Imagining the Baltic Sea - online seminar

7 — 8 Apr 2022

Location: online

Imagining the Baltic Sea: Online seminar
7–8 April 2022, 13.00-16.00 (EET)
Welcome to this online seminar focused on the Baltic Sea – its ecological, cultural, social, economic, and geopolitical significance. We look at the Baltic from the early Middle Ages to the present day via the lenses of ecological decline, diminishing fish stocks, cultural collaboration, and networking by Nordic organizations, commerce, tourism, intensive logistics, and scientific research.
Welcome to two afternoons of presentations and discussion!
13.00-13.30 Andy Best & Merja Puustinen: The Baltic, from way back when to…! A brief history.
13.30-14.00 Helena Selder: The Baltic Sea Art Connection
14.00-14.15 BREAK
14.15-14.45 Pekka Niskanen & Mohamed Sleiman Labat: PhosFATE – a desert in the sea, a garden in the desert
14.45-15.15 Gunilla Rosenqvist: Anthropogenic disturbance of reproductive behaviours in the pipefish model system and research at the Research Station Ar
15.15-15.45 Taru Elfving: Spectral Shorelines
13.00-13.30 Andy Best & Merja Puustinen: Introduction
13.30-14.30 Discussion in groups on key themes
14.30-14.45 BREAK
14.45-16.00 Further group discussion & conclusions



The seminar is hosted and programmed by Andy Best and Merja Puustinen. They are artists with international careers encompassing sculpture, performance, media, net, and bio-art. Merja Puustinen is an artist, cultural commentator, producer and researcher. She is a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts, Helsinki. Andy Best is an experienced curator, producer and educator, and is Professor of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts, Helsinki, and a PhD candidate in the Department of Media at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.


Helena Selder is the Artistic Director of the Baltic Art Center – an international, production-based residency for contemporary art on the Swedish island of Gotland since 2016. In her curatorial practice she has been interested in developing ways in which art institutions can facilitate exchange between artists, local communities, and local government in order to develop ideas and critical discussions on how to inhabit public space – lately with an increasing climate perspective added to it.
Pekka Niskanen is a Helsinki based media artist, filmmaker, researcher, and a Doctor of Fine Arts. He has been exhibiting since 1990 in museums, galleries and film festivals around Europe, North America and Asia. His dissertation in University of the Arts Helsinki is titled Art in the Construction of Identity Politics (2014). Niskanen has worked as a director of several community art film and video projects. His teaching and pedagogy in the universities is based on shared responsibilities with the student groups not forgetting the diverse and different places and positions by the participants.
Mohamed Sleiman Labat is a Saharawi visual artist born and raised in the Sahrawi refugee camps. In 2016, after graduating from Batna University with a degree in English literature, Sleiman Labat went back to his community. In 2017 he collaborated with English poet Sam Berkson to collect the oral poems from the greatest desert poets, and translated them into English. They came out in a book called ‘Settled Wanderers’. Sleiman Labat has built a multipurpose community and artist studio space Motif Art Studio in Samara camp. The studio itself is built from discarded materials that Sleiman Labat has collected. The studio is now a small hub for art creation and art education in Samara camp. Motif Art studio hosts a number of workshops, interactive sessions and collaborations with local and international collaborators in various art workshops, presentations and talks.
Gunilla Rosenqvist is a professor in Behavioral Ecology and Project Leader in Blue Centre Gotland, in Uppsala University. Her research addresses questions in behavioural ecology and evolution. It aims to provide an understanding on how changes in the environment can affect the evolution of individual behaviour. Her research involves evolution of sex roles, sexual selection and secondary sexual characters, sex role reversal, how reproductive behaviour in animals are affected by changes in the environment, and how captivity affects animals.
Taru Elfving is a curator and writer based in Helsinki focused on nurturing undisciplinary and site-sensitive enquiries at the intersections of ecological, feminist and decolonial practices. As artistic director of CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago, Elfving is currently leading the research programme Spectres in Change. Previously she has worked as Head of Programme at Frame Contemporary Art Finland and HIAP Helsinki International Artist Programme. Her curatorial projects include Earth Rights (Kunsthalle Turku 2019), Hours, Years, Aeons (Finnish Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015), Frontiers in Retreat (HIAP 2013-18), Contemporary Art Archipelago (Turku 2011), and Towards a Future Present (LIAF 2008). She has co-edited publications such as Contemporary Artist Residencies (Valiz, 2019) and Altern Ecologies (Frame, 2016). She has a PhD from Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths University of London (2009).

The seminar is a part of the State of the Art Network, a Nordic-Baltic transdisciplinary network of artists, practitioners, researchers, and organizations who have come together to discuss the role, responsibility, and potential of art and culture in the Anthropocene. State of the Art Network is supported by Nordic Culture Point, Nordic Culture Fund, A. P. Møller Foundation, and coordinated by Bioart Society.