— Skills of Economy

Skills of Economy Event / Helsinki

Skills of Economy is a curatorial concept focused on contemporary artists’ actions towards the current economy and economic rhetorics. Economy and economic rhetorics fill up media space in the Western world. Economy has become the most important way of describing the world and measuring its progress. Skills of Economy is a project that researches and archives contemporary artistic reactions in this societal situation.

The Skills of Economy Event creates a flow of views from artists, curators, activists and theorists on current artistic production and different ideas on how mainstream and hegemonic economic thinking and reality can be challenged through artistic and activist practices. These ways can be roughly divided into symbolic and direct actions. Symbolic actions can create new representations of the visualization of economy or re-perform economic concepts, situations and habits. On the other hand, direct actions, such as time banking, may be giving form to local ways of organizing change. The effects of these actions are neither purely symbolic nor direct, instead they are in dialogue with economical rhetorics as well as with different realities and politics connected to these. The event highlights art and economy both as strong targets of politics and as media of politics. 

Ravintolalaiva Wäiski
9.30 – 19.00
Hakaniemenranta 11, 
00530 Helsinki

Kaiku Gallery
Finnish Academy of Fine Arts
mon-fri 11–19, sat-sun 12–16
Kaikukatu 4, 00530 Helsinki

Zachary Formwalt
unsupported transit, 2011
14 min 25 sec

Société Réaliste
The Fountainhead, 2010
111 min

Olivar Ressler
The Plundering, 2013
41 min

“Jesse Sipola, Seppä | Blacksmith” (Parallel Ads 2), 2011
Production: Eero Yli-Vakkuri (Ore.e Refineries)
Camera: Alexandre Riviello
08 min 6 sec

“Pneumatic Forging by Jesse Sipola”, 2011
Camera: Eero Yli-Vakkuri, Alexandre Riviello
Edit: Jesse Sipola
01 min 31 sec

Teemu Takatalo
The Gospel of the Enlightened Consumer, 2012
50 min

Skills of Economy Event is curated and organised by Jussi Koitela at the invitation of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts/Dept of General Studies. Supported by Frame Visual Art Finland and INSTITUT FRANÇAIS Finland

Skills of Economy Event PDF Leaflet

Seminar Presentations

Jenna Sutela
New Degrees of Freedom

Do you energetically perpetuate an economy of boundaryless social and working life? Experiencing an “investiture crisis”? Have you ever considered “power dressing” by means of a real-life avatar?

New Degrees of Freedom is a living media project that strives for autonomy in time and space, or flexible modes of being. The project entails the creation of avatars who transition back and forth between real and virtual space. Counseled in an online environment by researchers and practitioners, the avatars come to life in a series of performances:

Real-life avatars demonstrate new ways of living in bodies – such as lending one’s body to another, being nebulously anywhere, or constantly reassembling – thus augmenting the presence of those that they represent. Their project operates twofold. On the one hand, they represent a precarious social and working life made of flesh – a critical illustration, exaggerating existing power relations through to their logical end point. On the other hand, they reappropriate the means of immaterial production, connecting bodies and minds in subversive ways – a means to self-actualize, or take time off.

Ore.e Refineries
About Copper

Copper is one of the first metals people have learned to use and it has a lot of applications. Modern cities and lifestyles are dependent on it. It is the best medium for transmitting information and energy. You’ll find it inside walls and computers, conveying electricity and bits. As it doesn’t rust it’s also used in plumbing systems and as a roofing material. “Copper is 100% recyclable without any loss of quality”.

Copper is mostly hidden form plain site, inside transducers and PVC insulation – and people aren’t aware how much of it is wasted. As buildings are renovated it’s common to dispose of old electric wires by throwing them in the trash… When you learn to look for it you start to see the city in a new way. Every dumpster is a treasure chest filled with copper bullions turned into spaghetti. A kilo of copper can be sold for 3-to-5 euros!

But before you start profiting from extension cords and copper strings you’ve pulled from your amplifier, you’ll have to strip the insulation. Inside 10 kg of the common three-phase copper cable (similar to what you find in laptop chargers) there is nearly 2,8kg of copper. You also need to know where you’ll get the best price for your efforts. See the city from the scavenger’s perspective; hunt for copper junk in Helsinki!

Ruby van der Wekken
Take Back the Economy!

