The Top Helsinki Nightlife Attractions for the Party-Going People

With the easy-going summer season now behind us, I decided to write a blog post on the nightlife of my hometown Helsinki. Many hip tourists from abroad visit our beautiful city annually, but not everyone finds the hidden gems of our party scene. It certainly takes some effort to get to know the place and to find your way around to the most established clubs. I like to listen to house and techno, so this post mostly deals with electronic music events and venues.

The photo above is a sneak-peek snapshot from the Ääniwalli. This place must be the best electronic music location in Helsinki for any house and techno lover. Perhaps it suffices to say that only this year, we have had acts such as Âme, DJ Tennis, Recondite, Rødhåd and Matthew Dear perform live at this venue.

Hosted by Lil’ Tony, the Ääniwalli has managed to maintain an aura of authenticity and peace-love-unity-respect -style in partying and atmosphere. A few other clubs I prefer are Siltanen, Kaiku and Kuudes Linja.

The current nightclubs in the center area of Helsinki are hardly worth a mention in this post.

One can hardly start discussing the electronic music scene in Helsinki without the Flow Festival in Suvilahti. I went this year just so I could see Aphex Twin, one of my all-time favourite acts perform live. The gig was an outstanding experience. Prior to the Flow Festival, I think we have only had Aphex Twin visit once.

This year, I was not as appalled as last year about the crowdedness and commercialism of the festival area. However, just to make it to a 1-hour gig of my favourite Warp artist plus to see Maceo Plex and a few other acts perform at the Resident Advisor stage on Friday night, I felt like the overall experience was overpriced.

As the Flow Festival is now the most popular of the hip festival events in Finland, many people seem to forget that we have other similar festivals as well!

And many of these are much more exquisite and comfortable to visit besides the acclaimed Flow Festival.

One of last year’s absolute highlights was the Visio Festival organized in the Teurastamo area of Helsinki.

The Visio Festival is a conceptual, vibrant club music festival focused on left-field top artists from Finland and other Nordic countries. Last year, we got to see Todd Terje with his band perform live along with many other excellent acts. With the Flow Festival being very mainstream and crowded these days, it is safe to say the Visio Festival event was the electronic music highlight of the whole season last summer.

This year, the Visio Festival organization was facing some severe financial challenges. The festival crew pulled the event through, nevertheless. I appreciate that they made it happen despite these obstacles!

The rumour has it that there will be more conceptual electronic music events organized by the Visio crew in the very near future, but it remains to be seen if there will be a festival event of this scale happening next summer. I feel very sorry for this loss, as it seems to me that we need still more events of this type here.


On Visiting Finland and the Contemporary Finnish Art Scene

As Finland is a remote destination at the outskirts of Europe, we currently only receive approximately 0,4% of all of the travellers worldwide. And most of these travellers only stay for a very short stopover.

However, Visit Finland currently attracts over half a million visitors to its website every month. This goes to show that a staggering figure of annual visitors to the organization’s website must be very interested in Finland as a holiday destination. How to make more of these visitors book a trip here?

I visited Berlin two weeks ago. The city is, of course, one of the most hip destinations in Europe. During my stay there, I visited various sites related to its history, as well as the most popular contemporary art exhibitions currently going on, and many excellent clubs. Perhaps it is the combination of these three types of attractions – historical and cultural, as well as the nightlife – that makes me return there every so often?

I think that Finland, as a holiday destination, caters for many tastes as well, and we can certainly add the spectacular nature to our list of attractions. Now, as the summer is just about to begin, I am looking forward to spending a few weekends at least outside of my hometown Helsinki. For the Midsummer night, there is no better place to be than one with a view on a still lake in the middle of a forest.

But the nightlife scene in Helsinki is hot as well. A few weeks back, we had yet again the Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann playing an excellent 6-hour set in a club in the vicinity of Kallio. And many local artists are a treat for any house or techno lover. Many outstanding festivals for all tastes in music are organized here, the most hip one being the Flow Festival of Suvilahti, and are featured in international travel publications.

For the history and culture lovers, there are many things to experience as well. But perhaps the country brand would benefit of emphasizing the original culture and the excellent contemporary art scene, for example, instead of merely highlighting Suomenlinna Island and other such sites that have more to do with distant events of the past? Helsinki currently has several exhibitions going on that feature contemporary art’s finest international figures, such as Neto and Weiwei.

