SPOT Festival is almost here and it’s time to have a look at what the festival is offering this year.
SPOT Festival is one of the biggest showcase festivals for up-and-coming talents in the Nordic countries. The festival takes place annually at different concert venues around the city of Aarhus and includes bands from all different genres of contemporary popular music. The focus is on Danish and Nordic music and the purpose is to introduce Nordic talents to international labels, publishers, music business people, the cultural industry and media. This year’s festival takes place from April 28th until May 1st and we are happy to announce that five Finnish bands are included in the program.
Hisser. Photo: PR / SPOT Festival
Friday 29th brings the first Finnish bands on stage, starting with Hisser. Hisser is the new electronic band from Helsinki, noted for a sound, which uses both electronic and analog elements. The man behind the band is Miikka Koivisto, a producer and singer, best known as the vocalist of Helsinki based rock group Disco Ensemble. His debut album as Hisser was released in early 2015. Hisser will perform at the Scandinavian Congress Center at 19.00.
The Hearing. Poto: Adrian
The second artist to perform on Friday is Ringa Manner, better known as The Hearing. The music of this Finnish solo artist can be described as minimalistic pop. Her debut record was released in 2013 and her second one is in the making. She will perform at 20.15 in the intimate atmosphere of Radar, perfect for her dreaming yet experimental sound.
The third artist included in Friday’s line up is Finnish rapper View. Named one of the hottest up-coming rappers in Finland, he is noted for a hypnotic and mystical sound combined with a charismatic voice. Right now he is working on his first full-length album and SPOT Festival is a perfect opportunity to see him live before the release in 2017. The place to be is Åbne Scene at Godsbanen and the time to be there is 22.15.
View. Poto: Henri Juvonen
Among the last bands to perform on Friday is Finnish/Danish collaboration Liima. The band was formed when Danish band Efterklang teamed up with Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö. Always experimenting with form, sound and expressions, this concert at the Scandinavian Congress Center is one that you do not want to miss. Be there at midnight.
Liima. Photo: Aylin Gungor
After the intense line up on Friday, we still have Saturday to enjoy Death Hawks. This psychedelic rock band released their debut album in 2012 and since then they have become a noted part of the rock scene in Finland. If you are into sounds where cosmic, melodic, psych folk meets shamanic kraut rock rituals then check out this band at the Scandinavian Congress Center at 21.00.
Death Hawks. Photo: PR / SPOT Festival
Apart from these amazing performers, SPOT Festival also launches a brand new concept of free concerts and events for 2016. This musical ‘La Rambla’ will take place on Saturday around the Aarhus river and the city center. Also worth mentioning is that the collaboration with cinema Øst for Paradis continues. Although the last concerts are played on Saturday, Sunday offers a nice selection of film screenings. Among them an old time Finnish favourite, Comet in Moominland.
To stay updated on all that is going on, get the festival app, available for both Android and iOS systems. You can also log in to Spotify and listen to the official SPOT playlist for free. Another alternative is to check out SPOT on Soundcloud, where you can listen to tracks but also find SPOT Festivals own podcast, SPOT Music Talks. And don’t forget to check out the full program here.
Jani Leinonen‘s exhibition finally opened at Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum just before Easter. Many eager visitors, both local and international, showed up to join the opening celebrations. Even Ronald McDonald made an astonishing appearance. For many people in Denmark this exhibition will be the first encounter with artist Jani Leinonen and his political activist art. The exhibition presents a selection of installations, sculptures, paintings and videos. The works – some of them old, some of them brand new – form a nice introduction to Leinonen’s art.
Photo: Milia Wallenius
One of the central elements of the exhibition is the School of Disobedience. This actual building, set within the exhibition space, contains a classroom with seats for students as well as all the equipment familiar from traditional school settings. Nothing strange there. However, what makes people pause and have a closer look is the unusual combination of the words ‘school’ and ‘disobedience’, which immediately strike as bold, rebellious, even dangerous.
