A New Artists’ Blog: for a Multiple View

As an organisation we are happy to open this space for artists in the transcultural art field, to share opinions, ideas, and proposals about the future of the field, its problems, and possible solutions. You can send your contributions to

Many of us feel that space for discussion is lacking – we wish for open exchange, keeping in mind the rules of a safe space: “a supportive, non-threatening environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental safety” (from YYA Meeting of Artist-run Organisation, STOA Cultural Centre, Helsinki, 16.3.2019).

Often we are asked about the meaning of transcultural. Back in 2013, when the association was founded (and in the many meetings before that), we talked a lot about how to define ourselves: one of the main reasons to choose this term was that it expresses a need to bridge between cultures. A term such as “international” does not describe the situation most of us find ourselves in: to be an artist of non-Finnish origin, or mixed origins, who lives and works in Finland.

Someone made me notice that an artist “of non-Finnish origin” is a definition that contains a negation. Don’t we want to send a positive message too? Certainly, we do.

But the present reality contains more and more in-between situations, with backgrounds that group different identities. That is why some of our artists are of (often mixed) Finnish origin, and some of them are simply interested and dedicated to doing transcultural work. Some of them spent years abroad and share some of the same difficulties that foreigners do when returning to Finland.

If we look at the etymology of “trans”, we find meanings such as “across”, “beyond”, “through”— all of which fit Catalysti as “an organisation that embodies the practices of working across cultures” (Dahlia El Broul), and is open and sensitive to any kind of diversity issues, included gender and queer identities.

This year’s event for the International Week Against Racism will be dedicated to gender issues and queer communities, curated by Jamie MacDonald (save the date: 22nd March in Lepakko club).

Also, the artist’s identity has ceased to be a singular notion. How many of us are not happy with the simple definitions of composer, painter, video artist, and so on?

Catalysti has also become a platform where different art fields meet: this has been reflected in the many multidisciplinary artworks presented in the association’s live art events. You can read about our 2019 activities here. And watch some of them on the Catalysti YouTube channel that Marek Pluciennik has been developing during the last year.

Our About reads: “Catalysti aims to shift and shake the borders between native and foreign in Finnish society”.

We all know that the situation in the art scene, and society, has changed during the last ten years—there are ever more transcultural artists, and generally, immigration is rising.

Meanwhile, many new organisations who focus on cultural intersectionality were born, and we wish to join forces and talk to them all, to make a stronger impact and have our voices better heard.

That was the main reason to join Globe Art Point, which gathers artists associations with the same scope. We need to be united, with respect for the diversity of everyone’s views and identities, if we want to be heard. That is why space for discussion is crucial to overcome prejudices and divisions that benefit no one.

Some have asked, “why does an artist organisation need to stand for diversity“? We can answer that our presence adds diversity in society, a society that we hope to become more open and inclusive. One more accessible and responsive to the needs of transcultural artists and all immigrants overall. Our members know first-hand the experience of discrimination, and the fact that many qualified people are excluded because of biases related to their background.

In this respect, we express all concern and solidarity with our member Daniel Malpica, whose application has been rejected multiple times by MIGRI. You can read more on his story here, and in Finnish, in Nuori Voima. Luckily, a few days ago he got the possibility to remain two more years in Finland, on the grounds of his work as an artist (as a full-time grantee of the Kone Foundation it was pretty absurd to see his applications initially rejected). This shows some hope for the future, although it is not enough – this is only one of the countless similar cases.

Another point is, as we bring multiple identities in ourselves, we should be supportive of other diversities, be them of gender, race, and so on. That is why we commit to the annual event for the International Week Against Racism. More can be done, and you are all welcome to help, to join other actors in this field.

Another debate that has always been present among immigrant populations is the debate between identity and integration.

How much do we feel the need to integrate? Some think (including many Finnish nationals) that it is also an immigrant’s duty to play by this society’s rules and to learn its language.

On the other hand, many of us consider their own mixed identity as a richness and have the desire to actively contribute from their own cultures to further build this society, in the multiple and complex ways that are in front of us.

This can be done hand in hand with those sectors of Finnish society that hope for a more inclusive, shared, and diverse place to live — a safer space, where exclusion and discrimination have no place.

That is why Catalysti has been participating in and promoting initiatives such as:

No Labels No Walls, in September 2019 in Oodi Library. A second edition is underway, and you are welcome to join the community (FB group).

We have welcomed and joined the initiative of a group of concerned citizens, Riikka Theresa Innanen, Rotislav Aalto, and Sari Antikainen, to make and broadcast videos of people reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, performed in many different languages, in March 2019 (see video).

And the YYA Meeting of Artist-run Organisations, that took place for the first time a year ago in STOA and will occur again on March 12th-13th, 2020, in Teatteri Toivo. It will be an occasion for peer-to-peer support, socialising, sharing practices and mapping desires, discussing the problems and needs of artist-run groups, associations, spaces, and networking with various art fields.

Catalysti is working to extend its network and collaborations, and you are most welcome to come and give a hand! In Helsinki and beyond. The association needs all of you in order to develop further and to have a stronger impact.

Paola Livorsi