Utopias Lahti Biennale

Artistic Direction
Lead Curation

Utopias Lahti is a visual arts festival centered around artistic practices that activate speculation, conjecture and imagination as catalysts for systemic change.

Utopias Lahti 2023 took place in the city of Lahti, Finland between 10.5. - 4.6.2023. The festival program included 5 group exhibitions in different locations and a curated festival bookshop.

In its construction the festival aims to develop new ecological exhibition practices for the presentation of media art and visual art through local circular economy. The festival is organized by the Lahti Association of Photographic Artists (VTRY).

Festival catalog PDF

Archived website: https://utopiaslahti.com/

Festival poster by Peppi-Lotta Heinonen


Agata Wieczorek - Artefacts
Anya Tsaruk - Mother Land
Daniel Szalai - Novogen
Gouled Ahmed - When Skylarks Sing, Our Lungs Will Find Home AgainLuka Cvetkovic - LAMB (History Always Begins With You)
Marcel Top - Sara Hodge

A getaway can be taken to mean denial and temporary respite, a privilege to momentarily close your eyes from unbearable conditions - but inevitably returning to them.

A getaway can also be a more permanent stat of transition where tools are built for evading and altering dominant frames of realism. Living in state of getaway is rarely a choice, and most often imposed upon individuals by violence. The decision to get away means a refusal to take part in prevailing political, social or economic conditions. In these states, getting away means imagining otherwise, struggling for an alternative future and building spaces with others for prosperity outside of existing systems and institutions.

The works in the exhibition build conceptual and visual tools and take part in actions to find alternatives for current systems. The artists explore relationships and forms of care as sites of power, destabilize anthropocentric world views and examine the safety and insecurity inherent within visibility and anonymity. Present in all the artists’ practices is an impulse to work towards a more equitable future from this moment.

The works in the exhibition were selected from an open call by a jury comprised of artist/curator Ahmed Al- Nawas, artist Maija Tammi, curator Nimco Kulmiye Hussein, environmental expert Saara Vauramo and the festival’s artistic director Henri Airo and exhibition coordinator Kaisa Syrjänen.

The Apparatus in the Garden

Liina Aalto-Setälä
Noora Sandgren
Maija Annikki Savolainen
Sauli Sirviö
Carl Victor Wingren

The Apparatus in the Garden brings together a group of Finnish artists working with photographic processes. Each of the five artists shares a reciprocal relationship with the materials they use in different photographic processes in their work. The matter in these processes may be collected from the middle of decaying infrastructure, incinerated waste or beach sand and gets worked on in collaboration with natural light, weather conditions or more-than-human entities. The works that result from these working processes do not always attempt to conserve their material form, but are often in a constant process of change that takes place within and after the exhibition.

A constantly accelerating image culture necessitates distance between image makers and materials used in image making. The building blocks of these image cultures, such as smartphones and data networks, consist of chopped, mined and drilled materials that are extracted into production chains. In these chains, material connections and the capitalist modes of resource extraction that underpin them are obscured from view. Many of the works in the exhibition examine the foundation of photographic culture and seek to reconnect image makers back into different material networks.

Simultaneously, the works position themselves against traits that are commonly associated with photography – such as permanence and acuity. The exhibition poses the question - how can we break ties with established modes of photographic production and can such actions lay a groundwork that will blossom in the future?


Fabien Silvestre Suzor - Ensemble
Eva Kreuger -
The Living Studio: How to Collect Rocks
Natacha de Mahieu -
Theater of Authenticity
Noor Boiten -
Cheap Gifs $$$ Buy Now !
Ugo Woatzi -

Settings is a group exhibition of five emerging European artists working with lens- based mediums to explore transformations in the image-as-view and image-as-space. The works
in the exhibition reflect on ways in which lens- based tools can be used to reclaim and recode experience and culture. Incorporating self-reflexive methods into their working practices, many of the artists simultaneously inquire into the conditions of production, capital value and material boundaries sustaining art work.