Photo: Ole Hein / Aros
Historian Howard Zinn once said, “the most terrible things, war, genocide and slavery, have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience”. This quote forms a background to Leinonen’s work, especially the School of Disobedience. What should be made clear, however, is that the kind of disobedience which is being dealt with here has nothing to do with behaving badly or doing stupid, pointless things. The kind of disobedience which both Leinonen and Zinn are talking about is more about recognizing rules, which are unjust and simply decide not to follow them. The School of Disobedience teaches its students not to be passive and not to accept injustice. According to the artist, in cases of racism, violence and discrimination, disobedience is the only way to change the world into a better place. Therefore disobedience should be one of the central civic skills taught alongside math and reading.
Photo: Ole Hein / Aros
As a school the School of Disobedience naturally has teachers. In Denmark these include feminist Emma Holten and Lisbeth Zoring Andersen, arrested for giving Syrian refugees a lift in their quest to reach Sweden, as well as other notable public debaters and activists. Communicating with the help of videos playing through a TV screen set in one of the corners of the classroom, the teachers share their experiences of being disobedient.
Photo: Milia Wallenius
Although the school is an important part of the exhibition, also other works are presented. Leinonen’s latest project, Tony is Back, which features cereal company Kellogg’s iconic character Tony the Tiger, brings attention to current social issues, but also works as a great example of Leinonen’s own disobedience. Also Hunger King is present as well as examples of Leinonen’s fascination with McDonald’s character Ronald McDonald. Apart from these artworks, the exhibition at Aros also presents some brand new ones, specifically made for the exhibition in Denmark. It is also worth to mention that, Anything Helps, the ever-growing installation of framed beggar signs from around the world, received its Danish contribution.
Before arriving in Denmark, the exhibition was presented at Kiasma museum of contemporary art in Helsinki and although some of the works are the same, there are some significant differences between the two exhibitions. Opposed to Kiasma’s big halls, the space at Aros, which consists of one small room after the other, creates a maze of surprises where the visitor walking through the exhibition never knows what is hiding behind the next wall. Apart from this and the new works displayed at the exhibition, also the Finnish version of the School of Disobedience was slightly different. According to the artist, Danes are more personal, telling their own stories of how they have been disobedient, while the teachers in Finland talked about their topic on a more general level. “It has probably something to do with the Finnish mentality, talking too much about yourself and your accomplishments is considered bragging”, said Leinonen.
So far the exhibition has been given good reviews and the artworks have been received with both great humor and severe seriousness. Some have even expressed their concern about children and how they will react when they see their beloved Ronald McDonlad beheaded. The opening weekend ended with an artist talk, where Leinonen, the headmaster of the School of Disobedience, presented his artistic agendas to a fully seated classroom.
“Disobedience is needed in situations when a teacher is telling racist things or when a boss is being sexist. In these situations it is important to say no, to not follow along. It is very difficult since these people have power, if you get involved, you might end up hurting yourself.” – Jani Leinonen
The problem with humanity, according to Leinonen, is that people obey their leaders because they are afraid, which leads to even greater evil. Leinonen uses art to draw attention to social issues and things he wishes to change. A school is a place of critical thought and the purpose of the School of Disobedience is to offer visitors an education grounded in civil disobedience and protest, equipping them with tools and ideas to challenge society’s injustices and fight for change. Doing small things together is big enough to matter and social media can be used for other things than advertising.
Photo: Milia Wallenius
One last thing worth mentioning are the hotdogs. To congratulate Leinonen on the opening of the exhibition, Aros struck a deal with one of the popular hotdog joints in central Aarhus. Now on those days, when buying a hotdog at the small kiosk on Lille Torv, don’t hesitate to grant a free hotdog to someone in need by paying for two. Indeed a proper gift to an artist who enjoys selling his work only to fund other activist projects that do not earn him money. So go to Aarhus, have a look at the exhibition and enjoy one of those hotdogs. We strongly recommend it.
On January 31st 2011, four men dressed as repairmen steal a life-sized statue of Ronald McDonald from a McDonald’s fast food joint in central Helsinki in Finland. The deed is done in broad daylight. The next day, McDonald’s headquarters around the world receive an al-Qaeda style video, broadcasted on Youtube, with ransom demands. The organization behind the kidnapping turn out to be the Food Liberation Army, an activist group of terrorists, asking the fast food chain to answer several questions regarding the ethics of their food production.
McDonald’s refusal to negotiate with the terrorists or to fulfill their demands results in the execution of Ronald McDonald by guillotine.
