Dual exhibition in gallery Napa, Rovaniemi, 15 June – 6 July 2021
Welcome to the dual exhibition which shows the results of the Prosessi / Der Prozess (The Process) project! Upstairs, at gallery Napa, you can find Savu E. Korteniemi’s and Simi Ruotsalainen’s exhibition Käskyjä ja kuiskauksia (Orders and whispers). Studio Mustanapa downstairs displays Michael Marnin Jacobs’ exhibition No edge nor center – The summer of 1942.
The starting point for the Prosessi / Der Prozess project are the stories telling about the fate of wartime Jewish refugees at labour or internment camps in Lapland and in Suursaari island in the Gulf of Finland. The project has mainly been carried out by Savu E. Korteniemi. They invited the media artist Simi Ruotsalainen and visual artist Michael Marnin Jacobs, who is currently working on his doctoral thesis on the diaspora of his family, to contribute to the exhibition. In this way the subject of the project was extended and resulted in a dual exhibition where different approaches are in dialogue. The creators of the exhibition share an interest in investigating how the dark heritage of World War II manifests itself in Finnish, and especially in the history of Lapland. At the opening of the exhibition, 80 years has passed since the beginning of the period known as “German presence” in Lapland.
The Käskyjä ja kuiskauksia exhibition displays Savu E. Korteniemi’s drawings and sculptures, and a collaboration work by Korteniemi and Simi Ruotsalainen, the animation Hyvä maa (A Good Country), which tells an imaginary story of a Jewish refugee. In Michael Marnin Jacobs’ exhibition No edge nor center – The summer of 1942, locations, distances, time and perception are tangled into a whole.
Savu E. Korteniemi elaborates the background of the project as follows:
”Prosessi / Der Prozess got started from a documentary in the radio named The shadow of the holocaust – three episodes on the presence of extermination (Yle Radio 1, 2017). I was captured by a wartime story from Suursaari island, where the Jewish refugees ported to the island with obligation to work were told to make barbed wire by their bare hands. According to the documentary, the work was painful, because the barbed iron tore their hands. The refugees prepared a tool to ease their work, but the guards forbade its use.
I decided to take a closer look at the events that led into the story of a Finnish labour camp and the tool for making barbed wire. I also thought whether this tool to help bending the wire and forbidding its use could be approached from the perspective of sculpture.
The bilingual name of the project refers to various processes: on one hand to the developments which led into the handover of people to Nazi Germany by Valpo, the predecessor of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation, and on the other hand to the story of (literally) manual manufacturing process of barbed wire. The name of the project can also be seen as a reference to the original name of Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial. This exhibition ends the first stage of the project, but the subject matter will continue to be processed using sculptural motifs and cartoons.”
The cartoon drawings presented in the exhibition have originally been published through social media channels by two series of posts made by Savu E. Korteniemi. In addition, the topic is discussed in a series of articles written by Savu E. Korteniemi published in the cultural magazine Kaltio in 2021. The article investigating the background of the story of making barbed wire entitled Käskyjä ja kuiskauksia (Orders and whispers), was published in issue 1-2/21, and the article discussing the heritage of white Finland Kun oikein valkaistaan (When truly whitewashed), in the June issue 3/21. The third article, which will be published later, will discuss the role of Christianity in the history of antisemitism.
The producer of the first part of the Prosessi / Der Prozess project is Artists’ Association of Lapland, and it was financed by the EVZ Foundation from Germany. The project is part of the EVZ funding programme named Forced labour and forgotten victims. The executor bears responsibility for the content of the project, and the publications do not represent an expression of opinion by EVZ.
An introduction for Prosessi / Der Prozess
The project Prosessi / Der Prozess uses artistic and research practices to analyse the questions of violent practices. Starting point of the project have been a radio document called ”The Shadow of Holocaust – three parts from the closeness of the damnation” (Yle Radio One 2017), talking about people ”who lived somewhere on the outskirts of Holocaust” and discussing the secret German troops called ”Einsatzgruppen Finnland”.
Core of the project is based on a story from the wartime Finnish internment camps, where Jewish refugees were used as labour*: by the story, Finnish guards forced them to make barbed wire with their bare hands. Refugees constructed special kind of a tool for making the work safer, but guards forbid them to use of the invented tool.
I knew that there had been German soldiers in Lapland – but in the stories of Finnish civil people they were kind men, friends and fellow soldiers; I didn´t think that there could be any ideological connection between our fight for the independency against overwhelmed enemy and the politics of Nazi-Germany. However, the radio document changed the idea that I had on the Finnish wartime history. I started with learning what kind of processes have been behind the story on the Finnish forced labour camp and the barbed wire tool. What had happened before the establishment of the camp on Suursaari island – and what was going on afterwards? I want to analyse societal processes via stories of individuals: not only stories of forgotten victims of the national socialists and their fellow travellers in Finland, but also forgotten stories of the people responsible of the injustice in the history.
