmiköytyisienvuori, a typical Comb Ware period dwelling site has been found on Korosniemi Cape. Based on its location and height, the rock painting has been dated to around 3,000 BCE.






Text, translation, and photos by Living in FIN