In the summer of 2012, I was at Vantaa airport under the midnight sun. It's not only the Moomins, which make Finland appealing to a Japanese person like me, Finland has been known as one of the best social welfare and design fields in the world. I came to be involved in Strata ―a
Site-specific-art Project organizing works designed by Nancy Holt, Agnes Denes and Erik Van Hoorn ― located at the village of Pinsiö, where is the western lake district. As a photographer, I was recording the area,but I also got to know the people of Pinsiö, and was fascinated by how tightly they were bound to their environment, particular by food.
While the short summer lasts, everyone picks a bucket of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in the forest on a daily basis. Berries are made into jam, berry soup and cakes. Moreover, half of the fruit will be frozen and kept for the long winter. Also people go mushrooming to the forest during the summer, and go fishing to the lake through the year.
Finnish women living in a country town are always busy in their kitchen. They have a breakfast at 9am, snack and coffee at 10.30am, lunch (the biggest meal in a day) at 12pm, snack and coffee at 2pm, light dinner at 6pm, snack and coffee at 8pm. Mealtimes and menu are almost the same between summer and winter, while it never bores people,
having moderate spices and varied cooking methods, such as pickling, frying, boiling and baking in the oven. Although the types of fruits and vegetables are not so abundant, the dairy products, meat and fish are very rich and fresh.
Most Finnish people live surrounded by frozen forests and lakes for half the year. They can go out for a walk in -20 degrees, on the other hand, a recent survey found that the number of people who become depressed from loneliness has been increasing, partly because of the long dark winter. There are other related factors such as the long distances between houses, especially in the rural areas, and the dominance of TV and the Internet. In order to avoid that, sitting around the table several times a day with their family, which is born of long habit, might be the best way to spend the season.
It seems to me that these reserved and hard-working people have accepted such a huge Strata project, partly because it brings visitors and variety to the region, and partly from pride in their magnificent environment.
People who live in urban areas have few chances to experience art since museums and galleries are collected mainly in Helsinki. However, outside Helsinki, the interaction between landscape-art pieces and rich forests or vast lands is unique. There are positive attitudes which come directly from locals in the region, for example phone calls proposing concrete ideas or suggesting a meeting for volunteers. When the challenges will be developed, their efforts would come into bloom not only in the spring but the winter. If the local Finns can be transmitters of the art, perhaps it can be recognized as one of the form of expression of new era.
Mika Mizuno is a japanese photographer contributing for Strata. She is currently finnishing her MFA at the Goldsmiths in London.