While I mention that, the Finnish contemporary artist scene is well worth getting acquainted with! Anssi Kasitonni, one of my favourite Finnish artists, is curating this year’s Mänttä Art Festival, first organized in 1993. Being the most hip annual art event outside of Helsinki, this festival that has a history of over 20 years is a must-see. Certainly worth travelling all the way to Mänttä!

And if you should miss that, the contemporary art festival ARS 17 will be taking over Kiasma next year.

The ARS festivals, much like the Documenta in Kassel, have a history ranging back to the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

While the Documenta will be open in Kassel again the same year, and will certainly yet again be an event beyond comparison most likely attracting over one million art tourists worldwide, I suggest visiting the ARS festival in Helsinki as well. Kiasma will also be the partner organization of Frame Finland during next year’s Venice Biennale.

In two weeks, Visit Finland will organize a seminar related to travel and the field of culture. I will be attending the seminar, and I am very much looking forward to it. The CEO of Creative Tourism Barcelona, Caroline Couret, will be giving a keynote talk, and there will be workshops on the topic, one of them being on contemporary art and country image and facilitated by the Museum Director of Kiasma, Leevi Haapala.

On Tourism and Heterotopias

The Berlin Wall, now a tourist landmark, is a prime example of heterotopian architecture. As bit over a fourth of a century has passed since dismantling the Wall, significant parts of it still remain in place in the form of the wonderful Mauerpark, the restored East Side Gallery and several other sites in Berlin – and the original topology of terror has since transformed into that of a tourist attraction.

According to Michel Foucault, heterotopias are present in every culture. Whereas the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, in his essay “Imagining Nothingness”, has famously proclaimed that “emptiness of the metropolis is not empty”, Foucault, in his own work, attempted to point out that we live inside “a set of relations”. Michel Foucault’s well-known lecture “Of Other Spaces” (“Des Espaces Autres”) deals with this subject matter.

In an interview, Foucault was asked whether space was central to the analysis of power, and he answered: “Yes. Space is fundamental in any form of communal life; space is fundamental in any exercise of power. To make a parenthetical remark, I recall being invited, in 1966, by a group of architects to do a study of space, of something that I called at that time ‘heterotopias’, those singular spaces to be found in some given social spaces whose functions are different or even the opposite of others.

Rem Koolhaas visited Berlin in the summer of 1971, when the Wall faced the two sides of the divided city. Koolhaas has announced that his encounter with the Berlin Wall at that time was his first psychological confrontation with the powerful side of architecture.

Later on, this powerful encounter was turned into a well-known maxim of his: “Where there is nothing, everything is possible; where there is architecture, nothing (else) is possible”.

The Berlin Wall was erected during the Cold War, following the so-called Berlin Crisis. This crisis began to escalate when on November 10, 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech in which he demanded that the Western powers of the United States, Great Britain and France pull their forces out of West Berlin within six months. It was this ultimatum that would spark a three year crisis over the future of the city of Berlin that culminated in 1961 with the building of the Berlin Wall.

When the Wall was in place, anyone who wished to leave East Germany was risking his or her life. According to Der Spiegel, at least 136 people died in the attempt to surmount the Berlin Wall. They were either shot by border guards, ripped to shreds by landmines or they drowned in the Spree River. As we all know, the Berlin Wall was eventually taken down on November 9, 1989, when the border between East and West Berlin was suddenly reopened.

In the year 2014, Berlin celebrated the 25th anniversary of taking down the Wall. As part of the celebration, the city inaugurated the Lichtgrenze, a light installation in remembrance of the route of the original Wall. Many other exhibits of the history of the Wall were also installed in central Berlin, when I last visited the city.

It’s now two weeks until my next trip to Berlin. I have been busy at the Uni, and busy with work at the Finnish National Gallery, so I’m really looking forward to this vacation of one week. Another CFP is soon coming up, for the Nordic Summer University, and I’ve already sent my abstract to the session “Appearances of the Political”. My paper will deal with the Berlin Wall, primarily as a tourist attraction and a heterotopian site.

I have been working on bits and pieces of my thesis on street art lately, and I certainly hope my paper and presentation will be accepted for the NSU symposium of this summer as I am eager to get some feedback on my work. Last year, when I visited Oslo to give a presentation for the NSU winter symposium, organized at the premises of the University of Oslo, I met many wonderful people. Exciting times ahead.