Sunday, 11 December 2011

Turku: BOXed street art

Turku, Finland, is not yet covered in snow when I start my walk in search for some 25 electricity distribution cabinets covered with artwork. BOX is one of the numerous art projects put together in celebration of Turku's year as European capital of culture in 2011 (a title which it now shares with Tallinn, Estonia).
The artists, Kati Immonen and Minna Maija Lappalainen, have artistically attacked the electricity cabinets with their own artwork in the city centre with the help of Turku artists' association and the local energy supplier, Turun Energia. My walk's first stops are found at the corner of Puolalankatu and Yliopistonkatu street (the latter is the main pedestrian / shopping street); instead of the dull grey, cabinets are covered with photos of gorgeous green tiles, red bricks that hide a secret balcony
or fire-red autumn colours that almost cover the old window panes. Next, I take a few steps towards the market place, and turn left to Aurakatu to reach the top of the hill. There should be two electricity cabinets right next to the Turku Art Museum. 
On the left of the granite steps leading to the museum there is a dog-covered electricity cabinet. Supposedly, each of them frequent this very park. What a lovely wallpaper style and wonderful dogs! But where is the other electricity cabinet? I'm sure there were to be two? I walk round the park, nothing... And step into the museum to ask where the other art cabinet could be. The first person I meet has no clue what I'm talking about, but the ticket office guy kindly googles the BOX web page for me. Silly me! There are actually two separate electricity cabinets right next to each other, and each of them is an individual work of art... Two in one...
As a consolation, I take a little break at the museum's little café. The smell of the fresh handmade cinnamon roll is far too temptating... When I look out of the window, there's no snow, but the window pane is decorated with a traditional giant snowflake made of white paper. Mmm, should I take a sheet of paper and scissors and make some for Xmas as well?
I find the next BOX artwork when descending the Aurakatu street, right at the corner of the market square and almost next to the old Orthodox church. Don't forget to look also at the top of the electricity cabinet! University of Turku, founded in 1920, was originally right here, and gave its name to the street (yliopisto = university), but the old building - that housed hotel Phoenix before the scholars entered - was torn down in 1959.  The black and white photographs may bring back memories to the locals both in this corner, and in the next one as well
because these photographs show what Turku market square and its surroundings really looked like some decades ago. The corner of Yliopistonkatu and Kauppiaskatu street has also changed along the years, as you can see when you walk round the cabinets. 
I feel I'm getting fixated with square shapes... So when I reach the Aurajoki river, Läntinen Rantakatu street, my eyes seem to wonder wherever there are boxes or similar shapes. The above gift box isn't an electricity cabinet hanging in the air, but a beautifully non-commercially covered sign of a boutique...
...whereas next to the library, against the protesters' tent,  the square signs tell their own story. The protesters are against inequality, and declare the essence: YOU ARE GREAT / Sinä olet UPEA.
I pass some more electricity cabinets by the Aurajoki river, and take a step back towards the market square to Aurakatu street. There are three artistic electricity cabinets next to the town hall, telling a Turku story. The tall ship shape reminds us of the magnificent Suomen Joutsen (Finland's Swan) ship which is anchored on the river, and another shows the figure of the medieval Turun Linna (Turku Castle). *The fantastic wooden structure above is a pavilion called Pudelma, designed and built by architecture students in August this year.
The third BOX reveals runners, or actually a single one: Paavo Nurmi, the most famous Flying Finn, a Turku-born record-breaking track and field athlete.
I make a detour to the market square and the Swedish Theatre (Svenska Teater) along the same Aurakatu street. Here the artwork is more classical, depicting greek pillartops. Or are they actually sinking to the ground? 
Back at the Aurajoki river, I continue my search for more BOXes. Flower shapes, ornaments, details... But I wish I had a map on which the artwork was marked because before setting off, I only scribbled down a list of the streets on which they were supposed to be found.

This  becomes apparent when I try to find a BOX on the other side of the river, next to the city theatre. Perhaps I just miss it, or maybe I don't? I wonder if this grey electricity cabinet has featured some art on it at some point? Or maybe not, hard to tell. Anyway, these grey or green electricity cabinets seem more and more dull without the artwork!

BOX is attempting to make ordinary, dull objects more appealing and at the same time more noticeable. It works.

It is hard to tell how many Turku citizens have actually noticed that something along their regular walking route has changed, but I certainly hope they have, or will do that, on a very dull or beautiful day, when the sun shines from the right angle. I'm so glad these artistic electricity cabinets will remain even after the end of 2011 when Turku hands over its title as one of the two European capitals of culture.

I haven't quite managed to find all the 25 electricity cabinets but that's ok. It's time to focus on other than square shapes for a while. A beautiful round shape, perhaps? A perfect latte with a velvety taste at  Cafe Art is a great ending to a little artistic walk.

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