SHUSH!

{mosimage}The basement gallery of the respectable
National Library is turned into a den of sin and debauchery. The exhibition
consists of 'zines, comics, poetry, records, drawings, photographs and films
that shook the conservative Finnish society of the late '60s. The efforts of
the underground movement, based on psychedelia, experimental music, beat
poetry, dada and student radicalism, were rewarded with fines and prison sentences. 

The movement was small, with only a few
dozen active members, but it made headlines – some of which are on show in the
exhibition. “When you don’t understand it, you’re afraid of it,” says M. A. Numminen, the self-proclaimed
father figure of Finnish underground, about the public outrage. It must be
said, however, that many of the products of the spaced-out era remain quite
incomprehensible despite having lost their shock value.

The explanation for the odd combination of
counter-culture and high-brow library is that the exhibition has its
foundations in the academia. In the last 15 years, several cultural researchers
have taken on the Finnish underground phenomenon. The exhibition, a
co-production of academics, journalists and artists, is a summing-up of the
work. Defying all expectations, however, SSH! is not dry and scholarly; rather,
it is multi-faceted and informative. One of the highlights is a feverish jazz
interpretation of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl,
in Finnish translation. At the time, the radio performance raised a fuss all
the way in the Finnish Parliament – now, you can enjoy it in peace in the
gallery.

When
visiting the exhibition, by no means skip the rest of the library. The National
Library represents Finnish empire architecture of the early 19th
century, complete with frescoes in the reading rooms. The library’s well-kept
secret is the American Resource Centre that has an excellent selection of
contemporary magazines – if only you can find it. 

SSH! Suomalainen underground in the Gallery of the National Library, Unioninkatu 36
16.11.2006–3.3.2007. Free entrance.

Print Friendly