Welcome to ANTI Festival and Kuopio

Elisa Itkonen, the Lead Curator and Managing Director of ANTI Festival welcomes you to this years’ festival.

When I was growing up in Kuopio in the 1990s, in the Neulamäki neighbourhood, one of the best things about my environment was the forest located behind the terraced house where I lived. It was a place where I could build a hobby horse stable and pick blueberries, and it also had a shortcut leading to my school. Just like for me back in those days, the forests and parks of Kuopio and the shores of Lake Kallavesi serve as a playground for the children of the 2020s in the Book of Kuopio*.  We also know this urban nature from the official tourism marketing of the City of Kuopio.

At the same time as the children from Kuopio love this beautiful, small city of ours – and also invite you to love it – they are worried about some things here. They know that climate change and population growth have an impact on Kuopio as well. They are concerned that Kuopio may become less equal for its inhabitants.

These local children are imagining and dreaming of a city where anyone has an opportunity to go anywhere they like (on slides). They remind us that we all play a role in building our city into an even better place.

Actually, that puts it all into words – this is what the ANTI Festival 2023 programme is all about as a whole. I see ANTI as a kind of urban activist that brings attention to global questions and phenomena as well as perspectives that have not yet been given enough attention in Kuopio. This year, we are reflecting on topics such as for whom and in whose terms our cities are built and who gets to decide on the development of our environment and our future.

When I and my friends graduated from upper secondary school, most of us moved away from Kuopio. The city seemed to have no room for queer people, no partners for environmental activists and no places of study for future professionals in the arts. Platforms such as the ANTI Festival (2002-) that feed the strengths of the civic society and aim to promote diversity through the means of art had only very recently been established in the city. It took until the summer of 2023 for the City of Kuopio to fly the Pride flag for the very first time and drive a campaign to fight for the rights of gender and sexual minorities.

Finland also took some steps back in the summer of 2023: we were – and have good reason to continue to be – outraged by the racist and sexist language and downplaying of climate change occurring at the ministerial level. Finland’s citizens have shown opposition. The biggest Pride parade of all time took place in Kuopio and around the country in June and an anti-racism demonstration, big considering the size of our city, was organised in Kuopio in July. Such ways of people coming together give us hope.
So let’s also come together at the ANTI Festival. In addition to critical spaces for discussion, the festival art provides respite amid societal turbulence. It celebrates what is special about Kuopio and our local community spirit.

Elisa Itkonen

Managing Director – Lead Curator

* The Book of Kuopio is a new guidebook to Kuopio and one of the artworks included in the ANTI Festival 2023 programme. The book was created by local pupils aged 8–12 together with artists Andy Field and Beckie Darlington. The book project will culminate with a book launch held at Kuopio City Hall on 15 September.

Article photo:
Photo: Akseli Muraja.