What is economy, but the way we organise life together – wants and needs, skills and talents alike –  which many would like to see as a site of ethical action. Unlike in the money system as we know it, a currency can be part of an economic paradigm shift challenging notions of scarcity and competition, and instead foster notions of abundance and cooperation whilst working towards common goals. Stadin Aikapankki’s Tovi currency wants to enable mutual assistance between people, strengthen a communal culture as well as a social and ecological locally embedded economy, in which everyone is of equal value and has equal participation possibilities. Developing a currency in order to start taking back our economy to serve our (global) communities involves utilising many a skill, from those traded in Aikapankki, to the skills deployed and developed in the participatory process shaping our principles and rules of working.

Société Réaliste
Swindling Futurity

Within the frame of “Skills of Economy”, Société Réaliste presents several projects developed over the last years, approaching the contemporary capitalist economy as a generalized and legal swindle. Therefore, the cooperative will present various experimental economy projects, dealing with pyramid schemes applied to the economy of contemporary art (“Ponzi’s”), the immigration business (“EU Green Card Lottery”), retirement plans and financial security for artists (“Artist Pension Trust”), long-distance investment programs for new cities in emerging countries (“Laissez-Faire City”), or corporate lodging resorts dedicated to alternative economy companies in the field of cultural production (“Left Bank Valley”).

Syrago Tsiara
Value Revisited

History Zero, Stefanos Tsivopoulos’ work that represents Greece at the 55th Venice Biennale, comprises a film in three episodes alongside an archive of texts and images. The film, conceived and produced in Athens in the midst of crisis, questions the value of money and the role money plays in the formation of human relationships by depicting the experiences of three very different individuals: an art collector suffering from dementia; an African immigrant who wanders the streets of Athens pushing a supermarket trolley and collecting scrap metal; an artist who observes and records street scenes with his iPad.

The central part of the installation consists of the archive of the ‘Alternative Currencies – An Archive and a Manifesto’.It is a collection of texts and images, put together by means of research and selection that contains examples of alternative, non-monetary exchange systems from all around the world. Focusing on historical and contemporary applications of alternative social experiments, such as a system of cash transfer using pre-paid mobile phone minutes that is evolving as a form of alternative currency in parts of Africa, the archive stands as a clear political statement which questions the homogenizing power of a single currency.

The work as a whole contests the established meanings attributed to value, creating space for different or even revolutionary concepts that might inspire a critical re-approach of our own evaluation systems. The presentation of the work History Zero in the context of the Skills of Economy Seminar aims at highlighting the potentiality of art to articulate a unique poetic discourse, still firmly rooted on the material conditions of today’s life.

Ville-Pekka Sorsa
Counter-performing economies?

Economic narratives and discourses dominate public debate, policy-making, education and a great number of other social institutions. We live in the (neoliberal) age of economy. However, there is no such thing as the ‘economy’ without the everyday performances of economic narratives in practices of calculation, valuation and exchange. What kinds of ‘economic’ performances are we engaging in and urged to engage ineveryday? Is there room for symbolic and practical counter-performances in the contemporary political economy and, if so, then how can art contribute towards creating divergent narratives and performances?

Visible Solutions LLC

Overview of the Visible Solutions LLC’s practices and artwork–products.



Oliver Ressler
The Plundering, 40 min, 2013

“We can talk about the ‘plundering’ of Georgia. Public property, which in fact should serve the common needs of society, has become the property of individuals. For example, if that project became successful, the citizens now using this park would not be able to use it.” – Mikheil Svanidze, The Plundering

Extreme levels of privatization can only be carried out under conditions where people are under severe pressure, as in the transformation of former Soviet republics towards independence and capitalism. Since the Rose Revolution in 2003, the former Soviet republic Georgia underwent such a radical transformation. President Mikheil Saakashvili implemented one of the most extreme neoliberal projects in the world. Today, Georgia is 9th of 185 states in the World Bank ranking “Ease of Doing Business”. While the “common good accumulated within the communist regime during 70 years of its existence” (Rusudan Mirzikashvili, The Plundering) is being sold off, the unstable situation in a radical, free-market economy and the liquidation of most social safety nets drove most Georgian residents into un-experienced levels of poverty.

