We Didn't Start the Fire


Juliana Smith, Zhao Xingrui, Utu Samuli Kärki

Co-curated by:
Elisa Villota Sadaba, Alexandra Koskinen, Timjune Tianjun Li, Laura Läntinen, Tuulia Tanila, Minna Virkki

We Didn't Start the Fire

The exhibition We Didn't Start the Fire tackles the topic of crisis through the lens of informational deluge and escapism. The space houses the multidisciplinary work of three artists; Juliana Irene Smith, Utu Samuli Karki and Zhao Xingrui. Their pieces work in unison to create an ambience that seeks to mirror the turbulence of our current reality in the form of informational saturation, escapism through digital immersion as well as personal and collective visual saturation.

Aiming to mentally and physically instigate an overwhelming feeling in the viewer, the exhibition centers on the senses, focusing primarily on sight and sound, as well as allowing the viewer to interact with the pieces and the space.

The title We Didn't Start the Fire makes a reference to Billy Joel’s song by the same name released in 1989. The singer lists culturally significant socio-political events from the 1940s to the 1980s commenting on how each consecutive generation is faced by a new set of challenges while past events are inherited and pile on to the future, whether disregarded or transformed they are still present.

We Didn't Start the Fire
It was always burning, since the worlds been turning
We didn't start the fire
No, we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it

Juliana Smith
Juliana Irene Smith is a half-American, half-Iranian expat who works with generational trauma through material memory, text, and photography, as we can also see in the pieces that form part of the exhibition. Her artwork is extremely personal and deals with healing from sexual violence. The use of humor is meant to help her find strength within herself and for the viewer as a release from the seriousness of the topic. She holds a BFA in Photography from the Parsons School of Design in New York and a Master in Public Art from the University of Applied Arts and Sciences in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Zhao Xingrui
Zhao is a digital artist and visual communication designer. She is active in cross-disciplinary collaborations and has multiple identities dedicated to exploring the fields related to digital media art. Her works have output in both digital visuals and video and have been exhibited at Shanghai Biennale, Picnic Art Festival, Kutz Art Center, tx Huaihai, etc. In her own continuous creation, Zhao is committed to exploring new forms of visual expression and delivery in virtual space and new exhibition forms in the digital age.

Utu Samuli Kärki
Utu Kärki (they/them) is a second year MA student at New Media Design & Production in Aalto University. Working with both physical electronics as well as purely digital media, their work touches on internet culture, social media, and the effects of the modern internet on society.