Kaija Kiuru: Viiankiaapa: Pictures and installations

03.12.2016 - 15.01.2017

Second exhibition of the Protected Aapa Mire project

Friday 2.12.

Artist Talk @5pm

Artist Talk with PhD Timo Helle and Viiankiaapa activist Riikka Karppinen

Vernissage @6pm


The visual artist Kaija Kiuru’s exhibition Viiankiaapa speaks out in favour of a protected aapa mire. Viiankiaapa (65,95 km²) in the municipality of Sodankylä is one of the largest and most versatile aapa mires in Lapland and belongs to both the national Mire Conservation Programme and the EU Natura 2000 network. According to the species inventories made so far, the Viiankiaapa nature protection area enjoys 17 plant and 21 bird species that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies as near threatened or endangered. 

Ore prospecting permits concerning the Viiankiaapa nature protection area have been granted, and the discovered nickel-copper deposit has been characterised as the ore discovery of the century. A multinational mining company aims at cancelling the conservation status of the area and starting mining operations there. Similar economic and employment aspects are used as criteria in many other EU Natura 2000 network areas, which the decision on cancellation would also put in danger. IUCN says that states should prohibit mining and other projects threatening the environment in nature protection areas and mining industry should voluntarily stay out of the protected areas.   

Viiankiaapa is part of an ore zone running from northern Sweden across Finnish Lapland to Russia; it is described as geologically very interesting. The most promising mining deposits in Lapland are located in areas included in the Natura network or in their vicinity, and that is why more and more permit applications for ore prospecting concern protected areas. It is possible to depart from the protection of a Natura area with a Government decision, if there is an “imperative reason of overriding public interest” for the realisation of a project. However, the European Commission also has to give its opinion on the matter. Viiankiaapa will probably be an important precedent in Finland but also in the whole EU.  

At local level, over-optimistic economic calculations going beyond two or three decades and the preservation of biodiversity and local culture are set against each other. Valuing of diversity is a difficult task in individual cases but impoverishment of nature is globally one of the biggest man-made environmental threats.

Protected Aapa Mire

Kaija Kiuru made her first works of art commenting on the situation of Viiankiaapa in 2012. Gradually, individual works came to form the Protected Aapa Mire project. The first exhibition was held in Galleria G maintained by the Association of Finnish Printmakers in Helsinki in September 2014. The exhibition in the Northern Photographic Centre is the second exhibition of the project, and the third exhibition will be held in Gallery Napa and Studio Mustanapa run by the Artists’ Association of Lapland in Rovaniemi in October 2017. The last exhibition of the project and the publication of a book about Viiankiaapa will take place in Helsinki in 2019. The book will be produced in cooperation between Kaija Kiuru and her husband Timo Helle, who is a biologist and nature writer. The aim of the Protected Aapa Mire project is through art and science to bring out the significance of one disputed protection area for both biodiversity and local culture as well as to stimulate debate on the relative weight between economic and environmental aspects.

In addition to her own mire experiences, the origin of Kaija Kiuru’s works of art is in the livelihood history of Viiankiaapa, scientific research data and mining plans threatening the area. She selects her ways of working and materials to be used according to current ideas. For the exhibition in the Northern Photographic Centre, she chose installations and photos from the years 2014–2016. The Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland have supported the exhibition and working in the project.  

”I am interested in the future of Viiankiaapa: how stable is the state of the protected area or will the short-term advantages brought along by mining industry take precedence over protection? One role of art is to bring about a social debate, in this case on the position of the protected areas because of land-use pressures increasing for different reasons. Viiankiaapa is near and local, but at the same time also global, as we encounter similar clashes between human activity and the natural environment all over the world. The aim of my works of art is to have a preventive effect, before we are in the situation where materials for art come from lost protection areas and ideas for works of art evolve from environmental destruction.”

Kaija Kiuru moved back to Sodankylä, her municipality of birth, five years ago after having lived elsewhere in Finland for over 30 years. She lives with Timo Helle in the village of Aska in Sodankylä. Kiuru has graduated as a sculptor from the Institute of Fine Arts in Lahti and as a Bachelor of Culture and Arts from the Lahti University of Applied Sciences. In addition to her artistic work, she has also studied art history as well as environmental protection and education. Kiuru’s artistic production comprises installations, environmental art, photos and sculptures, and during her career, she has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in Finland and abroad. Kiuru is a member of the Association of Finnish Sculptors, MUU Artists’ Association and the Artists’ Association of Lapland.