Fear of emptiness

An object filling the space just outside the entrance to Kiasma (photo:hanba)

An object filling the space just outside the entrance to Kiasma (photo:hanba)

Horror vacui means literally fear of emptiness or dread of vacuum. Such is the title of an exhibition held in Kiasma museum of contemporary art in Helsinki, Finland this summer.

I was impressed with how the artists dealt with the theme. The exhibition halls were filled with all sorts of visual and auditory stimuli which helped the viewers to focus attention on something all the time. In a very fine, peculiar way, the artworks guided us away from an unfocused, empty state. The exhibition hall was not primarily filled by interesting artwork, but by a lack of void. It was as if the objects were displayed due to a compulsion, panic, fear, dread over the thought of emptiness. The artwork was secondary to a primary need to be preoccupied with something.

The exhibition featured three male artists, Markus Copper, Kimmo Schroderus and Jari Haanperä. The artworks were undoubtedly masculine, featuring bolts and steel and the like, voluminous, loud constructions made of metal. I was especially impressed by a sculpture made of two cars interconnected to form an illusion of a single car turning 90 degrees at a high speed.

The exhibition inspired the Buddhist in me to do some meditating for couple of nights in a row. I wanted to “embrace emptiness”, or find a state of nothingness without fearing it. Still, it is interesting to watch how your mind keeps throwing past memories or other images just to keep you busy. Just to keep you from gliding out of focus. The dread of emptiness, horror vacui, I believe is a part of the human condition.  I am happy I was reminded of it through the exhibition.

PS. (I have to become a bit more up-to-date with my so called exhibition journalism.. This particular exhibition closed months ago now..)

PS2. Kiasma is designed by the American architect Steven Holl. In Beijing, Mr Holl’s mastodont housing project Linked hybrid has just opened for the public. I am really fascinated by this project and am interested to see how the inhabitants will use the semi-public spaces in the Hybrid. For more info, click here….


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