Q&A: Pavilion of Finland curators at Venice 2024

In the splashy, attention-seeking environment of the Venice Biennale, the Pavilion of Finland offers a welcome space of respite and reflection. Featuring the work of Pia Lindman, Vidha Saumya and Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen, this year’s presentation The pleasures we choose blurs the boundaries between art, architecture and activism, articulated through a wide range of materials and processes. Also collaborating on the pavilion is architectural designer Kaisa Sööt, whose access-forward design is integral to the project experience.

Commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland, the presentation is curated by Frame’s Head of Programme Jussi Koitela and artist-curator Yvonne Billimore. A previous participant in SCAN’s Curatorial Studio project, Yvonne has also worked at SCAN member organisations ATLAS Arts and Scottish Sculpture Workshop.

In this Q&A, SCAN speaks to Yvonne and Jussi about their curatorial approach, working collaboratively and facilitating intimate encounters with art in the fast-paced environment of the Biennale.


What was your approach to the project at the Finnish pavilion this year? What did you want to foreground and focus on?

With The pleasures we choose we really wanted to speak to the inseparability of art and life. The exhibition brings together three artists, Pia Lindman, Vidha Saumya and Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen, whose practices are acutely informed by their embodied experiences of structural, environmental and social imbalances in the world. Articulated across a wide range of materials and processes – including drawing, stitchwork, sculpture and healing – their artworks celebrate the pleasure of the personal as a powerful means of inhabiting, imagining and remaking more plural worlds. 

We also wanted to acknowledge that while people have their individual embodied experiences and ways of knowing, we do not live in isolation of others but in an interdependent world. From the early stages of the project, we worked with architectural designer Kaisa Sööt and the artists together, thinking about how to connect the artists’ works conceptually and materially through architectural interventions. We also collaborated on reimagining the Pavilion of Finland, as well as the kinds of art, bodies, and experiences that the space can support.

How did you choose the artists to work with?

We had previously worked with Pia Lindman, Vidha Saumya and Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen as part of Rehearsing Hospitalities, Frame’s public programme for 2019 to 2023, and were keen to bring them together in the Biennale context. United by their transdisciplinary practices which intertwine art, life, and activism, all three artists position artmaking, conceived through embodied knowledge, as a mechanism to survive a world that renders the existence of some bodies more use-full than others. 

For example, following mercury poisoning, Lindman utilises the heightened sensitivity of her nervous system to translate micro-signals into visual images, melodies, words, and colours, incorporating them into artworks that enable her to explore the nuances of different environments and social situations. Meanwhile, Saumya challenges the norms of aesthetics, gender, academia and nation-state. In her work, viewers encounter an interplay of desire, intimacy, and (home)land, offset by the heteronormative demands of utility, time and (dis)placement. Wallinheimo-Heimonen’s artwork points to the hate speech people with disabilities are subjected to – particularly from within the medical and social care industries – creating intricately fabricated realities in which a diversity of human bodies have won the right to choose a pleasurable life over mere existence.

What was it like working in such a highly collaborative way, both as two curators working together, and as curators working with collaborating artists and architect?

We have been really privileged to be afforded the time and resources to engage in an intimate and multifaceted collaboration with Pia, Vidha, Jenni-Juulia, Kaisa and of course many more supportive bodies who have enabled this project and helped us bring our ideas into material realities. From the get go we established and embraced this as a collective project, and spent a lot of time getting to know each other, so as to create an environment of trust. The exhibition has been directly shaped from exchanging both shared and individual experiences of art and life. This shared process has influenced the artworks and generated the building blocks for the architectural elements that accommodate access and bodily needs across registers.

As curators we are interested in ways of becoming-collective. In this instance this is explored through presenting artworks and bodies in relation rather than isolation. This is also extended to the audience in some respect, inviting them to blend their own encounters with the artworks; their daily embodied experiences of struggle, pleasure, and everything else that comes with existence.

Can you share some of the responses you have had to the presentation so far?

The works may appear at first glance to be soft in their politics under the guise of typically “feminised” materials and processes but many have noted how powerful they have found the works and the stories they hold. We have seen many having intimate and emotive responses to the work which is all we could have asked for. People have spoken highly of the attention to detail with the “access architecture” – the handrail, audio descriptions, seating, tactile map, exhibition design – recognising how these have been considered integral elements throughout and not last-minute add-ons.

We made a rather unconventional exhibition in some ways for the context of the fast paced “exhibition bagging” culture of the biennale. We wanted to challenge the attention and time afforded to artworks, and by extension the bodies of those who produce them. We intentionally created a space that invites people to slow down, sit, and stay a while. For many this has been a refreshing encounter.


The Pavilion of Finland at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 2024 is commissioned by Frame Contemporary Art Finland, 20 April – 24 November 2024.


Portrait of curators by Jo Hislop. Installation photographs by Ugo Carmeni. Group photograph outside pavilion by Ginevra Formentini.