Syrian rubble on display at the WAM
The Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art in Turku has an exhibit right now about civil war. 2018 has been the 100th anniversary of Finland’s civil war, so there were a few installations about Finland. But most of the exhibit focused on civil wars as experienced in more recent years, in faraway countries.
The best part of the exhibition, in my opinion, was actually located in front of the museum, outside, on the street. It is an installation by Anssi Pulkkinen, called Streetview (Reassembled), and it consists of the rubble of a home destroyed in the Syrian civil war, brought all the way over to Finland.
Like most rubble, it’s just a pile of concrete, like you might see on the news or in photographs. But when it’s right there in front of you, when you can reach out and touch it…well, it makes more of an impact. I was especially moved by the partial squares of tile that were still attached to a piece of the upset floor. Chunks of concrete and crooked rebar are easy to separate from the humanity that once inhabited them. Tile, on the other hand: someone chose that pattern, someone smoothed that floor in preparation, someone laid each tile and fixed it into place. Then lives were lived on its surface, until it was destroyed. Seeing it there in the pile of rubble felt intimate, somehow.
And I didn’t take any close-up pictures showing the tile! On some level, it felt like an intrusion. At the same time, I wish I knew more about where, exactly, this house came from, and who used to live in it.