Underground: new art and deep expression

Turku has often been the cradle for new things. The legendary underground-phenomena that began in the early 60’s doesn’t appear to have subsided. It has just formed in new ways.

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Turku has often been the cradle for new things. The legendary underground-phenomena that began in the early 60’s doesn’t appear to have subsided. It has just formed in new ways.

Those who think the Underground is dead are wrong. The underground continues to thrive in clubs, poetry and literature events, experimental art happenings, performances and circus, and through small festivals. And, of course, in the bowls of the earth where no one has thought to look. So, where did the underground begin?

Ten years ago, Matti Komulainen and Petri Leppänen published their investigative book into the Underground, entitled ‘U Rises from the West’ (U:n aurinko nousi lännestä, Sammakko 2009). It dealt with the history of the underground, especially from a Turku perspective. Now that’s a real Turku phenomenon.

‘U’ really exposed what’s at the core of local classics

“To know more, check out Markku Into's novels U and Tuonela Rock, Jarkko Laine's early novels Haamumaili and Kuin Ruumissaatto, look for a reproduction of Aamurusko Magazine from Turku Book Café as well as the album Underground-Rock from the band Suomen Talvisota 1939-1940,” lists Leppänen.

"For me, these were some of the cornerstones, which inspired the recent multi-artistic burgeoning of our band Turku Romantic Movement."







Since Into's death, there to has been a severe melancholy. But the underground has far from disappeared.

Explore and discover in Turku

It's always worth exploring what's going on in the city.

There’s plenty to find in Turku. Organised but not yet mainstream art is available, from short animations to puppetry, performances to poetry and modern, experimental music. You can also discover unorganised art in cafés and clubs, so it's always worth exploring what's going on in the city.

Usually, there are impromptu happenings and events connected with topical festivals: poetry recitals on top of a club table, or an energetic performance in the middle of town.

  • Underground means: something new

    For the adventurous youth of Turku, the city was an attractive place for U to get off to a good start. Having already arranged Finland's first rock concert, Turku was also in close proximity to Sweden, making it easy for influences to arrive from Stockholm. It also held Finland's first rock festival, in the spontaneous spirit of U. Nowadays, that festival has gone mainstream, and its name is Ruisrock.

    Sometimes, the spirit of reform meant that boundaries were pushed. When you hear the word underground, the movement associates with a certain kind of rebellion and outrageous art.

    "In the past, for example, Harro Koskinen's Sikamessias (Pig Messiah) was seen as sacrilegious, but today people no longer protest art in the same way," comments Leppänen.

    How can the underground be identified today?

    According to Leppänen, challenging the way things are, doing things of significance and participation are of more importance to the essence of the underground.

    “For example, in punk circles, there’s a strong underground feel. No rules, everyone can participate. Time and place are not important,” Leppänen remarks.

    “For instance, the Aamurusko Magazine was once created in Into’s kitchen.” 

New trends and festivals born in the spirit of the underground

TAFF Festival | TAFF is the youngest and most charming animated film festival in Finland. Its international offering includes both short and long animated films, hosted at the Manila Cultural Factory in August.

VideoArt Festival | The VideoArt Festival, or VAFT, is an international video art festival held in May each year that spreads out across the city.

Aura of Puppets | Puppetry Theatre Network [Aura of Puppets is a network of puppet theatre professionals, producing modern puppet theatre renowned in Finland and abroad. The Turku International Puppetry Festival, also known as TIP-Fest, presents the cream of international puppetry.

Poetry Week Festival | Poetry Week provides an opportunity for budding poets to perform. Engage with the phenomena through poetry hosted in pubs and cafés. The theme for 2019 is poetry & work.

The Book House Association | As its name suggests, the Book House (Kirjan Talo) is a house of books in central Turku. It operates as an office, events venue, classroom, a centre for leading workshops and for networking throughout the year.

New Performance Festival | New Performance Turku Festival is an international performance and performing arts festival that takes place every October in different parts of Turku.

Himera – Festival of experimental music | In October, Himera brings music from the margins: from experiential and experimental music, to free improvisation, noise music, free jazz, spontaneous pop and folk music - somewhere in the galleries, clubs, cellars and bars you’ll hear it all.

What ever Works contemporary music festival | What Ever Works is a springtime, urban contemporary music festival and an arena for a new and diverse art community. The broad-minded festival has been held since 2013.

Ehkä-Productions and Kutomo Contemporary Art | The artist-driven Ehkä-Productions co-produces new dance and performing art, works from artist groups and collectives, projects and visiting productions. Ehkä runs the Kutomo contemporary art space in Turku, hosting throughout the year performances, events, dance classes and workshops for different target groups.

Manila Cultural Factory and Factory Festival | Manila is a fertile factory for culture, housing three theatres, artists, photography studios, architectural firms and other small businesses in the creative industries. Held in the art factory in September, the Manifest concept is a multi-artistic event.

  • The heirs to Turku’s underground

    Turku’s underground did start to fade but it left behind an impressive and influential impact, as well as a new kind of independent attitude. In Turku alone there have been noteworthy successors.

    The famous happenings, bands and festivals, formed from the U-spirit, are now household concepts:

    - Ruisrock

    - Pasi & Mysiini Band

    - Rap group Pääkköset

    - Koneisto Festivaali

    - Turku Poetry Movement

    - Down By The Laituri/DBTL

Text by Rami Kangas. Video Kim Allen-Mersh. Photos Olavi Laakso, Tomas Wennbom and Ehkä-Production.

Published | Updated