Hop to Hope – the exhibitions
Rory Pilgrim 16 December 2022–5 March 2023
Mounira Al Solh 17 March–11 June 2023
Iona Roisin 16 June–3 September2023
Home alone collective 15 September–3 December 2023
Afra Eisma 15 December 2023–Spring of 2024
“We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that time for feeling will not last.”
This poignant last paragraph of Olivia Laing’s book The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (2016) came to mind when thinking of a beginning for this text, a text that is meant to introduce you to the exhibition series I conceived for WAMx. It all started with an email sent to me on June 15, 2022, by Anna Perälä, curator at WAM, the Turku City Art Museum in Finland. In it, Anna invited me to develop an exhibition program for their upstairs exhibition space, called WAMX. I would be the fifth guest curator. She wrote:
“The WAMX concept is mainly about expanding our view, developing new curating practices, and making connections internationally. Each year we choose a theme country on which we would like to focus and from where we will be looking for a new co-operation partner. Our aim is also to give an insight into the Finnish art scene for the consulting curator as well as for the artists. All the exhibition series have included artists from the theme country along with Finnish artists.”
On the one hand, I was excited by this generous proposition to share knowledge across different art scenes and by the museum’s intention to stay open to different voices and different perspectives. On the other hand, I was slightly suspicious of the focus on a country, which seemed the opposite of staying open, given the implications of nationality and national borders. After my first online meeting with WAM’s wonderful team, my suspicion had waned and I happily accepted the invitation.
And now, here we are, at Hop to Hope, a series of five interconnected solo exhibitions by Rory Pilgrim, Mounira Al Solh, Iona Roisin, Home alone collective and Afra Eisma. It is a series about togetherness, friendship, love and hope. The title is taken from Mounira Al Solh’s recent film Hop to Hope (2022), in which she follows the daily life and activities at an institute that cares for people with special needs while the world around it is breaking down around them. At a peak moment of gas, fuel, wheat, water and electricity shortages in Lebanon, this institute manages to stay open, while many others were forced to close down. It was started by the artist’s grandmother in 1959 to make space for her son, who was born with special needs, to insure that he wasn’t left alone, isolated, neglected by society. It was her personal ‘hop to hope’.
I see this series of solo exhibitions as a group show spread out over time and space, or as a book with a collection of five essays. Each solo exhibition sheds different light on the themes of togetherness, friendship, love and hope, and roaming from one to the other will generate beautiful and interesting connections that you would otherwise miss when only seeing one exhibition. It consciously starts with Rory Pilgrim, as their practice was the conceptual departure point of the series. I’m always so moved by their work, in which listening and offering space to other voices sits at the core.
Rory Pilgrim’s film The Undercurrent (2019) was co-created with ten youth climate activists from Idaho and asks how we can deal with an issue as overwhelmingly global as the climate crisis on a deeply intimate and personal scale. For me, it’s precisely this deeply intimate, personal scale that makes it so touching, like a hand reaching out to bring you in, to make it matter to you. This is what all the works presented in Hop to Hope do.
Have a look at the artists’ works with the aforementioned themes in your heart and mind. Or follow the thread of the essential need for a home, for feeling at home, for feeling loved and cared for. Which connections do you find between the photography zines by Home alone collective, in which Emma Sarpaniemi and Adele Hyry portray their friendship, and Afra Eisma’s colourful celebrations of love and togetherness? When making their films, do you think Rory Pilgrim and Mounira Al Solh ask a similar question to the one Iona Roisin voices in her film People assume I am an only child (2017), a touching portrait of her autistic brother in which she asks, ‘How to be careful, how to be gentle, yet how to still be honest, how to strike a balance, and then how to still make the thing’?.
I’m forever thankful to these artists for making their works, for offering these hops to hope. To end with the lyrics from Rory Pilgrim’s song ‘MCMC’ that constantly play in my head, these artists enable movement from maximum crisis to maximum calm:
“Cuz I wanna feel, I wanna feel, I wanna feel
Cuz I wanna feel, I wanna feel, I wanna feel
Cuz I wanna feel, I wanna feel, I wanna feel
That everything matters
In maximum crisis and maximum calm
To maximum recover
To the earth our mother”