Curated by by Ali Akbar Mehta, Martina Adela, and Ru Zham

SOAK (2016) is a group exhibition curated by Ali Akbar Mehta, Martina Adela, and Ru Zham. The exhibition was held at Illusia, a boat temporarily anchored in the Kalasatama bay, Helsinki – as an experimental methodology to create exhibition spaces in alternate spaces in Helsinki.

SOAK is a mixed use world

Curatorial Text by Ali Akbar Mehta

An exhibition is always an act of placing artworks and understanding the importance of engaging with a site and at the same time producing a polylogue with other spaces. A place is no fixed thing – it has an episodic history and takes its particular aspect through an intense immersion.

Stories are not simply aesthetic objects disconnected from experience, but are rooted in the very fabric of life and have the capacity to profoundly refigure our world. Narrative discourse and life are dialectically tied to each other through a “mimetic arc.” This, however, poses interesting problems and difficulties. How do stories affect the transformation of experience?

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self- transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.

Within this exhibition, artists collaborate, contradict and are indifferent to each other. As a collective body of works, they tug and pull simultaneously towards and away from each other creating a symbiotic friction. Some works fall within a loose togetherness, others are ferociously independent. Some work towards a common goal, and others negate it. As curators, we present an island universe. As curators, we offer only the possibility of alienation or identity.

Illusia is a boat, a place, a site, a stage and a structure. It is all of the aforementioned and at the same time something more. This composite sense of what it is, what its environment is, what it in itself is placed within (and without) is what the starting point for the viewing of works in this exhibition can be. We offer only a possibility.

Soak is a mixed use word.

It’s a made up word, like any other. It can mean what you want it to.

Ali Akbar Mehta



SOAK, Illusia

Kalasatama, Helsinki

To “immerse”

To “penetrate”

To “impregnate”

SOAK is the first edition of the project “Occupation of Decontextualised Spaces for Contemporary Art”, taking place in movement, a fleeting moment.

This project and exhibition are born from an urge and necessity to explore and create new narratives that can challenge the way we conceive the space of art and places for culture.

By exploring the “de-contextualised” we can start formulating critical strategies to create meeting points (encounters) between artistic practices outside the white cube and outside the institution.

To occupy spaces that are noted as strangers: forgotten, or remembered in a blur.

The way that a boat is a machine for exploration, our artistic and curatorial practices inside this boat are very much UNCHARTED.

How does art exist in a space that doesn’t rely on its permanence? How will the memory of art affect this moving machine? Will it affect its route?

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