Felipe de Ávila Franco: How to Postpone the End, 2021 (exhibition view) / Photo: HAM/Kirsi Halkola

Are we really a ‘humanity’? How can we justify calling ourselves a humanity when 70% of us are totally alienated from even the minimal exercise of being when the majority of us are denied any real agency because the world we are living in does not want or require our input, only our custom? (Ailton Krenak, Brazilian indigenous leader and environment-activist). 

The words from the Brazilian indigenous leader confront the very (lack of) principles and will in the society we became: technologically advanced, humanistically numb and spiritually disconnected. In the meanwhile, two world trends are powerfully reshaping human existence: the degradation of large parts of the natural world and the unprecedented technological development. Technology has changed human agency in the environment and has already begun to change our species’ long-standing experience since the implementation of mechanical and automated methods and systems have drastically increased the efficiency of our illusory and relentless sovereignty over the natural world. Nature, not in the sense of all that exists and happens but what occurs without intentional human agency, is being pushed to the corners of our reality while the exponential growth of population and industrial activity increasingly degrades the environment, from forests and atmosphere to oceans and land.

Felipe de Ávila Franco is a Brazilian artist based in Finland since 2013. He was born and raised in the Southeastern region of Brazil, where intense industrial activities and the exploitation of natural resources through mining companies are the main economic power, responsible for an accelerated alteration of the landscape and destruction of ecosystems. Through the lens of environmental aesthetics, his work addresses a genuine concern with the socio-environmental crisis, exploring the boundaries between mediums and materials such as petrochemical residues and contaminated soil collected from regions of large-scale industrial activity or where environmental disasters have been reported. These materials are incorporated by his artistic process and through the combination of traditional and experimental techniques, they are transfigured into sculptures, ceramic series, installations, and other interventions. The works in this show combine images and materials collected from different parts of Finland and Brazil into pieces that translate the current social-environmental crisis, inviting reflections on how the geographically distant dystopias deeply affect our immediate reality in both material and immaterial levels, regardless of where we are. The exhibition sheds light on the misguided notions of human society and the environment as separate entities in a conflicting relationship, trapped in a struggle with the technological machinery that, as a gigantic extension of ourselves, expands through space and whose effect can last in time, exceed life, generations, human and non-human species.

How to Postpone the End invites reflections concerning the intrinsic relations between the degradation of ecosystems caused by modern large-scale industrial processes and the long history of exploitation of natural resources, invasion of territories, and the extermination of populations and cultures produced by the still ongoing colonization processes around the world, including in South America where the artist comes from. Through the contrast of concepts such as degradation, development, and ancestrality, the exhibition suggests an encounter among modern and rudimentary technologies and a clash between scientific perspectives and the ancient and grounded ‘cosmovision’ to mitigate this fearful, disturbed, and impersonal corporeity of the so absent contexts of the present, in the attempt to avoid or at least to postpone the end.

The artist and the realization of the exhibition has been supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, and by the Brazilian Embassy in Helsinki.

Felipe de Ávila Franco: How to Postpone the End, 2021 (exhibition view) / Photo: HAM/Kirsi Halkola