The Library's Other Intelligences

Tuomas A. Laitinen, Notes for Swarm Chorus, 2018

Central Library Oodi

Töölönlahdenkatu, 00100 Helsinki

JANUARY 11 – MARCH 10, 2019

Opening: January 11, 18:00–21:00

Symposium: January 12, 14:00–16:00

Memory Machines tours: January 11, 12 &13 at 18:30. Sign up here.

The Library’s Other Intelligences, an art project organized by the MOBIUS Fellowship Program of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York in collaboration with the Helsinki Public Library, will open at the new Central Library Oodi in January 2019. The project features newly commissioned artworks, original research and a series of events, including an opening celebration on Friday, January 11, and a symposium on Saturday, January 12.

MOBIUS fellows Jussi Parikka (University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art, UK) and Shannon Mattern (The New School, US) have commissioned Finnish artists Samir Bhowmik, Tuomas A. Laitinen, and Jenna Sutela to create works that examine the new intelligences represented in our evolving knowledge institutions. These artworks reveal the alien logics of neural nets, give voice to machinic and speculative languages, and make visible the material infrastructures that allow intelligence to circulate. The exhibition’s featured artists are known for work that engages with AI, biological intelligence, digital culture, and the infrastructures of modern societies.

Visitors to the library will be invited to engage with the works ­– and with the new building – by attending live performances, embarking on expeditions, and reimagining how we will read, listen, and learn in a new techno-cultural future. The opening celebration will take place at Oodi on Friday, January 11, from 7 to 10pm; and the curators and artists will host a symposium about the exhibition on Saturday, January 12, from 2 to 4pm.



Jenna Sutela, nimiia ïzinibimi, 2019

Jenna Sutela: nimiia ïzinibimi, 2019

Jenna Sutela’s nimiia ïzinibimi is a unique book based on an invented new language representing those who lack first-hand access to, or the ability to produce, “natural” language. It welcomes and embeds more-than-human voices into the Helsinki Central Library’s collection. The content of the book draws on nimiia cétiï, Sutela’s ongoing experiment in machine learning and interspecies communication. It documents the interactions between a neural network; Martian language from the 1800s, originally channeled by the French medium Hélène Smith; and movements of Bacilli subtilis, extremophilic bacteria that, according to recent spaceflight experimentation, can survive on Mars. The bacteria are also present in nattō, or fermented soybeans, a probiotic food considered as a secret to long life. Beyond Bacterial-Martian culture, or Martian gut bacteria, Sutela’s project is also about intelligent machines as aliens of our creation. It attempts to express the nonhuman condition of computers that work as our interlocutors and infrastructure. A video in the entrance hall of the library depicts both the organic and the synthetic materials in which the book originates.

Samir Bhowmik with 00100 ENSEMBLE, Memory Machines, 2019  

Samir Bhowmik has partnered with 00100 ENSEMBLE to produce Memory Machines, a performative art project that explores the infrastructure of the Oodi Library. The work combines dance, theatre and circus with a guided tour that moves through the concealed infrastructural sites and operations of the building. This unique journey traverses places of climate control to power management, from checkout terminals to data centers, from automation to distribution and storage. As a visual performance, the work aims to interrogate the ecology of machines and the situated interactions between humans and technology. How do the flows of data, heat, matter and energy sustain cultural memory? What intelligences and futures can we uncover in the machines and bodies that labor within the monument of the library?

Concrete shaft for freight elevator carrying books to the top floor of Central Library Oodi. Image: Samir Bhowmik.

Tuomas A. Laitinen, Swarm Chorus, 2019

Tuomas A. Laitinen presents Swarm Chorus. Laitinen has composed a performative installation and a sound piece with generative tools that are interpreting the construction of medieval musical canons. He experiments with the form of the canon, a kind of an algorithm that allows us to generate complex polyphony from seemingly simple collections of organised sound. Here, the canon form can be seen as a morphing and churning organism, a layered progression without a definitive beginning or end. The work as a whole is likened to an ecosystem of circulating substances, with its words, inspired by ecological science fiction, functioning as fictional recipe poems describing and decoding an alchemistic combination of matter and meaning.  In Swarm Chorus, one can find ancient epistemic modalities layered with the notion of extended embodied mind as a conductor for accumulated knowledge. In the library space, this information is translated into sound. These aural events are channeled in the location with the aid of singers and a sound installation for ultrasonic speaker, as an attempt to gently tend to and activate the space. Aside from the performance, a speculative score for the composition is displayed in the form of an installation consisting of a video—partly generated by an AI—and a series of hand-printed scrolls.


Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Media Studies at The New School. She’s author of The New Downtown LibraryDeep Mapping the Media City; and Code and Clay, Data and DIrt: 5000 Years of Urban Media, and she writes a regular column on urban data and media infrastructures for Places Journal.

Jussi Parikka is Professor in Technological Culture & Aesthetics at University of Southampton’s Winchester School of Art. He has authored several books on media archaeology and theory, including the media ecology trilogy Digital Contagions (2007, 2nd. new ed. 2016), Insect Media (2010) and A Geology of Media (2012) as well as What is Media Archaeology? (2012). With Joasia Krysa he is the co-editor of Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History: Erkki Kurenniemi in 2048 (2015).

MOBIUS Fellowship Program

MOBIUS Fellowship Program, organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York and the Finnish Institute in London, brings together curators and other visual arts professionals on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. International work periods and thematic collaborations form the core of the program. MOBIUS is supported by Kone Foundation.