Past Sunday, I took Aren to a new exhibition at Virka gallery in Helsinki. And it totally blew my mind away!
I don’t know where to start. It gave me that Alice-walking-into-the-wonderland feeling. No, it is not overwhelming like Disneyland; in quite a Finnish way, nothing comes over you, but you need to reach to them. I mean books, “story trees”, little story caves, drawing tables, story circle, comfortable cushions. They are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Kids books in Finland are like pieces of art. Even though I don’t understand Finnish, I always scan Finnish children’s books for the sake of pictures and wish I grew up with them. The exhibition at the Virka gallery takes these pictures out of the books and creates a new world out of them! No exaggeration; there are those “story trees” for instance, that are made out of card boxes and decorated with illustrations by Finnish authors/illustrators. You can enter “in” them, take comfort on pillows, and read the books nicely put in the narrow shelves/brunches in the “trunk” of the tree. See pictures below or go and see with your own eyes!
A tiny house jumping out of a story, a cave in which only tiny creatures can enter, a dark room with a screen and lots of other books, and of course those “story trees” – all confirm that reading is a very introspective activity. Those semi-secluded places help kids to take shelter in the wold of the stories. They help them carried away by these stories. Tell me I am out-of-date, but is not the feeling that comes when reading a novel slowly disappears from our tech-regulated world? As I was stepping out of the gallery, as my feet going backwards, I was imagining how it would be to open such a place for adults. Alas, maybe one day!
The books at the gallery are predominantly in Finnish and Swedish, and there are some English ones in the dark room. That was not a problem for us; we (or I) was delighted with beautiful pictures. I was trying to make Aren look at the books, with no success, as he was more interested in running around the trees, playing hide and seek, and later running after a group of older children celebrating one’s birthday. Well, in the end, albeit in different ways, both of us enjoyed the “garden”.