Big cities are in thralls of gentrification, which as a process tends to push non-wealthy and even middle class further away from their centers. And in some remote places, far away from urban environments, people may struggle for livability conditioned both by nature and man-made challenges. Yet there are so many different ways in which humans try and make ostensibly unlivable places if not livable, somehow survivable.
Janet Biggs and Kari Soinio both make their artworks in environments we may think uninhabitable, even though in very different ways. Biggs travels – from a Western perspective – to extreme sites: to the mines of freezing Svalbarden and volcanic Indonesia. Soinio contemplates the rapidly changing cityscape of New York: its streets, its highly contested air space, and routes underground used by millions but noticed by few. Both artists are concerned about the effects humans have on nature, and aware of the contingent value given to the intersections of gender, class, ethnicity and color. Both see strange beauty in harsh environments, but are careful not to over-aestheticize what they see. For both of them, it is important to show that human bodies have been, and continue to inhabit and pass through these spaces and places.
Janet Biggs is a New York based video artist. Her most recent solo show was at the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston, Texas, in Spring 2015. Her work has been shown broadly in the United States and in Europe, where she is represented by the Analix Forever Galerie in Geneva, Switzerland. In the US she is represented by the Connersmith Gallery in Washington D.C.
Kari Soinio is a New York based photographic artist. He is represented by the Station Independent Projects Gallery in New York, and has had numerous solo shows in his native Finland, e.g. at the Gallery Heino, at the Kerava Art Museum, and elsewhere in Europe.
Leena-Maija Rossi is the Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York. She works also as an independent curator and researcher, and has published widely on issues of gender, contemporary art and media culture.