Publics, a New Curatorial Project and Event Space, Debuts in Helsinki

Still from the film UK Gay Bar Directory, 2016, by Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings.


Publics, a new curatorial agency with an affiliated event space and plans for collaboration with other outfits and institutions, will launch next month in Helsinki. Under the stewardship of Paul O’Neill, recently hired after a four-year stint as director of the Bard College graduate program for curatorial studies, the project evolved out of the roving contemporary-art initiative Checkpoint Helsinki. In its new guise, Publics will operate as “a ‘work together’ institutional model with multiple overlapping objectives, thematic strands, and collaborations,” according to a mission statement. Priorities will include “debating, curating, imagining, and making contemporary art in, with, and in relation to its multiple publics.”

Publics kicks off on December 9 with talks revolving around a new institutional library, reading room, and event space in the Helsinki neighborhood of Vallila. The debut will include a book launch for How Institutions Think, a new anthology edited by O’Neill, Lucy Steeds, and Mick Wilson for the MIT Press. Talks will include a lecture by James Hoff—on his work as a visual artist, musician, and cofounder of the publisher Primary Information—and a presentation by Wilson during a meal at an African restaurant under the aegis of a curatorial project known as the Food Thing. The launch day will end with musical performances at a nearby club, with a lineup that includes Hoff as well as Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings, who have worked together on a moving-image archive related to gay bars in the UK.

Publics will operate in the future under the direction of O’Neill as well as the program manager and curator Eliisa Suvanto.

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