The videos above made it to international news and people followed the progress of the kidnapping worldwide. Soon it was revealed that the person behind the deed was in fact artist Jani Leinonen. After a police raid at Leinonen’s studio in downtown Helsinki, Ronald was released and the artist was arrested. It was also revealed that the beheading was fake and executed on a plaster cast of the original sculpture. Ronald was returned to his owners and the artist and his crew were sentenced to pay a fine.
21st century pop artist
Jani Leinonen is a Finnish artist and activist. In recent years he has attracted a lot of attention with his political pop art and public events that extend beyond the immediate art world. Born in 1978 he graduated the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 2002. In spring 2016 his artistic production will be presented at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denmark.
Jani Leinonen. Photo: Jussi Mankkinen / Yle
Leinonen works with a variety of different mediums: installations, sculptures, social media campaigns, actions and events involving a variety of different people. Like the pop artists in the 1950s and 1960s, Leinonen uses elements familiar to us from popular culture, especially marketing and consumer contexts. His artworks are smart and amusing, ironic and serious, but also political, questioning our social and economic systems. By using well-known brands and logos of big corporate companies he turns the attention to the practices and marketing strategies of global businesses, creating new meanings and messages that turn against the companies themselves.
Jani Leinonen, 2011
The kidnapping at McDonald’s was just one of Leinonen’s many public happenings. One of the reasons it got so much attention was the confusion it caused. No one knew whether the kidnapping was for real, a marketing stunt, whether it was art or something else. According to Leinonen the idea of art being all-allowing has resulted in an attitude change. As soon as people realize a certain object is art they stop taking it seriously. That is why he spends so much time hiding the art from his projects.
Hunger King and other sensations
McDonald’s is not the only fast food company being targeted by Jani Leinonen. In 2014 he opened up Hunger King in the city center of Budapest in Hungary. Looking like the typical Burger King burger joint at first sight, the installation was in fact set with two queues – one for the rich and one for the poor. The installation criticized the new legislation in Hungary that forbid homeless people from sleeping in public places.
Hunger King, 2014
Leinonen addressed similar social issues at the Venice Biennale already back in 2009, where he caused a sensation with his installation Anything Helps. The work shows framed begging signs bought from beggars all around the world. The frames, decorative and valuable, create a contradiction to the objects they frame.
From series Anything Helps, 2009
It is quite clear that Leinonen does not only criticize the values of Western society and consumer culture, but also those of the art world. In September 2006 Leinonen opened up an art supermarket in an old supermarket near Helsinki city center. For a month the supermarket sold art like food is sold in markets. There were offers, prices per kilo and bulk discounts. With the installation Leinonen wanted to highlight the exclusivity and closed atmosphere of traditional art markets and offer an alternative. During its month of operation, Art Supermarket Pikasso outnumbered the combined attendance of the contemporary art museums and galleries in Helsinki.
Art Supermarket Pikasso, 2006
Working with these methods and materials, it might come as no surprise that the artist more than once has found himself in dealings with the law. In 2008 his works caused a great controversy in Finland when he manipulated the package of local Raisio Elovena oatmeal. It features a blond peasant girl in traditional Finnish national costume, standing in front of fields of grain. In Finland the girl is iconic, strongly linked to Finnish national symbolism. In Leinonen’s versions, the girl is wearing a niqab, displayed as a call girl or a suicide terrorist. By manipulating a national icon, Leinonen wanted to bring attention to the changing society and question what it means to be Finnish today. Shortly after the works were displayed he received a letter from the company’s lawyer, demanding financial compensation because he had damaged their trademark. Although the company dropped the charges due to bad publicity, it was the first time Leinonen realized his work might have consequences.
The purpose of art is to ask questions, and as an artist Leinonen wishes to bring certain issues to attention.The consumer culture plays a huge part in our every day lives, which is one of the reasons Leinonen finds its products so attractive and uses them in art in order to tell different stories that might not always be as nice. Copyright legislation has, however, made his work difficult and he is forced to take into consideration how big corporations will react to his art. These days Leinonen partly works with lawyers in order to figure out what is indeed possible to do without ending up in court. The latest project that has caused strong reactions among brand managers, features cereal company Kellogg’s iconic character, Tony the Tiger.
