Sorbus has shut its doors. The work is over and the crew will continue as an artist collective. Helsinki has one less art space. But new ones have since sprung up. People with specific desires need a space to communicate them, and Sorbus ran on a desire to show art made by artists they love.
Sorbus was a gallery, above all else. The space consisted of a small room where art was shown. There were gigs and some discussions. But mostly they organised exhibitions. Some were amazing. The Sorbus collective worked hard and tried to help the artists the best they could. What else could you ask for?
The collective got paid too little even with a 3-year grant received from a private foundation. The Sorbus crew burned out, like we do. Most DIY festivals and art spaces only last for a few years, because grants tend to be targeted towards the newest shiny thing. Between cradle and grave, you receive funding for a handful of projects.
No one can escape demise. At 120 years old, Moses saw death coming for him—he wrote down the book in which the event is described. After seven years, Sorbus gallery couldn’t escape their faith, either, even with the support they received and the international reputation and all that. None of it matters when all you wanna do is sleep.
It’s heartwarming to know that they got along so well they’ll continue to work together. Running the gallery wasn’t the main thing, after all, but comradery. There was so much love. Not only between them, but in the exhibitions, too. Visiting a show at Sorbus, it was impossible not to notice how much love those works had received. That’s rare, sadly.
A bunch of people doing stuff always sounds a little scary. An individual artist—that is to say a cohesive, market-friendly identity—is easier to control. Whatever they say or do, it’s simply their version, their side of the story, nothing more. Like an Ambien on your flight to an art event, individualism takes the edge off art.
Although Sorbus is a collective, they mostly showed art made in the individual vein. The opening times, the pedigree of the artist, the way we behaved in space, the press releases, and pretty much everything fell into place and followed the rules of how art must be displayed and produced so that it stays in its corner, like an obedient child.
Sorbus put together parties making different communities fold into each other. They tested various strategies, from art auctions to removing the window entirely. They kept the gallery closed if they were attending a demo, and shared information about labour struggles taking place next door. They didn’t try to exclude the world around them from the gallery. Sorbus was whatever they needed it to be.
I wonder what the crew makes of it all today. Like did they stop partly because displaying art seemed futile? Having written this text originally a year ago, and revisiting it now in June 2020, that question has no resonance. Galleries are neither the problem nor the solution, unless your rent just went up because of a shiny white gallery opening next door, or because you saw a work of art today that changed you.
It’s tricky to do things in public. To be able to do anything, you need to promise funders and audiences that you will fulfill their wishes in some way. What are those wishes? Be bold, be yourself, do what you love? All of those things—boldness, identity, love—are commodified and controlled to the extreme, in a feedback loop of you and me and everyone we know. How to break the loop? By breaking the habit. Sorbus, you did good.
Kiitos Henna, Jonna, Mika, Otto, Sakari, Tuomo for the many times so many of us changed simply by walking through that door and pausing for a bit.
by Kaino Wennerstrand (formerly Kim Modig)