Review: Helsinki Festival’s Less Than Joyous Art

It’s August! And that means it’s Helsinki Festival time again!

Each year this celebration presents a raft of special events and exhibitions devised to reveal diverse perspectives, challenge mindsets and enthrall. Alas, some of the public art component falls somewhat short of that goal this time round.

The work in question can already be seen over market stalls at the harbour as one approaches the area from Esplanadi Park. It comes in the form of an 8 1/2 meter tall, sickly pink concrete nude boy busy peeing into the sea.


The sculpture’s a magnet for tourist snapshot takers but, outside of its snapchat potential, Tommi Toija‘s ‘Bad Bad Boy’ doesn’t inspire much contemplation – though it did make me think a bit about peeing figures.


The figure conveys none of the humour and sense of celebration that accompanies – think of all the different clothes he has worn – that most famous peeing child – Brussels’ Manneken-Pis.

Nor does it shock, make interesting use of technology, or get people thinking of the possibilities and/or the limits of sculpture. Take for example Marie Chouinard‘s Art Gallery of Ontario performance ‘Petite danse son nom” (1980). For this very brief appearance Chouinard did nothing more than walk to the centre of the stage clad in a white shirt (that discretely hid the genital region) and urinated into a plastic pail. That really people talking.


Though Toija’s work managed to be ranked as one of the 10 worst examples of public art by the UK’s Mirror after its debut in Orebro, Sweden last year, the distinction is hardly appropriate. It’s a momentary visual distraction. Ultimately, it’s just so dumb.


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