Everything is on Mustarinda’s website. I have read it before going there. Elina, Paavo and Jakko, three of the eleven Mustarinda Association members, told us quite a bit about the idea of the centre during their visit to Nida. However, going, seeing and experiencing the place and the people was very different. Much more vivid and persuasive.
It took 16 hours to reach Hyrynsalmi (still 23 km away from Mustarinda, but the last point of public transportation) by bus for two girls from Helsinki. They came to see the Mustarinda’s summer exhibition. It usually takes 9 hours to get there by car and similar amount of time by train for Antti and Alma, the founders and engines of Mustarinda. You can fly to Oulu and take a bus to Kajaani, then to Hyrynsalmi. This will also take a day.
(It took me two days to get there – i was not driving straight though…) Take into consideration that the snow melts in May and it starts snowing again in September, the roads are rather small, the hills – steep (for example the one, in the first picture, few hundred meters away from Mustarinda), and you can imagine that one needs a reason to go there. Nevertheless, a former school building and the present Mustarinda House is full all year round (I had to sleep in the exhibition space the first night, because all the rooms were occupied). Obviously there are lures, which drive people away from home and make them follow the uncomfortable
The next two pictures convey the essence of Mustarinda.
The first one is Talvivaara nickel, zinc and uranium mine in Sotkamo, 1,5 hours South of
Mustarinda. It is one of the major industrial sites in Finland, opened in 2008 as a super modern eco-friendly alternative to the wild mines of the third world. Talvivaara Mining Company offers highly demanded jobs to the Kainuu Region inhabitants and claims to use safe technologies for the extraction of metals. The company is openly supported by the Finnish government, and big amount of its shares was/is owned by top Finish politicians. Local community and Finnish eco-activists claim that the mine is polluting the lakes and damaging the environment as well as ruining local societies by forcing people to move out of the area. Talvivaara Mining Company denies all the accusations, and the decision makers in the government tend to ignore the problem. A photographer Tommi Taipale and a journalist Sampsa Oinaala played an important role in the history of Talvivaara mine. Taipale and Oinaala followed the Talvivaara project from start to finish, and published information about it in various media. They took pictures of the company’s inauguration party, of the mine managers and politicians celebrating together, of the grandeur of the mining site, of local inhabitants moving out of their home, and recently of the dead birds on the banks of the mine’s reservoir. The latter pictures worked as catalysts for fierce discussions on above mentioned problems. The case rose not only environmental questions, but also an issue of corruption, which was hardly discussed in Finland before. The art works made people aware of ambiguities and instigated the discussion on society’s malfunctions.
Taipale’s and Oinaala’s Talvivaara art project, which consists of a set of expressive and aesthetically pleasing images + voice text + documentation folder, made one art work within the Mustarinda’s 2012 summer exhibition Beauty.
Society’s malfunctions as well as abuse and ignorance of nature are the core ideas behind Mustarinda. The second picture features a broken wind power plant, which was built on Mustarinda’s yard by an EU supported company not long ago. The company claimed to produce innovative wind power plants. It managed to sell several of them, but none actually functioned. The company does not exist anymore, and Mustarinda’s wind tower is now waiting to be repaired. Antti wanted to invite local “garage” engineers – those inventors, who usually keep their inventions for themselves – to do it. It is a nice idea to try to build a team of local individuals, not companies, to do all kinds of high tech and low tech jobs. At the time I was in Mustarinda Antti was focused on self sufficient household. We were discussing a possibility for Mustarinda to get off the grid altogether: to produce energy by wind, sun, sewage and man power. In the area where Mustarinda is this sounded sane and logical. Surrounded by majestic woods, water and snow, fighting against slavery to global economy and questioning the idea of eternal economic growth Mustarinda is a small, but hard bastion of resistance.
I am not into the eco or anti-global movements myself. In fact, I am rather sceptical about them – global networks and contemporary mega-structures of consumer society seem to be vicious circles, which are too hard to exit. However, looking at Mustarinda’s case I could imagine that it is possible to break free. I was also rather suspicious about artists’ contribution to “changing the world”. Right, artists often make accurate and witty remarks on various aspect of contemporary living (economics, politics, social behaviour). However, their remarks too often remain within the gallery space, within the art world or within the realm of anecdotes. Talvivaara art project and Mustarinda’s aspiration to become an example of a truly sustainable house made me change my opinion. It seems that the change can be achieved by doing one small thing after another instead of trying to grasp everything.