Gustafsson&Haapoja, Becoming, 2020. Still from video.


Gustafsson&Haapoja: Becoming – Proposals for Earthly Living

Roughly one year has passed since the global coronavirus pandemic began. Still with no end in sight, we must nonetheless try to face up to what comes next and to a post-COVID world some day in the future. Whenever a zoonosis (that is, a disease that can transmit from animals to humans) like COVID-19 appears, we may well associate it with ecosystem shifts caused by the destruction of the natural environment or by global warming. In the Anthropocene, during which humankind has brought about immense changes to the planet’s ecosystems and geology, considering ways to coexist or maintain a better relationship with nature and other species is an urgent task. The international art scene has recently seen increasing numbers of works and exhibitions that reflect on the present and future state of ecosystems during the Anthropocene. And when we then consider the various things taking place right now all around the world, this is a theme that becomes even more significant. Given the current circumstances, what should people and art do to envision a better future?

Gustafsson&Haapoja, an interdisciplinary collaboration between Finnish visual artist Terike Haapoja and author, scriptwriter, and playwright Laura Gustafsson, focuses on problems that arise from anthropocentric worldviews, engaging in large-scale and long-term projects that aim to open us up to more comprehensive social concepts. In Becoming (2020), the video work that forms the core part of “Becoming – Proposals for Earthly Living,” its first solo exhibition in Japan, Gustafsson&Haapoja asks what is essential to being human. In a variety of places—from a tranquil location with a view of the sea to a quiet and lush forest, a city, or indoors—thirty-seven interviewees (activists, thinkers, artists, carers, children, and so on) respond to questions about ways of being that are meaningful for human life, and their thoughts about phenomena in bud at this very moment and which should be nurtured. Becoming and Bud Book – A Manual for Earthly Living, which the artists compiled based on the video work, serve as signposts for visitors to reflect on those same questions.

Even though we remain unable to move around freely like we did before, we know of several ways of connecting with others faraway, and thinking together with them about the same problems. These are perhaps other “buds” that we should nurture. Today, when the world faces a crisis, how should we live our lives? What kind of response do we give to this question directed at everyone now earthly living? Here is a place for thinking calmly about that.

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Kyoto City University of Arts Art Gallery @KCUA
@KCUA 1, 2
44 days
(2021.1.30 Sat.2021.3.21 Sun.)
Curated by
Kyoto City University of Arts Art Gallery @KCUA
Organized by
Kyoto City University of Arts
With additional funding from
Japan Arts Council
Nomura Foundation
Yoshino Gypsum Art Foundation
With support from
Embassy of Finland in Japan

Kyoto City University of Arts Art Gallery
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Artist Profiles

GUSTAFSSON&HAAPOJA’S collaboration was launched in 2012. The project began by exploring history and society from the perspective of other species, and has progressed to dismantling the concepts of human and animal and how they relate to the mech-anisms of racialisation, sexism and social exclusion.  
The idea of utopia or the possibility of a different world features in all of Gustafsson&Haapoja’s work. Visual artist Terike Haapoja, based in New York, and author, scriptwriter and playwright Laura Gustafsson, based in Finland, combine a poetic approach with documentary material in their work. Gustafsson&Haapoja’s art inhabits the mediums of installation and video art as well as perfor-mance. The artists’ theatre backgrounds are also often visible in the works. The collaboration also highlights the importance of connecting the projects with the surrounding reality through essays, discussions and activism. Previously Gustafsson&Haapoja have realized the installations The Museum of the History of Cattle and Museum of Nonhumanity, which won the 2016 Finnish State Prize for Media Art. Their works also include the sound installation Waiting Room, which premiered in the Netherlands in 2019 and a courtroom lecture performance The Trial performed at the Baltic Circle theatre festival in 2014.
LAURA GUSTAFSSON (b. 1983) is an author, scriptwriter, and playwright based in Helsinki, who apart from literature has written theatre plays, radio plays and television series. Gustafsson has published the novels Huorasatu (Whorestory, 2011), Anomalia (Anomaly, 2013), Korpisoturi (Wilderness Warrior, 2016) and Pohja (Ground, 2017).
TERIKE HAAPOJA (b. 1974) is a visual artist based in New York, who alongside making exhibitions is also a writer and lecturer. Her works Closed Circuit – Open Duration and The Party of Others were shown in the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013.

Installation Views

Gustafsson&Haapoja, Becoming—Proposals for Earthly Living, installation view. Photo by Takeru Koroda