The film The Plundering focuses on four cases of aggressive, state-property privatization policies in Tbilisi. Through interviews, it discusses the privatization of the water system in Tbilisi and of Tbilisi’s popular market, the Dezerter Bazaar. A newly emerging movement prevented the attempted sell-off of the National Scientific Library, and the destruction and conversion of the historical Gudiashvili Square in Tbilisi’s city center into a shopping mall. “Objects of strategic importance were sold to the benefit of some people close to the government”, Levan Asabashvili describes these processes of systemic corruption in the film. Usually the purchasers are hiding behind companies registered offshore.

Ore.e Refineries
”Jesse Sipola, Seppä | Blacksmith” (Parallel Ads 2), 2011, 8 min 6 sec
“Pneumatic Forging by Jesse Sipola”, 2011, 1 min 31 sec

Parallel Ads introduction.

Instead of making counter ads and jamming consumer culture Parallel Ads is an attempt to redirect cash flows away from corporations to small independent entrepreneurs. It is an effort to support marginalised industries (such as crafts and ethical foods) by making them look sexier then their corporate counterparts. The project has also helped to increase consumer awareness by clearing misconceptions consumers may have concerning specialized goods such as organic foods and sustainable designs.

The original goal was to select ethical (ecologically sustainable, local and good hearted) businesses by random and to provide artistic skills and tools to make street credible advertisements for them. These ads could then be distributed trough the art world networks and be presented for global audiences through art fair screenings and exhibitions.

It was lauched 2010 as a part of the Media Facades festival in Helsinki. The second edition of Parallel Ad was made for artist-blacksmith Jesse Sipola from Oshipala Airhammer Studios. This time the selection of whom to advert was not random, it was tactical. The project is intended solemnly online – And it aims to seriously expand peoples understanding on crafts and to clear clichés consumers project to blacksmiths. As the first effort a smithing festival called Rautasulka was streamed online using the Bambuser-service. This was likely the first time contemporary crafts festivals where shown live online.

2011 a more detailed informercial “Jesse Sipola, Seppä | Blacksmith (2011) of the praxis of blacksmith Sipola was published. In two years it has had more then 10K views and if currently featured on many blacksmith forums. Sipola used the same video material to edit a video targeted for his blacksmith peers. The edition Sipola made projects a more technical view on his craft. It is unclear which version has a more positive impact on the craft of blacksmithing. Crafts is the most important field of study for anyone interested in sustainable design and post-industrial economics.

Teemu Takatalo
The Gospel of the Enlightened Consumer, 2012, 50 min

In September 2011 Teemu Takatalo’s consumer critical mural The Absolution of the Enlightened Consumer was censored and destroyed in a gallery, in Tampere, Finland by the producers of the exhibition. The painting consisted of painted company logos of nine business enterprises, having their shops in the same shopping mall as the gallery, and texts about negligence of their social and environmental responsibility programs.

The brutal act against a surely critical but harmless painting evoke lame public discussion about artists’ freedom of expression, but first of all it brought up some crucial questions: why, on the whole, is business life trying to convince us about its virtue? If and when the destructive character of the capitalist economy is a generally accepted fact, why does someone who admits this still kneel and stoop in front of the altars of capitalism?

By analyzing this, Takatalo figured out a wider conceptual error that exists in consumption and capitalist production: both are structured in a way that remarkably resembles Christian theology, even though capitalism and Western culture are nowadays primarily understood as secular.

As a capitalist market is a platform for most of human interactions; the Christian ´concept of goodness has transformed in immaterial qualities of products, ´good deeds´ are done by consuming and absolution happens in a super market instead of a church. However, despite all this goodness, the capitalist market and production has created a growing number of serious global problems. These dynamics have created a new political subject: an enlightened consumer.

Société Réaliste
The Fountainhead, 2010, 111 min

Ayn Rand (1905-1982), Russian-born American novelist made a film adaptation of her second novel The Fountainhead in 1949. The studio movie was directed by King Vidor and featured Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal in the main roles. The movie tells the story of Howard Roark, a Promethean modernist architect – a character based on the figure of Frank Lloyd Wright – fighting against a surrounding collective decadence in the name of his personal genius. This original movie is a propagandist response to the Nazi and Soviet films of the pre-war period. At the centre of the script emerges the city of New York, seen as the idealised incarnation of capitalism. A few years later Rand synthetized her zealous embracement of the capitalist ideology in her “objectivist” theory, a willingly globalising and militant concept followed by numerous admirers such as Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan. With the aim of deleting the plot of the original version, Société Réaliste have removed the sound and every human presence from their version of The Fountainhead to reduce the film to its decorum, it’s ideological architecture. It’s all about the atmosphere of the film, the fantasized portrait of the city of New York, the visual discourse on the architecture of a closed world, the glass tower of the titans of capitalism.

