In the exhibition ”Huoli” (Worry), Tuomas Linna has documented child welfare institutions. Linna has photographed items that have been confiscated from the children, everyday life at the institutions, as well as drawings and writings of the children. Linna has also taken portraits of young people who have been in institutional care.
Child welfare services offer many different types of support to families. In extreme cases they arrange for the child to be cared for outside of the home. This is usually a last resort, used only after all other options have been exhausted.
Children are easily left out of the public discussion. They are not in a position to offer insight on their situation and they are left without a voice in the media. This is partly justified, as any one child should not be singled out as an example of a problem, and because you need parental consent to interview a child.
The voices of the adults of the families in difficult positions are often also left unheard. People are hesitant to bring attention to their own problems, which is partly due to the fear of the actions public officials might take. It is difficult to take part in the public discussion, and families in distress are not actively campaigned for in social media.
The problems of children and families should be a central concern in the public forum based on numbers alone. In the year 2013, all together 18,022 children were placed in foster care either in emergency placements or because they were taken into care. This means one in a hundred children living in Finland.
Linna brings up this seemingly forgotten subject through his photographs.
A video piece in the exhibition called “Joka päivä, joka toinen tunti” (Every day, every other hour) consists of 4,202 pictures shown in five minutes. The pictures change so rapidly that you can watch through the video several times and still not see all of them. 4,202 is the number of children who had to be placed outside their homes urgently in 2013.
Linna has cropped the pictures of the items seized from children in a way which leaves out everything that could give you a hint about the story behind the object. Many of the items are clearly meant for injuring others. However, often the context is not a intention to hurt but a deep rooted feeling of insecurity: a belief that others – adults – cannot take care of the child’s wellbeing. The specifics about what kind of threats the children feel the need to safeguard themselves against are left out of the pictures. However the drawings and writings of the children contain clues.
This text is based on the article ”Näkyä ei saa, eikä kuulua” (You cannot be seen, nor heard) by Henri Rydenfelt, a research fellow.
Tuomas Linna lives and works in Helsinki. The “Huoli” exhibition has been carried out in collaboration with Finnish child welfare services. The Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Arts Promotion Centre Finland, the Patricia Seppälä Foundation, Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse and the Ombudsman for Children have contributed to the exhibit. The prints displayed in the exhibition are made by Dialab Oy.