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Beyond Black Boxes and Gender Barriers: A Year of Time-Based Media at SAAM

A film still of three women from Julie Dash's acclaimed film, "Daughters of the Dust."

Still from Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust

When I arrived as the curator of time-based media art at SAAM just over a year ago, I had an unusual challenge. The two galleries that have traditionally showcased this collection were being absorbed by ambitious special exhibitions that needed these spaces to fully tell their stories (first, Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen, and now the lauded Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975). Luckily, the artists I focus on often create work not only for galleries, but for theaters and public spaces, with videos or interactives that can be projected or played on screens of various sizes. I decided to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to see how else time-based work could be featured throughout SAAM’s building and throughout the year.

Alma Heikkilä opens up our eyes to the invisible worlds we depend upon

We might not be as human as it seems. Human cells make up only 43% of the body’s total cell count. The rest are bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea and other microscopic organisms that colonize both the inside and outside of our bodies and form the human microbiota.

Even though we are not conscious of it, this microbial material affects our mental and physical well-being in ways science has only just started exploring. The microorganisms facilitate digestion, regulate the immune system, protect us against disease and manufacture vitamins. We live in such inter-dependency with our microbiome that some talk about holobionts, making us an assemblage of a host plus the resident microbes that inhabit it.


Alma Heikkilä. Kiasma Commission by Kordelin 2019. Installation view at Kiasma. Image courtesy the artist

Amado Alfadni

Amado Alfadni is an Egyptian-born Sudanese visual artist; his work discusses the relationship between the included and the excluded, opening dialogue on issues of identity and politics.

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