Produced by: Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht
Courtesy of the artists

Zachary Formwalt
unsupported transit, 2011, 14 min 25 sec

Unsupported transit is set on a construction site in Shenzhen, the first of China’s Special Economic Zones, where a new stock exchange designed by Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture is now being built. On this site, a story is told that begins with Eadweard Muybridge’s early sequential photographs and a commissioned work he carried out for Leland Stanford before the famous horse pictures were produced. The mechanism by which the images in the film were produced becomes clearer as the story moves on to a description of time-lapse photography and what Karl Marx described as the “abbreviated form of capital”—a form that makes capital appear to move of its own accord.


Jussi Koitela

Jussi Koitela (b.1981) is a curator and visual artist based in Helsinki, Finland. As a curator he is currently focused on artists’ reactions to economic discourses. His artistic work consists of conceptual media art and collaborative projects. Koitela is interested in social discourses and the settings where they take place. He is studying in Praxis Master’s Programme at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. Recently he has participated Perpetuum Labs – Curating the Political Workshop in Baltic Art Center and several public discussions and debates about art, economy and institutions.


Jenna Sutela

Jenna Sutela works with words and structures in the fields of design and art. Her projects seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments – most recently, the physical nature of information networks and the relationship of art to work. She is a contributor to several international publications and has a background in media studies.


Oliver Ressler

Oliver Ressler (b.1970) lives and works as an artist and filmmaker in Vienna, Austria, and produces exhibitions, projects in the public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, global warming, forms of resistance and social alternatives. His projects have been shown in solo exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum, USA; Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Kunstraum at the University of Lüneburg; Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid; Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, Egypt; Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow and The Cube Project Space, Taipei. Ressler has participated in more than 250 group exhibitions, including the MASSMoCA, USA; Itaú Cultural Institute, Sao Paulo; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven and at the biennials in Prague (2005), Seville (2006), Moscow (2007), Taipei (2008), Lyon (2009), Gyumri (2012), Venice (2013) and Athens (2013). A retrospective of his 15 films took place at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève throughout 2013. For the Taipei Biennale 2008, Ressler curated an exhibition on the anti-globalization movement, A World Where Many Worlds Fit, which was also presented in 2010 in the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop University, Sherbrooke, Canada. A traveling show on the financial crisis, It’s the Political Economy, Stupid, co-curated with Gregory Sholette, was presented at Centre of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki and Pori Art Museum in Finland. Their book It’s The Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory was published by Pluto Press in 2013.


Ore.e Refineries

Ore.e Refineries is an independent organisation advocating sustainable design and offering cost efficient handicraft services. The company was founded 2007 as an art project focused on producing a copperplate suitable for printing fine arts. Currently Ore.e Ref. is developing into a sustainable business and offering its services to professionals working with design and the arts, who wish to have a more personal relationship with the raw materials they are using. For consumers Ore.e Ref. is offering services ranging from cosmetics to a rebooted version of the Speaking Clock service.

The company has created online campaigns in an effort to convince designers NOT to design chairs, hosted public workshops on “How to Sharpen Knifes” in design fairs and developed a moustache wax formula (from ingredients found in the Baltic Sea drainage basin environment).

Recently Ore.e Ref. has begun collaborating with conceptual artists and designers. “We encourage people who use metals and other ready-made material in their work to take note of the technology and ethical backgrounds: where and how these materials are collected and refined”says the company’s Head of Management and Sales, Eero Yli-Vakkuri. In short, Ore.e Ref. is a manifesto for labor and the intrinsic value of handmade things.


Ruby van der Wekken

Ruby van der Wekken considers herself a member of the global justice movement, and is currently working at the Siemenpuu Foundation, which cooperates with partners in the Global South around issues of ecological democracy. She also works actively on the development of Stadin Aikapankki which she is a co-founder of, and in which people and organizations exchange services on the basis of time. She is furthermore part of a collective which wants to bring forward/develop the discussions around the Commons and Solidarity economy in Finland.

