This Side of the Ocean draws attention to the ways images and art are used to illustrate the changing conceptions of Finnishness. The imagery related to Finnishness is extremely slow to change: there is the lakeside scenery, the sauna, the forest, and the people who work hard and, occasionally, like to play hard. This imagery is very much present in Finnish contemporary art, but a clear break from the old ways is also visible. The long tradition of the prevailing imagery provides not only a series of unique tales but also an access to more multidimensional interpretations.
Finnishness can no longer be perceived as one unified narrative; a multitude of identities must be recognised when we seek answers to the question of what binds these narratives together: language, culture, the rhythm of the changing seasons, attitudes, sense of humour, body language. Within art and culture there is a distinct effort to avoid clichés when dealing with the notion of Finnishness, yet at the same time these clichés and the ensuing hilarious simplifications are a target for ridicule. Straightforwardness and the ability to acknowledge facts, as seen as a part of the nature of Finnishness, seems to have opened up a new visual level of experience that, despite its limitation to a locality, is essentially global. The images in the exhibition often include a touch of the "exotic", a characteristic which has more to do with the growing visibility of new groups of people in Finnish society, and the acceptance of their narrative as an equal factor within the community, than with their otherness.
The Finnish landscape has always been a central element for understanding Finnish identity. Its significance with regard to this identity seems to be undergoing great transformation. Earlier, nature used to stand for some kind of a "real" world and a mirror of self, whereas it has now become a framework which is seen through a cultural disposition. In fact, it is often presented as already overtaken for exploitation. It has become a world under threat, capable of creating a sense of instability in its potential for backlash. In today's culture, there is a tendency to see nature as a spiritual value, a place pf peace and a sanctuary for meditation. It provides us with an oasis of spirituality while being perceived as the victim of modern progress.
The imagery of this exhibition establishes connections from the natural landscape to the urban environment, from the margins to the centre, from the individual to the community and back to the individual. Broadly speaking, contemporary art is interested in the reality behind matters, in the dynamic rather than the static, dialogue rather than monologue, in defining rather than the defined. The exhibition aims to show the depth of potential within the nature of Finnishness to rejoice at being alive, despite the mentality which tends to be melancholic-to celebrate difference and learn to give it more latitude than what we have considered ourselves able to do. This theme is taken up by the circles of both high culture and alternative culture. The exhibition can be seen as a playground charged with different meanings, and as a gateway to those numerous narratives that are ignited only through the viewer's presence.