Taru Elfving

Taru Elfving is Helsinki-based curator and researcher with a practice focused on site-sensitive investigations at the intersections of ecological and feminist thought. Elfving is currently developing a multidisciplinary platform for artistic research in collaboration with the Archipelago Sea Research Institute of Turku University. She is also leading the new research project on Sustainable Futures at the University of the Arts Helsinki. Her curatorial projects include Frontiers in Retreat (HIAP 2013-18), Hours, Years, Aeons (Finnish Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015), Contemporary Art Archipelago CAA (Turku 2011), and Towards a Future Present (LIAF 2008). She has published an extensive body of writing internationally and co-edited publications such as Contemporary Artist Residencies. Reclaiming Time and Space (Valiz, 2019), and Altern Ecologies. Emergent Perspectives on the Ecological Threshold at the 55th Venice Biennale (Frame, 2016). Elfving has a PhD from Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths London (2009).

Taru Elving was invited as the guest member of the 2020 Below Zero Finnish Art Prize jury and is travelling slow from Helsinki to London to talk with Tuula on Sunday 1 March at 3pm…


For some time now, I have been hoping to try out slow travel between my current base in Helsinki and London that I used to call home for many years. The main reason, naturally, is the necessity to cut air travel in response to the escalating climate crisis. But I have actually always much preferred trains to planes. Slowing down does not only happen in a linear sense of time. It implies a radically different sense of space-time. Feet (almost) on the ground, my mobile perspective remains grounded in the surrounding landscape. The distances unfold in sync with my embodied experience of them, while the passing view allows insights into different ecosystems and seasonal changes. Furthermore, it is necessary to stop every so often as there are only so many direct train connections and surprisingly few night trains across Europe. Travel doesn’t thus only happen between A and B, but it is possible to connect with people and places along the route. Travelling slow encourages travelling less, but making more out of the journey. 

So, I seized the opportunity to take the train, when I was invited to attend a seminar in Malmö, Sweden, two days before I was due to be in conversation with the artist Tuula Närhinen at Beaconsfield Gallery in London. Writing this, I am on the train somewhere in Denmark, approximately half way of the overall journey. Finland is like an island, as the rail tracks to the rest of Europe can only be reached once across the Baltic Sea. To get this far, I have already taken a train in Finland and an over-night ferry to Sweden. I had a breakfast meeting with an artist in Stockholm before taking the train to Malmö for the night. As it has been a winterless winter in Helsinki this year, I truly enjoyed the glorious snowy vistas that appeared en route like an unexpected frozen zone before the flooded fields of Southern Sweden. After my seminar day, I continued to Copenhagen, where I met another friend and colleague for dinner to plan for an exhibition collaboration. Early this morning I got on the train heading towards Brussels, where I will arrive tonight after travelling through Germany. Wind turbines everywhere, dotted in the incredibly flat landscape. Tomorrow morning I can catch an exhibition or two in the city. Then it is only a quick train ride to the UK.