The exhibition was a collaboration between Utopias Lahti and BredaPhoto Festival. All the artists participated in the 2022 installment of The BredaPhoto International Talent Program, which brings together and supports students and alumni from 9 European art universities.

Tracing a Way of Operating

Artists: Aliisa Hietikko, Anton Kunnas, Emil Ratilainen, Isa Werleman, Jaakob Lahtinen, Josefiina Turkulainen, Justin Ugochukwu, Lumi Heikkilä, Marjaana Rantala, Markus Kivistö, Nooa Haapsaari, Paavo Jantunen, Rebekka Huomo, Tiiu Hyyryläinen & Valtteri Haverinen

How can a photograph expand the perspective of its maker or viewer? Tracing a Way of Operating is a group exhibition by fifteen photography students from the LAB Institute of Design and Fine Arts. The exhibition consists of the students recent work, completed during the Methodological Workshop -course.

During the past two semesters, the
third year students have worked with different personal and social topics. Besides handling diverse themes, traces of different methods are drawn into the exhibition space alongside the images. These traces reflect the emerging artists keen and experimental approach towards the medium of photography.

Designed and constructed along the festivals circular economy model, the exhibition is designed and built around materials received through a local circular economy network. The limited material possibilities and the support of the festival team have encouraged the students to take leaps outside of their own established practices in their installations.

The exhibition is part of the festival’s pedagogical program and is produced in cooperation with LAB Universit of Applied Sciences. In planning the exhibition, the artists were mentored by the artistic director Henri Airo, and exhibition coordinator Kaisa Syrjänen.

Imagined Realities

Imagined Realities is created as a part of the festival’s pedagocial program in collaboration with three visual arts schools in Lahti: Visual Art High School Gaudia, Lahti Folk High School Vapaa Akatemia and Visual Arts School Taika.

The exhibition brings the visitor to to the middle of change. What is change? How does it look, taste or smell? Where can the change be seen, and who takes part in change? The works in the exhibition were created in cyanotype workshops during the spring of 2023.

In the workshops students from Gaudia, Vapaa Akatemia and Taika considered and discussed changes happening in their own surroundings. Through the experimental printing process, the images of both dystopian and utopian interpretations aim to build a view of change, its current essence, future and past.

The workshops were held by arts educator Valtteri Heinonen and photographer Joshua Cockroft with the classes own teachers. The works in the exhibition have been printed on circular economy paper produced in Lahti.


Photofuss group

Portal is a group exhibition by Photofuss – the Finnish Museum of Photography’s in-house collective of young artists. The exhibition consists of visual thoughts by ten young Finland- based artists and is constructed with the festivals circular economy model. The main building material of the exhibition is surplus newsprint paper from a local offset printing house.

Festival bookshop by The Temporary Bookshelf

The Temporary Bookshelf is an artist-run platform for publishing practices and a selection of art publications, self published & independent publishers (local and international).

The pop-up festival bookstore curated by The Temporary Booshelf was open from 10.5.–28.5. in Gallery Uusi Kipinä.

For one festival week-end the bookshop turned into a book fair with over 15 publishers and authors will presented a diverse selection of books connecting the local, national and international scene.

Climate Utopias Festival

Artistic direction
Curation (together with Jonne Heinonen)

Climate Utopias was a visual arts festival organised by the Lahti Association of Photographic Artists. The festival program was focused artistic practices that build alternative visions of a future shadowed by the eco-catastrophe. The festival was produced utilising materials received through local circular economy. The festival was a part of the Lahti - European Green Capital 2021 -EU initiative.

Nuño de la Serna
Miia Autio
Ismail Odetola
Jukka Silokunnas
Sophie Allerding
Minna Rainio & Mark Roberts. 

The works were selected through an open call by a jury comprised of Laura Beloff, Karoliina Pilli-Sihvola, Jonne Heinonen and Henri Airo. 
In addition to the exhibitions the festival included a podcast series produced in collaboration with RARE Media


Multiple venues around the center of Lahti, Finland


Archived website: