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Monday 13th December 2021

The first day of the KuvA Research Days 2021 is in Helsinki’s Oodi Library. I walk in to a bright airiness, that contrasts with the dark but slowly lightening December morning outside.

No one looks at me or asks what I am doing here, which is nice.

The first day’s topic is “City as Space of Rules and Dreaming” and one of the first speakers of the morning gives a short introduction to urban planning and how city design affects the way people use space, citing how Paris was built for control. The wide boulevards were intentionally designed to be difficult to barricade by protesters. We are also told how Modernist planning separated the different urban functions – living, industrial and commercial areas were all distinctly separate. Oodi Library is an apt venue to discuss urban space and function. The library’s slogan tells us that “Oodi is for everyone” – it’s a place to hang out and it’s perfectly fine if you have no real reason to be there. It’s even encouraged. This is an intentional blending of functions.

But during the planning and designing stages of Oodi not everyone was happy. A number of librarians were against the combination of the traditional library function with the invitation for people to just hang out. I suppose they felt it undermined their position or loosened their control of a place that is normally understood to be a quiet place.

During the morning’s question time someone pipes up and questions the publicness of Oodi Library and the welcoming statement. Just how public is it? And is it really for everyone? For me these are good questions because suddenly I am transported beyond the library to ask how welcoming is the space we normally understand to be public? And what does it mean if a space is public. Are there degrees of publicness? Is it for everyone? And then how do we know how to behave? What are the rules? What are we allowed to do? Can we do anything we want? And because the title of this session also mentioned dreaming, I wondered where and how are we allowed to dream, and do we need permission for that? And is dreaming where art enters the discussion?

After a morning of presentations, discussion and a guided tour with commentary from the artists whose artwork relating to the topic was displayed in the library, I am very happy that Oodi Library decided to open their space for non-traditional library functions and included eating as an acceptable activity within their walls. Lunch in the café is delicious.

Ulvi Haagensen
doctoral candidate, EKA, Tallin

KuvA research activities

This blog highlights the activities of the research unit and doctoral programme at the Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki | Tämä blogi esittelee Kuvataideakatemian tutkimusyksikön ja tohtorikoulutusohjelman tapahtumia ja toimintaa | I den här bloggen presenteras verksamheten och evenemangen vid Bildkonstsakademins forskningsenhet och doktorandprogram

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