Modern Times Forever
Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki) is a 2011 video work by Copenhagen–based artists collective Superflex.
The piece takes as its subject the Stora Enso building in Helsinki, Finland, a 1962 office block designed by Alvar Aalto. Over a total running time of 240 hours, the digitally-animated film imagines the aging and ultimate decay of the Stora Enso over a period of several thousand years. Focusing tightly on the building, the work cuts between details and long shots from an array of different angles and positions as its accelerated ruination gradually unfolds.
Modern Times Forever was originally shown on a forty meter square LED screen set up in front of the Stora Enso in Helsinki's Market Square as part of the IHME Contemporary Art Festival. Viewers were able to watch the building’s projected ruination juxtaposed with the building itself. The video ran continuously, 24 hours a day, over the course of ten days.
The Stora Enso was constructed as the headquarters for the Finnish-Swedish pulp and paper manufacturer Stora Enso Oyj. Though designed by the celebrated Finn Alvar Aalto, the building generated controversy due to its simplified block-like form and insensitive siting adjacent to a number of historic buildings in Helsinki's South Harbor, including the Presidential Palace and Uspenski Cathedral.
Though adopting a radically simplified form akin to many 1960s office buildings, the Stora Enso is marked by its unusual use of expensive exterior materials including Carrara marble, granite, copper and brass. The building was granted protected status in 2010, which means that it must essentially remain unchanged, and that any refurbishment must use the same materials as the original design. Superflex's film projects the gradual decay of the building "should only time and weather affect it"; the piece thus implies a future for the building absent of human care or intervention.
Claire Doherty has noted that Modern Times Forever is "ironically named, showing as it does the demise of Helsinki's iconic building and imagining an endpoint to the perfection and duration projected by Modernist architecture. The on-screen deterioration becomes more than a parallel to the aging of the actual Stora Enso offices happening right behind the screen. The film envisions a time after human existence and the successive ruins that have shaped our cities, silently asking what, if anything, might replace them in the future."
Superflex have engaged with architecture and design in a number of projects, often within the context of a broader concern with economics, intellectual property, industrial production, and climate change.
Their ongoing series Power Toilets reconstruct restrooms from inaccessible political or corporate sites of power, re-siting them at new locations as functional, publicly-accessible facilities. Power Toilets (JPMorgan Chase), 2011, for example, reconstructed to the last fixture and fitting a JPMorgan Chase executives' restroom in the Olympic Restaurant, a diner on New York's Lower East Side.
As with Modern Times Forever, in projects such as Beyond The End Of The World, and As Close as We Get (both 2021), Superflex have positioned elements of art and design within post-human time scales, recontextualizing cultural objects as future artifacts of the Anthropocene.
- See: "Superflex, Modern times forever", in: Claire Doherty, ed., Out of Time, Out of Place : Public Art (Now), (London : Art Books Publishing Ltd, in association with Situations, Public Art Agency Sweden, and the European Network of Public Art Producers, 2015), 204-207.
- "Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki)", Superflex.net, retrieved Jan 31, 2022.
- "Enso-Gutzeit Headquarters", Greatbuildings.com, retrieved Jan 31, 2022. Stora Enso announced in 2019 that they would would be vacating the building and moving to a new purpose-built headquarters on an adjacent side, due to be completed in 2023. See: "Stora Enso headquarters", Wikipedia, last modified 21 November 2021.
- "Stora Enso headquarters", Wikipedia.
- "Enso-Gutzeit Building", Galinsky.com, retrieved Jan 31, 2022.
- "Stora Enso headquarters", Wikipedia.
- "Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki)", Superflex.net.
- "Superflex, Modern times forever", in: Claire Doherty, ed., Out of Time, Out of Place : Public Art (Now), 205.
- "Power Toilets", Superflex.net, retrieved Jan 31, 2022.
- The installation was part of the public art project Living as Form, commissioned by Creative Time New York. "The installation, open to the public, provided an essential service and also asked visitors to contemplate the structures of power that become imbued in even the most unassuming architectural spaces." See: Nato Thompson, ed., Living as form : socially engaged art from 1991-2011 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012), 226.
- "Beyond The End Of The World", Superflex.net, retrieved Jan 31, 2022.
- "As Close As We Get", Superflex.net, retrieved Jan 31, 2022.