Text: Camilla Edström Ödemark, Galleri CC
The exhibition “Life is going to be sad and sexy at the same time” presents a retrospect of the collective’s work, centered around three major video works. The title of the show is borrowed from the Finnish poet Sini Silveri, starring in the latest work “Wild Is the Wind” (2019), which will be premiered at Galleri CC. Sorbus consists of Henna Hyvärinen, Jonna Karanka, Otto Byström, Sakari Tervo, Mika Palonen and Tuomo Tuovinen.
In 2013 a new gallery was established in Helsinki. Located at infamous Vaasankatu in the former working-class district of Kallio, Sorbus opened its doors; a small shopfront artist-run space between striptease hotspots and some of the brownest bars in town; locations that would in time transform into chic vegetarian cafés for the young and cultured. The gallery was named after the preferred beverage of the low-income alcoholics and hardcore punks and took a stance toward the upper-middle-class attitudes within the field, expressing a longing for freedom; from regulations within the economical system; from conformist blandness and the market’s demands of niceness.
Offering an alternative to galleries demanding exhibiting artist to pay rent (which is custom in Finland), Sorbus quickly became a rebellious replacement for the high-brow art scene, offering shows, events and even festivals that often questioned the infrastructure and established codes of the art world. But when you’re trying to fuck the system, it’s only a question of time before you get friend-zoned. Or even worse, as a famous meme points out, you’ll find yourself making love to it. Accepted into the scene, assimilated both as a force of gentrification and a statement place for the hip, young and cultured to be seen, Sorbus took power over the narrative which was projected onto them. The group developed into an artistic collaboration operating parallel with the gallery. With an ironic, humorist and deeply serious analysis of the contemporary, a body of work grew from the lived experience of mechanisms within the scene. Presenting autobiographically inspired shows and performances at platforms such as SIC (FI), Manifesta 11 (CH), KASKL (DE), Antwerpen Art Week (BE), and Jupiter Woods (UK), Sorbus oscillates between the absurd and the too-close-to-home, exposing an art field who’s self-assuringly declaring itself as progressive. But instead of opposing it, it’s rather reflecting and reproducing its premises and bourgeois values.
At the beginning of 2019, Sorbus celebrated their 6th year anniversary with the last show to be exhibited in the shopfront gallery. The neighborhood already gone through distinctive changes, the scattered crowd of the eternally unemployed being replaced with neatly dressed daddies with retro trollies and hipster fashionistas mimicking the styles and signs of the unprivileged. Continuing solely as an art collaboration, the practice of Sorbus is still closely interwoven with their origin and place of birth. Dressed in the mass-produced punk uniform of H&M couture, delivering the platitudes of neoliberal Corporate Truth™ in a nightmarish haze of cool laser lights and fresh fog machines, Sorbus demands, in questionable lip-sync, to see beyond personal and systematic greed. Their work urges us to identify our positions as parts of the structures we’re fighting, be it the art field, the neoliberal consumerist culture or even the colonial constitution of the West. For me, as being both an artist and part of Galleri CC, the work of Sorbus deeply problematize not only the role of the artist as a producer of goods: an artist merged with, absorbed by and having become a maintainer of a capitalist system, but also the gallery used as a key ingredient in the progress of gentrification.
Thank you Emanuel Kjellberg, Megan Snowe and Jouni Parkku.