Société Réaliste

Société Réaliste is a Parisian cooperative created by Ferenc Gróf (1972, Pécs, HU) and Jean-Baptiste Naudy (1982, Paris, FR) in 2004. It works with political design, experimental economy, territorial ergonomy and consulting in social engineering. Polytechnic, it develops its production schemes through exhibitions, publications and conferences. The large monographical exhibition project, “Empire, State, Building” was presented in Jeu de Paume (Paris), Ludwig Museum of Budapest and the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Bucharest in 2011-2012. This year, Société Réaliste has presented its work as solo exhibitions in Paris (“Thelema of Nations”, Galerie Jérôme Poggi), New York (“A rough guide to hell”, P!) and Athens (“The Shape of Orders to Come”, Salon de Vortex) as wall as in several group exhibitions in Dresden, Bruxelles, Rome, Thessaloniki, Budapest, Paris, and Aachen.


Syrago Tsiara

Born in Larissa in 1968, Syrago Tsiara lives and works in Thessaloniki. She is a curator, art historian and director of the Thessaloniki Center of Contemporary Art, part of the State Museum of Contemporary Art – Costakis Collection. Tsiara studied Art History at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Social History of Art at the University of Leeds and completed a PhD on public art and national memory in Greece. She was a curator of the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale, Praxis. Art in times of Uncertainty (2009). Shows which she has curated for the Thessaloniki Center of Contemporary Art include Masquerades: Femininity, Masculinity and Other Certainties (2006); Disquieting Muses (2011); and Places of Memory – Fields of Vision (2012). Tsiara taught public art, historical avant-gardes and art theory at the University of Thessaly (2004-2007). She is currently curating the Greek Pavilion for the 55th Venice Biennale. Greece is represented by Stefanos Tsivopoulos and his work is entitled History Zero. Her academic and research interests include art in the public space, collective and participatory projects and the issues of politics, memory and gender in contemporary art.

Teemu Takatalo

Teemu Takatalo (b. 1979) is a Finnish visual artist and filmmaker. Everyday politics and alternative ways of living are often the topic of his utopic-documentative video works, photographs, installations and sound works.

Takatalo is the founder of artistic city research unit Center of Urban Expeditions. He has been part of Floating Residence Project, building D.I.Y. river rafts from recycled materials in Lithuania 2005 and in Germany 2006. During the years 2007 and 2008 Takatalo walked from Brussels to Istanbul with his colleague Raila Knuuttila. In 2010 he and a bunch of other artists and craftsmen built another recycled material water vessel. It was launched on the Baltic Sea the same summer and sent on a voyage to research the complexity of our self-destructive contemporary lifestyle and society. Since 2011 Takatalo has been working with problems of consumerism and so-called green capitalism. The results have been compiled in a series of artworks under the title Enlightened Consumer. Teemu Takatalo’s art has been exhibited in several solo and group exhibitions, video festivals and video art screenings in Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, Denmark and Germany.

Ville-Pekka Sorsa

Ville-Pekka Sorsa works as postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki. He is also the first president of the recently established Finnish Association of Political Economy Research. He has published in various academic journals on various topics including economic discourse, financialization of the economy, pension funds and corporate social responsibility. He is the co-author of Hyvä talous (Like 2011, in Finnish).

Visible Solutions LLC

Visible Solutions LLC is a capitalist anti-capitalist artwork-enterprise co-owned by three artists, Karel Koplimets, Taaniel Raudsepp and Sigrid Viir. By situating itself at the border zone of economic and artistic fields, the company creates an independent platform for investigating the neoliberal utopia and its effects on both fields. The company was established in 2010 in Tallinn, Estonia, during a year of economic depression. In early 2011 the Estonian minister of finance was nominated the best of Europe by the The Banker magazine.


Zachary Formwalt

Zachary Formwalt was born in 1979 in Albany, Georgia (US), and has been living and working in Amsterdam since 2008, when he began a two-year residence period there at the Rijksakademie. He is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA) and Northwestern University (MFA) and attended the Critical Studies Postgraduate Program at the Malmö Art Academy in 2004. He has presented solo projects at D+T Project, Brussels (2013), AR/GE Kunst Galerie Museum, Bolzano (2011), Casco—Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht (2010), Wexner Center for the Arts: The Box, Columbus, OH (2010), and Kunsthalle Basel (2009).