Time Machines and Utopias: Wanderlust


Housing, transport and food production cause the majority of the global carbon emissions. These everyday functions have been organised at different times based on the prevailing ideas. The Time Machines and Utopias exhibition examines history and present day and asks how we could make sustainable choices when building our future. In Tarvaspää, the Wanderlust exhibition explores global travel and how it has changed over time. The other parts of the exhibition are showcased in Ainola and Visavuori. 

Journey to Tarvaspää 

A warm welcome on this tour around Tarvaspää! The map features sights in the museum’s surroundings. You can visit the sights in any order. Some feature contemporary art and others stories from the past. Further information on the sights marked on the map is available on the following page. Explore the landscape and imagine its change. What was life like in Tarvaspää before? What will it become in the future?  

Time Machines and Utopias: Wanderlust 

The humankind is in constant motion. Transport caused one quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions, and the figure is estimated to grow fast. Before modern-day tourism, travelling was expensive and cumbersome, and only very few had the opportunity to travel. Over the last few decades, travel has become available for more people and travel times have shortened. The purpose of travel is more often idleness than adventure, study or discovery. The climate problems caused by travel have created the need to consider the vitalness of and alternatives for travel.  

Akseli Gallen-Kallela travelled a lot compared to his contemporaries. He lived and worked with his family in East Africa and New Mexico, painted and lectured in Chicago, studied in Paris and London and toured Europe’s cultural sights in Florence, Budapest and Berlin. In Finland, he travelled to wilderness: Paanajärvi, White Sea Karelia, Suolahti and the forests of Ruovesi. Gallen-Kallela’s trips were long, and he worked during them all. The Wanderlust exhibition takes the visitor along on Gallen-Kallela’s trips examining the desire to travel from a historical and future perspective. 

A journey to a new environment may help us understand different ways of living and can produce insights. Our own life and its routines may appear in a new light. Thus, it is no wonder that the urge to set off – wanderlust – unites people.  


The design and construction of Tarvaspää’s studio castle started when the Gallen-Kallela family had just returned from East Africa and experienced an intense longing for the place they considered a paradise. They returned from their travels at the start of 1911 to a cold and bleak country, where their first visitor was a repossessor to take Mother Mary’s grand piano. The artist’s daughter, Kirsti, describes the time after the trip as nothing but substitute life overshadowed by the longing for and the wish to return to Kenya. Mary also wrote in her diary: “Children go to school, and I sit alone and yearn to a place that does not exist – but once did.” And continued: “We are wilting in this land of wolves.”  

The poet Eino Leino lived in Tarvaspää for a while as a guest of the family and wrote in the guest book the poem Kasva tuomi kartanolla (Grow bird cherry by the manor) whose theme was wanderlust. The poem is about planting a bird cherry tree that would be carved into a hiking stick for the next trip to Africa. Kirsti later noted: “The bird cherry tree has now grown into a thick, leafy tree, but the hiking stick was never carved.” The family was never to return to Africa, but they made other journeys to Europe and America. 

Akseli Gallen-Kallela later contemplated in his Kallela book: “What is that burning desire that takes our sons by the thousands to lands beyond the oceans? – – Wanderlust, our own wanderlust. I also suffer from it from time to time. Yet, as images of the loveliness of faraway countries loom in my soul, from the depths emerges another picture, cosy and quiet: Untouched forested heartland. A pond surrounded by peat moss and marsh Labrador tea. By the pond my little camp with its log fire. A peregrine falcon rasps in the pale evening air, and the drying stunted pine in front me drops its needles one by one into the marshy ground. 

On the water 

In April 1894, Akseli Gallen-Kallela was looking for a place for his new studio in Sääksmäki. He toured the lake sometimes alone, sometimes with Emil Wikström. To his mother he wrote: “The lake was freed from ice yesterday, and I was out on the lake all day, and I travelled in my canoe to get closer to this element before I get to swim in it. – – The paddle halts in its up and down motion, rests on the edges of the canoe, and the eye follows the swell and the thoughts the eye. Rising and falling in slow rhythm, as the colours change, the swell moves on the shiny, soft surface spontaneously and the eye and the thoughts follow it entranced. Then a wave drowns in another and is forever gone. The train of thought snaps and vanishes, getting lost in the eternity where it came from and a new thought emerges endlessly following the wave until the chill of the night stirs me awake.”  

