In the centre of Helsinki, there is a deep cave in the rock almost 100 meters long. This is a bomb shelter built during the Cold War. Today such facilities in Finland are universally adapted for peaceful purposes, being turned into cultural centres, car parks or sports halls. Shelters are equipped with a ventilation system, massive cast-iron gates and an emergency communication system with the loudspeakers placed on the ceiling. All the equipment works fine and, if necessary, is ready to accommodate residents of a neighbourhood. If Moscow and St. Petersburg subways are designed to protect the population in the event of a nuclear strike, then the cave in Helsinki was originally built as a bomb shelter with another possible use in peacetime. In our case, it is redesigned into the Space for Free Arts / Vapaan Taiteen Tila under the auspices of the University of the Arts Helsinki and is a regular site for artistic experiments.
However, any art placed inside the shelter is somehow determined by its space, austere militaristic aesthetics and semantic loading. Shelter with its rock texture, technical hum and maze of passages is a compelling work of art itself – convex, tangible, inhabited, but at the same time a peculiar utopia, a non-place. As we get into it, we find ourselves in the heart of the Cold War and simultaneously withdraw ourselves from the global communicative temporality. There we escape the streams of news feeds telling us about the new nuclear threat from North Korea, the US response to it, Russian geopolitical ambitions and new "unguided" missiles.
Shelter as a refuge from the threat and shelter as an indicator of the existence of a threat. Shelter as a place where you can hide, bury yourself or sit on suitcases waiting for the radioactive dust to settle. Shelter, where you need to settle down or celebrate a feast during the plague. Shelter as an underground for marginals or as a privilege for the elite. Shelter as a transfer point, compelled communal living, a model of society in miniature, a safe space for the gathering of like-minded people. Shelter as a burrow, shelter as a den, shelter as the last asylum, shelter as a new beginning.
Located within the global rock of the capitalist world the shelter is represented in the present while at the same time is hidden from it. Therefore, it is from within the shelter that we can overcome the rhetoric of the "Cold War" and the creative logic of cognitive capitalism by imagining a world of new affects, new tenderness, sensitivity and non-toxic communication.