I am documenting my learning process using artistic and research methods and posting a graphic diary and a blog, among other things. Platforms for publications will be confirmed later.
I guess I am not the only one who need an extra lesson on this topic: in November 2018 CNN published, that every third European does not know almost anything about Holocaust. I see that there is a strong need of remembrance and recollection. I see there is also necessity of better knowledge on Finland’s role as a collaborator of Nazi-Germany. However, the topic is not a new thing. The discussion in Finland started at the latest in 2004 when Elina Sana’s documentary book called ”Luovutetut” (Extraditeds) was published. The publication awoke international attention: for example, Simo Wiesenthal Center asked president Halonen for more information on extraditions. As a result of that attention, research projects were started.
The project Prosessi / Der Prozess focuses on the destiny of Jewish refugees in wartime Finland. They ended up in the labour camps in Finnish Lapland and Suursaari island, which was situated in the southernmost frontline in the middle of the Gulf of Finland (nowadays the island, known as ”Hogland”, belongs to Russia). The status of these camps was as ambivalent as the role of Finland as an executor of Nazi-German policy: depending of sources, these camps are called either internment camps, labour camps or even concentration camps (managed by Finland, not by Germany). Anyhow, regardless of the title, the conditions in these camps were close to the conditions in European concentration camps under German rule – or even worse: in Laplandic camps there was no warm clothes (Jewish labours had to live in the middle of snowy forests in wet tents wearing summer clothes when temperature outside was -40 °C), there was not enough food and no rights to contact their family. Their work was only a punishment, without a real importance or meaning.
Moreover, the function of these camps seems to be similar to the one in camps organised by Nazi-Germany: there was a plan to send Jewish refugees from the Finnish labour camps to the concentration – and the extermination camps under German rule. Thankfully, most of the deportations were managed to be prevented. Nevertheless, the State Police of Finland (Valpo) have deported 12 persons identified as Jews to Gestapo: 9 of them died, 2 survived Auschwitz and the destiny of the last one is still unknown. Total number of the deportations by Valpo was 77 people. At the same time Finnish army officers extradited 521 POWs (Prisoners of war) for Einsatzkommando Finnland; 47 of them were identified as Jews. The destiny of these POWs is unknown (because of the lack of the documents) but the most likely fate of all these prisoners was that they perished in one way or another.**
There has been a connection between wartime Finnish labour camps, secret collaboration between Finnish and German security officers and the mission of secret German troops called Einsatzkommando Finnland, referring to the policy of Nazi-Germany. There are still more questions than answers, more unknown areas than knowledge, more silence than voices. However, there are some voices that we can hear – the voices of survivors. To make these stories visible, I would like to show how Finnish wartime history is engaged in the history of the Holocaust.
The bilingual name of the project ”Prosessi / Der Prozess” refers to the different kind of processes. There is a process of progression which led to the extraditions of refugees, and also the process of manufacturing barbed wire by hands. It is possible to see also a reference to Franz Kafka’s novel called ”The Trial” (”Der Prozess” in German). Moreover, the form of the project reveals the my own learning process.
I am a visual artist (MFA) by profession. During my artistic process I emphasize the importance of writing and notation practice, but the project combining artistic and research approaches is quite a new way of working for me. However, I have studied not only visual arts, but also couple of courses about political and military sciences. I hope that these fields of interest will help me to clarify and uncover the reality of violent practices not only as a part of the crisis in security of the society and existence of the state, but also as the crisis of the humanity.
The project results will have various formats – for example form of the article series, a working diary with graphics and an exhibition in Gallery Napa (Rovaniemi) presenting the project documentations. Platforms for the publications will be confirmed later. Most of the project results will be published only in Finnish at this time, but notations on social media channels and the homepage of the project are in English also.
Feedback and thoughts around the topic are welcomed – my possibilities to answer are limited, but I promise to read them all. E-mail address is: prosessi[at]korteniemi.eu
The project ”Prosessi / Der Prozess Part One” is managed by the Artists’ Association of Lapland and funded by Foundation EVZ. The project is included in the funding programme Remembrance of forced labour and forgotten victims.
Publications does not represent an expression of opinion by the Foundation EVZ. The author bear responsibility for the content.
* Officially working in these interment camp was seen as ”labour service”, as well as huge amount of Finnish people also (because Finland was in war). However, one of the core questions of my project is: has these refugees been treated actually as forced labour?
** Source of number data: Jospeh R. White & Mel Hecker (Eds.): Ensyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945 Volume III (page 84). Indiana University Press 2018