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Kristiina Mäenpää: Core Collapse

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Kristiina Mäenpää’s exhibition, Core Collapse explores immemorial temporalities that exceed the human lifespan and the cycle of energy and matter on our home planet and in the universe.

Kristiina Mäenpää: Core Collapse, 2024 (detail from the process). © Kristiina Mäenpää.

The exhibition revolves around waiting for the death of Betelgeuse, the red giant star in the constellation Orion. The forthcoming explosion of the star will be the closest ever supernova to Earth. It will provide researchers an opportunity to delve into the unanswered questions about the first moments after the Big Bang and the mysteries of the universe’s structure and dark matter.

Nearly all known matter originates in nuclear reactions of giant stars. From the stars, elements spread out into the universe, and the final element produced in a collapsing star, iron, makes the heavy core collapse and the star explode as a supernova.

The works’ materiality is connected to supernovas through iron and the essential characteristics of a photograph. The slow fogging of analogue photographic paper is caused by cosmic rays from the supernovas and the cosmic background radiation, a remnant from the Big Bang. Cosmic radiation can penetrate the layers of light-protective packages of photographic papers, and the paper begins to expose over decades. The resulting shade of grey is like an arche-fossil that carries the immemorial traces of the pre-life era.

The steel spheres of the work Orbital travellers originate to a power plant, where they were used for grinding coal. The spheres became unnecessary as a result of the transition to carbon-neutral energy production, making them relics of sorts. 

A star’s death represents a new beginning and at the same time reflects the uncertainty of our time in the post-fossil world. Will humankind have time to witness the Betelgeuse supernova and find answers to the elementary questions of the universe?

Kristiina Mäenpää (b. 1990) is a visual artist whose background in photography appears in her spatial works as changes in and traces on materials created by time. In 2023, Mäenpää graduated with a master’s degree from the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts.

Thank you to the Paulo Foundation, VISEK, and the Hanasaari power plant for supporting the exhibition.

The exhibition will be opened on Friday 15 March 2024 at 57pm.

In 2024, the exhibitions at HAM gallery are supported by the Finnish Heritage Agency.

Installation views

Photos: HAM/Maija Toivanen