Later the family owned a boat, Jolanda, on which they did excursions into the sea archipelago. Kirsti reminisces: “Jolanda had a big cabin with a sofa. On our expeditions, we always slept on the boat, children in the cabin and parents on the benches outside with a green canvass canopy over them. Sometimes we went on week-long trips to the outer archipelago and landed our boat when we saw a small, cosy fisherman’s cottage and received milk and potatoes from the house. We fished and prepared our food either on the boat or on sun-drenched rocky shores, mostly using a camping stove. Sometimes we made a small bonfire for coffee making.  

Road to Tarvaspää  

In the early 20th century, Tarvaspää was at the end of a cul-de-sac which only led to the villas. Forests surrounded the studio castle; towards Perkkaa, there was a large meadow and a winding birch alley. In the springtime, the edge of the forest was painted blue and white by anemones and lilies of the valley. Kirsti recollects that “nowhere in Alberga had as many lilies of the valley.” Blueberries thrived there too.  

In 1904, a train station was opened in Leppävaara. The journey to the train station was usually made on horse, and children could take the train to school and their music lessons. The artist family’s mare was called Elo-tyttö, and the sculptor Alpo Sailo had given it to them. The hay for the horse was collected on the meadow between Leppävaara and Tarvaspää.  

The fortifications carried out during World War I changed the surroundings considerably. One of the biggest changes was the cannon road built by the Russian army, which split the Tarvaspää area. The road travelled through Mary Gallen-Kallela’s kitchen garden. Cultivated plants, such as the yellow garden raspberries and cauliflowers, had to give way to it. In 1915, Russian soldiers built a bridge from Tarvaspää to Tarvo island and from there to Munkkiniemi. During the Civil War in 1918, Reds burnt the bridge in their attempts to stop the Germans from advancing. The bridge was soon replaced by a row of logs, until it was rebuilt. In 2020, the long-serving wooden bridge was demolished to be replaced by a more modern pedestrian and cycle bridge. 

Travel utopias 

Contemporary art looks for more sustainable solutions for housing, transport and food production in the future – through technology and new inventions – and in the past – by applying old simpler ways of working and tools. The Time Machines and Utopias exhibition’s contemporary artists are balancing between these two timeframes. The participating historical and contemporary artists are connected by the idea of doing things differently, the rigorous search for alternatives and the need to produce meaning for everyday life.  

Over time, people have used muscle power, horsepower and donkeys as well as steam engines, petrol engines and electricity to move. Cars and planes are the main forms of travel in the current era. However, their impacts on the environment are unsustainable, and they have transformed the landscape around us. Cars as the main means of transport in our day becomes evident in Tarvaspää with the motorway running past it.  

Different spaces and environments are important starting points in the work of the artist collective nabbteeri. They study the changes in scenery by implementing visual landscape monitoring in Tarvaspää, Ainola and Visavuori. nabbteeri’s artwork here (http://www.taalla.fi/) studies the transformations taking place in the surroundings of the artist residencies as the forms of mobility evolve. The virtual nature of the artwork means that it can be experienced irrespective of time and place.  

History is in a constant motion redefining the significance of buildings, objects and materials. The self-evidence of effortless distances and flexible travel will crumble on the eve of the crisis. Over the last year, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our attitudes to travel. The virus has had a considerable impact on the ways and opportunities for people to travel from one place to another.  

The development does not inevitably always move towards progress and higher technological solutions. In Nestori Syrjälä’s artworks, winter mobility equipment present stories about one possible future in the area currently known as Finland. The objects include 2079ICE PICKS made from a MacBook Pro laptop and 2083FOOTWEAR based on a protective laptop sleeve. 

Mobility requires energy, which may come from, say, a light breeze. Energy makes small and light things – sand grains from Sahara, seeds, pollen or fluff – move, as it does in the Forest Fluff, a collection artwork by the Flying Squirrels Papana and Norkko in Tarvaspää’s studio. The disposable Meadow coats designed by Papana and Norkko’s official stylist, Liisa Pesonen, for the opening party, also contain small and light things. After they’ve been worn, the coats have been planted in the museum’s garden where with time they will become part of nature again.  

Travel is not always voluntary or a choice made based on the desire to visit places; it can also be obligatory and involuntary. Global warming and the changes it has imposed on the living conditions all over the world have brought with them climate migration. In the near future, heat, drought, floods and hurricanes will force as many as hundreds of millions of people to leave their homes and countries.  

Vidha Saumya and Ali Akbar Mehta’s artwork The Ballad of the Lost Utopian Meadow discusses Finnish nationality and the social inequality manifested in it in the form of a poem. The ballad is a mobile cultural archive in which the artists study social injustices through different dishes. The work of art combines Kalavala’s folklore with the Indian “Touring Talkies” tradition which brought films in movable tents to people. Saumya and Akbar Mehta will provide a unique performance of the ballad in Tarvaspää in August 2021. 

