Timeline of Finnish media art – 1920s to 1950s

The Early Stages | 1920s to 1950s | The 1960s | The 1970s |
The 1980s | The 1990s | The 2000s | The 2010s

1920s to 1950s

In the 1920s, households are quickly electrified and sound film arrives in Finland. The notable literary group Tulenkantajat idealize city life, machines and Dada, and its members write about the modern age in an exalted manner. The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yleisradio starts broadcasting in 1926. The sale of gramophone players rises exponentially and the most progressive edge of recital art is called sound art. The 1930s are an era of strong technological development and the proliferation of electronic devices. Experimental television receivers and electric-powered automatic playback devices are built and a prototype for the video recorder is invented. In the 1940s experimentation stops due to the war, but the 1950s are a decade of growth, marked by the arrival of new art trends in Finland. The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yleisradio starts television broadcasts, and the radio features radio plays, which use sound effects. Artists adopt new technology and pioneering works in various art fields emerge in Finland from the experimentation. Within a short span of time, the first computer game and computer graphics are presented, as well as the first experimental tape works, a motorized moving light and sound art work and an experimental film.


  • The Tulenkantajat group (translates as “Flame-bearers”), born in the literary society Nuoren Voiman Liitto, publishes the Tulenkantajat album. The magazine was published until 1930 and introduced visions of the future, machine romantics as well as expressionism, futurism and dadaism to the cultural debate in Finland. In 1927 Olavi Paavolainen wrote in Aitta magazine: “Everyone can be a Dadaist!”


  • Juhani Pohjanmies builds an electric sheet music stenographer, which draws keystrokes onto a rotating roll of paper.


  • Electronically transmitted radiographs are received for the first time on a device built by engineer Martti Selin, a combination of a radio receiver and a plotter.


  • Eino Mäkinen presents photograms and the creation of photographic prints without a camera in the photography magazine Valokuvaus. In a follow-up article, he tells about the possibilities of image cropping, negative photography and photomontage. The “new direction” of photography expresses the desire for a style independent of technical procedures.
  • The Turku-based Lahyn-Filmi produces a series of short sound films, music videos of their time, using sound-on-disk technology. In December, the first optical recording on film takes place.
  • Journalists call actress Elli Tompuri’s radical recital style sound art.


  • Eero Selin constructs an electromechanical intermission machine to play the 5-tone Pim-pam-pulla melody that plays on YLE radio 1931-1978. The machine is later replaced with new models.


  • Finland’s first TV experiments with self-built devices.


  • Finland’s first film club Projektio is founded. Members include Alvar Aalto.


  • Engineer Akseli Soini introduces the magnetic video recording and playback technology, which enables the recording of TV programmes on disk or film.


  • Juhani Pohjamies builds Automatic Clocks, a self playing electro-pneumatic machine, which plays random melodies arbitrary rhythms.
  • Nyrki Tapiovaara’s film Herra Lahtinen lähtee lipettiin (translates as Mr. Lahtinen Does a Runner) combines realistic narrative to dimensions of consciousness, compressions and expansions of time, and experimental use of sound and editing. Of the 76 minute long original, only a 40 minute long restored version has survived.


  • An electromechanical Cannon Violin is built at the Viena battlefront radio station. The installation-instrument plays the station’s theme tune.


  • The end of the war sees a boom in the construction of DIY electric instrument and amplifiers. In Tampere Helmer Rautsola builds a plank electric guitar and electric violin.


  • Martti Leppänen builds two solid-frame electric contrabasses in Tampere. Juhani Pohjamies continues to invent and build a series of new electromechanical musical instruments.


  • Werner-Mayer Eppler from Cologne Radio’s Electronic Studio visits the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE to talk to composers and sound technicians about the potential of electronic sound and music.


  • MSc in Engineering programme students found a TV club 16.4.1954. The first Finnish television broadcast is transmitted 24.5.1955 from a studio built in the Radio Lab of the University of Technology. Tes-TV was later born from the TV club.


  • Hans Anders builds the digital game machine Aapeli (a nim game) in the Technical University as a side project of the Esko computer (1954-60)


  • The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE founds a new unit called Tehosto. The unit starts producing sounds and sound effects used in tape and radio recordings and in programme production. YLE starts training courses for sound technicians. The training includes electronic music and musique concrète and the course work is to prepare “sound images”, i.e. sound effect stories.
  • Maunu Kurkvaara’s short essay film Kaupunki shows Helsinki as a modern machine, a “human prison”.


  • Karlheinz Stockhausen’s first visit to Finland. He holds a public lecture at the University of Helsinki and the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper publishes his extensive article on electronic music.
  • Martti Vuorenjuuri’s radio play Uljas uusi maailma (Brave New World) for YLE marks the beginning of Finnish tape music.
  • Finland’s first computer graphics image is printed on PSP’s Ensi (IBM 650). The machine prints maps of European countries, where alphabets and numbers are used as “pixels”.


  • The department for Camera Arts is established at the school of Art and Design Helsinki on the initiative of Raimo Hallamo. It’s the first film school in the Nordic countries.
  • Risto Jarva’s experimental film 9 runoa (translates as 9 poems) is produced by the Montaasi film club of the engineering programme students.
  • Veikko Eskolin presents a motorized moving light and sound work in an exhibition at Galerie Artek.

The Early Stages | 1920s to 1950s | The 1960s | The 1970s |
The 1980s | The 1990s | The 2000s | The 2010s