"Against the Burn": Finland at Virtual Design Destination 2020

“It was like pieces of a puzzle that fell into place when drafting the underwater thematics. These works came immediately to my mind due to their visual and formal connection with the subaquatic theme.”

– Suvi Salonemi, curator of the Finnish collection, “Against the Burn”


“Against the Burn” is part of the Virtual Design Destination presented by Adorno at London Design Festival, 12 – 20 September 2020. Join us for a tour of the virtual environment and collection with curator Suvi Salonemi in conversation with Kristen de la Vallière of @sayhito_ on Wednesday, 16 September at 10:00 AM BST. “Against the Burn” is kindly supported by the Visit FinlandNordic Culture Point.

Plunging into the subaquatic, a sense of calm engulfs the scene; the noise of the world is replaced by silence, providing an opportunity for contemplation. Life on the quiet ocean floor seems serene in comparison to our busy everyday lives. Waves guide the way to a submerged collection of objects, each reminiscent of life beneath the water and life beyond our control. Their forms mimic the movement of the ocean surrounding them, giving them an other-worldly quality. What happens when we lose ourselves among the waves? In this new reality, are we able to apply the peaceful, yet ever-changing movement of the ocean to our own lives? The idea of “going with the flow” makes itself present in this new narrative, allowing for a time to pause and reassess.

“Against the Burn”, a Finnish collection curated by Suvi Salonemi, consists of artworks that will guide and mediate us towards the underwater world, either with the help of the lingering movement embedded in their form, or by reminding us visually about the subaquatic experience.⁠ The collection brings together a variety of materials – from ceramic to metal to wood – and design philosophies, all visually brought together by their aquatic qualities. There is a focus on materiality, tactility, and visual impact that is evident in each of these pieces – Heidi Aulikki Puumalainen’s “Thought Bubble” Wall Relief and Hanna Heino’s “Pigment” Sculpture offer intricate, coral-like textures, while Didi NG’s “Curtain” and Anton Mikkonen’s “Udon” Stool mirror the rise and fall of waves. The simplicity of Erin Turkoglu’s “Puru” Lamp and Hanna Anonen’s “Fleur de Mer” Wall Decoration add a colourful, whimsical element. In the larger, contemporary Finnish collectible design scene, these designers find their place in its multilayered history with their attention to craftsmanship, desire for design innovation, and connection to natural elements.

“Against the Burn” features work by Anton Mikkonen, Didi NG, Erin Turkoglu, Hanna Anonen, Hanna Heino, and Heidi Aulikki Puumalainen.

Against the Burn

What are the main themes presented across the works in this collection?

Movement, fluidity, and transformation. I started working by finding captivating material-driven works and, at the same time, thinking about an idea that could gather the works together. The process itself was full of movement and fluidity. The underwater thematics came along quite early-on due to the formal and visual themes in the works.

Anton Mkkonen, “Udon” Stool

Which three words would you use to describe the contemporary design scene in Finland?

Solid, reborn, multi-layered.

Solid, due to its long history which [gives] a great foundation to lean on. Reborn, due to its need to unlearn the past (history) every single moment. Multi-layered, due to its current nature of being fragmented into tens or hundreds of different directions – also into very abstract [directions], such as governmental design or legal design.

Why have you chosen an underwater scenography for this collection?

Quite early on I [was] tempted by the idea of an underwater location for the exhibition. It partly came because I wanted to experiment with the opportunity to make an exhibition that is not really possible in the real world. Secondly, I was interested in finding a theme that would go along with the current topic of the physically and mentally exhausting and carbon-burning lifestyle of ours.

The imagery surrounding the idea of “Against the Burn” speaks of healing and new opportunities. What do you envision audiences taking away from this collection?

The emotional function that high quality arts, crafts, and design can have.

Each piece in this collection perfectly reflects a different aspect of underwater life – from the coral-like “Thought Bubble L12018” by Heidi Aulikki Puumalainen to the wave-like “Curtain” by Didi Ng. Can you describe how you came to select these pieces for “Against the Burn”?

I have been following these great talents for awhile and have been enchanted by these particular works. It was like pieces of a puzzle that fell into place when drafting the underwater thematics. These works came immediately to my mind due to their visual and formal connection with the subaquatic theme.

With reference to the Virtual Design Destination’s theme, how does this collection respond to the so-called “New Reality”?

Like previously said, I was interested in finding a theme that would go along with the current topic of the physically and mentally exhausting and carbon-burning lifestyle of ours. As a curator, I am mediating “A New Reality” through the collection, which responds to the hyper-accelerated, pre-covid times and to climate change, [as well as] attempts to give a poetic solution to it in the context of collectible design.

Has your approach to the curation of this collection been affected by the ongoing uncertainty in the world? Why or why not?

Yes, it has. See my answer above.

Meet Suvi Salonemi

Suvi Saloniemi (b. 1980) is a specialist in contemporary design and visual arts. Her expertise is in Scandinavian design, collectible design, critical practices, museums, and global design networks. Her international tasks include projects in NYC, London, Stockholm, Moscow, and Seoul. Saloniemi has worked in many of Helsinki’s largest cultural institutions, starting her curatorial career at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003 and currently positioned at Design Museum Helsinki as the Chief Curator.

She speaks and lectures internationally and has several positions of trust such as Member of the Advisory Board for Chart Design Fair, Copenhagen; Nominator for the annual Designs of the Year in London Design Museum; and Member of the Board for Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg. Saloniemi’s background is in art history studies at the University of Helsinki and the University of Stockholm, and in curating studies at the Aalto University of Art, Design and Architecture.

Which aspects of curating a collection for a virtual exhibition have intrigued and/or surprised you?

I am surprised I have not tried it before. Thanks to this crash course, I would like to continue experimenting with it with the top-notch game design professionals, which we have in Finland.

What are you most excited to share (ex. thematically, a piece, a designer, etc.) with the Virtual Design Destination audience?

I am tempted to hear if the art works work like I envisioned them: maybe these objects, when placed in a domestic surroundings, work as possible entryways to the new invigorating reality.

Curious to find out more about the hidden gem of the North? Learn more about Finnish design and architecture:

“Against the Burn” is kindly supported by:

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