Kokemäenjoki runs 121 km from its inland source to the Pori estuary before emptying into the Baltic Sea. The landscapes along the river valley and the identities and sense of community attached to them form the subject of Kokkeli, a two-year participatory cultural project. Culture mapping has revealed new information about the meanings attributed to the river and also about experiences of “river citizenship”. The exhibition presents five perspectives on the value of the landscapes and their conservation in the Kokemäenjoki area. It also showcases new research data.

The featured artists Jan Eerala, Mollu Heino, Henry Merimaa, Veijo Setälä and Titta Valla have all worked for a long time with themes involving water, rivers and the Kokemäenjoki landscape. The exhibition introduces a new strand to the history of the river. Through art the show updates the ecological and cultural layers in Pori and in the Satakunta region.

In cooperation with the Department of Landscape Studies at the University of Turku.

KOKKELI is a two-year art research project funded by the Kone Foundation. Its purpose is to develop methods for engaging locals in meaningful ways in the preservation of cultural environments as part of the project for joint development and planning of operating environments in the Kokemäenjoki river valley in the Satakunta region.

Cultural mapping was conducted in six different types of landscape areas, most of them rural districts characterised by agriculture, village life or a position on the urban fringe. A notable shared feature is an ongoing change in the cultural aspects of the community and the landscape. That change is reflected in the variability of the population and thereby in lifestyles, in the need to revive traditions and in the dialogue between new and fading cultural elements.

Jan Eerala is a Pori-based artist whose principal subject is the dynamic between nature and human activity, which he often explores with gentle irony or humour. In the early part of his career, Eerala worked mainly with photography, but he has subsequently expanded his practice to moving images and sound. Eerala has had solo exhibitions in Finland and has presented sonic and digital works in international contexts. He has had two exhibitions at Pori Art Museum: one of old photos from the Satakunta region from the 1960s and the other a six-hour video, with sounds of nature, shot on the Pori coastline.

One of Eerala’s favourite themes is locality, and this show is no exception. In it he uses sound and video to depict the core essence of the river he knows so well. The estuary of Kokemäenjoki has been a favourite place for him ever since he was a young boy, and its attraction has not diminished over time. You can spot Eerala rowing a creaky boat down the Tukkijuopa side-channel or next to one of the bridges crossing the river in the city of Pori, recording the coexistence of river and traffic. Eerala is a member of the Photographic Artists’ Association of Finland.

Artist Mollu Heino has been working as an artist-researcher in Turku University’s Kokkeli project from 2018–2019. She has graduated from both the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. In addition to painting, Heino is increasingly creating work that revolves around a community and an idea, and she chooses her medium accordingly. In this exhibition, Heino showcases the river, highlighting the target areas of the Kokkeli project, as well as the areas and communities she mapped with researcher Vuokko Kemppi-Vienola.

Born in Luvia, Heino held the position of regional artist from 2002–2006 and 2014–2017, specialising in public art and the Percent for Art principle. In 2002 Heino was elected Young Artist of the Year in Satakunta, and she has won prizes in several art competitions. She is currently studying at Aalto University.

Henry Merimaa graduated as visual artist from Pori Art School and also has a master of fine arts degree from the Aalto University School of Arts and Design. Over the years, Merimaa has created many works of art associated with the environment, rivers and water. His works in this show explore the deteriorating condition of the waters of Eurajoki river and nickel emissions in Kokemäenjoki. He has displayed his work at Vuojoki Mansion summer exhibitions and in Pori.

Merimaa is fascinated by the interaction between nature and the city, using a camera to observe the urban environment and urban nature. Last spring Merimaa collected water samples from eight large bridges that cross the Kokemäenjoki river, and he also videoed the river as it flowed downstream.

Veijo Setälä is a sculptor from Pori who uses steel, wood, plastic and recycled materials in his work. He works as artist-technician at Pori Centre for Children’s Culture. Surprise and randomness are important aspects of Setälä’s work. In the River exhibition, Setälä’s playfulness finds expression through the journey of a bark boat down Kokemäenjoki.

Setälä is a member of the Association of Finnish Sculptors. He has displayed his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions since 1986. Public art by Setälä can be found in Veturitalli day-care centre in Pori, in Rauma library and along the Kankaanpää-Pori Art Road. Setälä’s piece ‘Rautakeuhko’ (‘Iron Lung’) was the Work of the Month at Gallery Sculptor in Helsinki in 2017, and in 2018 Setälä made a sixth piece for the Landscape of Five Sculptures suite (1992), which is part of the art collection of the City of Pori. The sixth sculpture was part of Pori Art Museum’s programme showcasing the work of its collections curator.

Photographic artist Titta Valla takes her time working with pinhole cameras and traditional film stock. The process is not based on analytical planning; the photographer merely lets the world happen in the pictures. Valla breathes along with the camera, and the images are often soft and dreamy. Unhurried and compassionate encounters with people and nature are a vital experience for Valla. Her art emphasises the potential for beauty, imagination and dreams. Every human being can explore the integrity of their inner world, even when the external world or society appears to be fragmented.

Titta Valla has displayed her work in solo and group exhibitions both internationally and in Finland since 1993. She has a master’s degree in Visual Culture from the Aalto University School of Arts and Design. She also holds a PhD in Art Therapy from Hertfordshire University and Higher National Diploma in Photography from Bournemouth University, England. Valla fulfils her life’s calling as a visual arts therapist at the psychiatry wards of Satakunta Central Hospital in Pori and Harjavalta, and she has been practising Ashtanga Yoga for over 20 years.