22 September - 8 October 2011
Suomi is a photographic exhibition that explores the interconnected relationships between people, places and the environment and the consequent interaction of society, space and nature. Landscape as a cultural construct is nature for the taking, to be tamed, framed and contained for human consumption. These photographs are an extension of Häggblom’s PhD research that visually documents Australian touristscapes and investigates what we - as visitors - physically and psychologically gain from touristic experiences. Häggblom spent three months on Suomenlinna, an island just off central Helsinki, in what is believed to be the coldest winter in 60 years and produced this new series of images. Although people don’t figure prominently within the whitewashed landscapes, the imagery hints at human habitation and evokes Häggblom’s isolation.
Suomenlinna was a former strategic military post that has been governed by Russia, Sweden and Finland and is now a UNSECO listed tourist attraction. The fortress is not simply a museum, but a living community, and today there are about 900 permanent inhabitants on the island, and 350 people work there year round. There is also a minimum-security penal labor colony whose inmates work on the maintenance and reconstruction of the fortifications. When the snow begins to melt in spring and throughout summer, locals and tourists alike flock to Suomenlinna to picnic, attend festivals and sample the island-brewed beer. In winter shops lay dormant and the few tourists who visit don’t wander far from the ferry.
Kristian Häggblom is a lecturer in Visual Arts and Honours coordinator at La Trobe University, Mildura campus. He studied photography at RMIT (BA) and the University of Tasmania (Honours), and is currently a PhD candidate at Monash University. Häggblom has exhibited extensively including exhibitions in Melbourne, Darwin, Tokyo, Lausanne and Los Angeles in addition to curating several cross-cultural international exhibitions.