What if you couldn’t show your family portrait at work? Or if other people thought sex did not concern you? What if you weren’t allowed to love who you want? The Helsexinki-exhibition in the Helsinki City Museum, is based on the everyday experiences of city folk. It’s about sexuality, gender and sex – and about the freedom to choose how to express them. The exhibition, closely linked with topical themes, challenges the visitors to think about whose voice is heard and who has the freedom to be who they really are.
The freedom to be yourself is not something all of us can take for granted. Those who do not conform to the mainstream are often stuck with a label that dominates their entire being. On top of this, a variety of factors related to attitudes, laws and practices limit their everyday lives and access to equal treatment.
Numerous people living or working in Helsinki were interviewed for the Helsexinki exhibition, including representatives of gender or sexual minority groups and people whose work is related in some way to sexuality. The walls of the exhibition feature direct quotes from the interviewees.
Their stories deal with themes such as sexual education in their school days, fears and prejudices about people belonging to gender and sexual minorities, finding themselves, family and relationships, legislative shortcomings and the images of people presented in the media. These stories paint a picture of Helsinki as a city that is permissive and liberating for some, but too small and limiting for others. Current themes, such as legislation related to transgender people, are dealt with through people’s own experiences.
A gay toilet wall and delightfully raunchy art
For the duration of the Helsexinki exhibition, the fourth floor of the City Museum will be taken over by pop colours and curved structures featuring intimate shapes. In the room designed in the style of a retro red light district, visitors can see how sex has been visible in the city landscape over past decades. There is also a reproduction of the outdoor wall of a certain men’s toilet in Helsinki, representing the secret meeting places of generations past. Sexual education materials from different time periods tell about attitudes then and now. Tapani Kokko’s humorously raunchy art pieces, in which identities mix together in a delightful way, bring yet another perspective on the topic. The Helsexinki exhibition was designed by Tarja Kunttunen.
A team of experts working on this topic, including the Finland 100 – In Rainbow Colours project and the Family Federation of Finland, have also been involved in creating the exhibition and organising related events.
The Helsexinki exhibition will be on display on the fourth floor of the Helsinki City Museum, Aleksanterinkatu 16, from 12 May 2017 until 28 January 2018. Entrance to the exhibition is free of charge.