The artists Vilma Määttänen and Markus Tuormaa study in their artworks the immediate surroundings of Tarvaspää and moving in the terrain. Määttänen’s There Where Light Moves series of paintings will be exhibited in Tarvaspää’s tower. The pigments were made from plants and minerals picked in Tarvaspää and the soot from Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s smoke sauna. The paintings study the movement of light and gaze across a landscape. The artworks were painted outside on the roof of Tarvaspää’s tower and the tower of the Moving Castle.  

The Moving Castle, which questions the Nordic housing and building regulations, is a home and a sculpture Vilma Määttänen and her family have built and which, in its shape and with its tower, resembles Tarvaspää’s studio castle. Visitors can take a closer look at the Moving Castle in Visavuori, where the Time Machines and Utopias exhibition focuses on housing.  

With climate change, Finnish winters will become wetter and less snowy. According to predictions, the amount of snow particularly in southern Finland will reduce at an increasing rate. With the change, the sound of snow creaking underfoot will become rarer. Markus Tuormaa has implemented his Tavaspää’s Winter Diary 2020–2021 by walking in the landscapes surrounding Tarvaspää wearing cloth boots. Such boots, made on a pair of woollen socks, were common winter footwear in southern Finland in the late 19th century. In his artwork, Tuormaa raises the question of how much longer it will still be possible to experience winter wearing cloth boots. 

In his artworks exhibited in Tarvaspää’s tower, Tuormaa is also out on foot. Walking means independence from technology and external energy sources. The experience of slow travel emphasises the places seen along the way and their significance. Although Tuormaa is out on foot in the artworks, their main theme is the footwear worn in them: birchbark shoes and cloth boots. These kinds of old types of footwear worn in Finland in the past emphasise the sense of touch, the connection to the earth and its different materials.   

Tuormaa became interested in the birchbark shoes Aino wears in Gallen-Kallela’s Aino Triptych. Similar birchbark shoes are included in the museum’s collections. Tuormaa has come to the conclusion that the birchbark shoes in the museum’s collections are from Akseli and Mary Gallen-Kallela’s honeymoon to Kuhmo and White Sea Karelia in the 1890s. The painting’s old-style birchbark shoes were common in that area. 

Tuormaa’s audio artwork Aino’s Birchbark Shoes tells about the experience of walking in Kainuu forests wearing Aino’s shoes. In the process of producing the artwork, Tuormaa travelled to Kuhmo area and weaved a pair of birchbark shoes for himself. How does the forest feel when experienced this way? How does it sound?  

#timemachinesandutopias CHALLENGE  

#everydayacts #aikakoneitajautopioita #arjentekoja  

Fast travel has brought humans closer to one another, but has it made us understand one another and the world better? Travel and transport have gone through significant changes over the last 100 years. Speed has meant that we have given up the experiences afforded by slow travel. We want our trips to be easy and offer familiar foods, and our criteria for accommodation is the same irrespective of the place and local customs.  

We challenge you to go on a slow voyage! Make a journey you would usually do assisted by an engine using muscle power. Experiment, linger and stop to admire the scenery. Encourage others to do the same by posting your travel pictures on Instagram #aikakoneitajautopioita #arjentekoja #timemachinesandutopias #everydayacts TIP: We have designed package trips for slow travel between Tarvaspää, Ainola and Visavuori. You can explore them at Museokortti.fi


ARTISTS [in alphabetical order] 

Flying Squirrels Papana & Norkko 

Vilma Määttänen 


Vidha Saumya & Ali Akbar Mehta 

Nestori Syrjälä 

Markus Tuormaa 


Hanna Johansson 


Sandra Lindblom 


Alisha Davidow 


Joona Lukala and Eetu Moisio 


Mari Viita-aho 



PUBLICATION TEXTS [in alphabetical order] 

Mari Viita-aho (editing), Julia Donner, Hanna Johansson, Sandra Lindblom, Pälvi Myllylä, Anne Pelin, Minna Turunen & Tuija Wahlroos 

The exhibition is part of the artists museums development project executed on funding from the Finnish Cultural Foundation. 


Vidha Saumya and Ali Akbar Mehta perform their artwork “The Ballad of the Lost Utopian Meadow” 

22 August 2021 Visavuori 

29 August 2021 Tarvaspää 

13 August 2021 Ainola 

Sini Forssell and Timo Järvensivu organise dialogues in Tarvaspää monthly on Saturdays at 10:00AM–1:00PM. Please contact the museum’s info if you are interested in participating. 

Follow the audience’s comments and the investigative journalist Meri Parkkinen’s work at aikakoneitajautopioita.fi