Tony is Back looks like a TV commercial, reflecting back to Kellogg’s own commercials back in the 1990s, where Tony the Tiger set out to help kids achieve their goals. In Leinonen’s version the kids have grown up and so have their problems. With irony Leinonen wishes once again to bring attention to social issues and responsibility. Kellogg’s answered the release of the video with closing down the social media accounts of the project.
You Gave Me Nothing, 2014
Unlike the earlier generation of pop artists, who embraced the ever developing modern society of capitalism and incorporated it into fine arts, Leinonen’s updated version offers a more critical point of view. Sill he does not wish to offer an alternative to capitalism and even if McDonald’s for years has been a target of his art, he has admitted to enjoying their burgers very much. What he wishes to do is to make us aware of the situation today and encourage us to question those daily practices that we take for granted. Leinonen’s usage of irony reflects the art world after modernism. He copies and uses already excising material, he is being critical, but still admits to being very much part of this society, successfully creating his own brand.
A wide range of Finnish musicians and bands are visiting Denmark this spring. Have a look! This list will be updated, so stay tuned.
On February 11th Finnish/Chilean Duo Naranjo-Weurlander is preforming at Klaverfabrikken Live in Hillerød. The duo was brought together by their shared love for Tango Nuevo. Minna Weurlander represents the Finnish tradition of harmonica and tango. Tania Naranjo is an established Chilean pianist and singer. Together they combine two different cultures into a shared musical experience, that has been described as dramatic, playful, romantic and melancholic, pure and simple.
Duo Naranjo-Weurlander. Photo: CPB Fotografi
On March the 5th electronic rock band K-X-P from Helsinki will preform at Musik Loppen in Copenhagen. In their music they mix electronics, kraut, noise, synthpop, postpunk and even techno to create their unique from of esoteric space rock. The band is noted for an intense live performance featuring costumes, audience interaction and experimentation with different instruments. You do not want to miss this!
K-X-P. Photo: K-X-P
Also on March the 5th, Amorphis will play at Amager Bio. Since founded in 1990 the Finnish heavy metal band has won international renown. The band is known for mixing traditional heavy, death and doom metal with folk, progressive and psychedelic elements. After the concert in Copenhagen, Amorphis will continue to Aarhus, where you have the chance to see them on March the 14th at Voxhall.
Amorphis. Photo: Ville Juurikkala
March the 11th brings Finland’s legendary glam rocker Michael Monroe to High Voltage in Copenhagen. As the front figure of 80s glam rock band Hanoi Rocks, he has brought a great deal of inspiration to bands like Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. The venue describes the up coming concert as the biggest and most important booking so far. This concert will be a perfect opportunity to experience, what has been described as, some of the best glam punk and sleaze metal ever made.
Michael Monroe. Photo: Ville Juurikkala
March the 22nd brings psychedelic folk rock band Hexvessel to BETA in Copenhagen. Their music is inspired by folklore and paganism and their sound is an interesting mix of elements of metal, folk and psychedelic rock from the 1970s. Their concert at BETA will be a great chance to experience the enchanted Finnish forest at a concert venue.
Hexvessel. Photo: Tekla Vály
On April the 7th metal band Ensiferum from Helsinki will take over Amager Bio in Copenhagen. Ensiferum is still going strong after being part of the European metal scene for almost 20 years. They describe their music as melodic folk metal with lyrical themes related to fantastical or historic stories and Nordic mythologies.
February brings Frost Festival to Copenhagen. From 5th to 26th of February the festival presents a series of curated concerts and events in unique settings around the capital city. The aim of the festival is to match the performing artists with the right venues and to push the boundaries for live music. This year’s festival line up includes Finnish/Danish collaboration band Liima.
Liima was formed when Danish band Efterklang teamed up with Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö. During the festival Liima will be taking up a three-day residency at Hotel Astoria. From 16th to 18th of February they will be composing and presenting new material in the hotel’s former basement restaurant. During their stay the audience does not only have the opportunity to hear the band perform, but also join them for rehearsals. Hotel Astoria has also made a hotel room available for private listening sessions with material from Liima’s upcoming album.
Read more about the concerts and the festival here.