More drawings from December at Arteles in Finland - these ones are watercolours inspired by ice, snow and water
Ink sketches completed in Finland at Arteles in December 2013, inspired by lake and forest
I would like to stay longer, but I leave today. Before I go I’d like to say thank you and I love you and I’ll be back some day. This incredibly short month has given me a chance to focus on making work without the distractions and responsibilities of my daily life, meet a wonderful bunch of smart, passionate, fun and inspiring artists and connect with a new place.
I have a notebook full of writing that I’ll be re-reading and distilling over the next few weeks, so I’m not going to post thoughtful art stuff in detail here just yet. Instead I’ll post some of the quick snapshots I took with my phone:
The view from my window when I arrived
Preparing to go for a drive - I learnt to drive on the right-hand side of the road and only got stuck in a ditch once.
These dudes in Tampere disposing of their underwear
Snow on the shopping trolley shelter at the local supermarket
The view looking down the road towards Arteles
The ice hockey in Tampere
Rugged up at the ice hockey - it was -6C - we kept warm (almost) by dancing
Bottle and can recycling at the supermarket - the guy in the white had put enough bottles in to receive a refund of about 13 euro
Secret santa art making
Post Christmas dinner rope climbing - the party also included dancing, cartwheeling, baseball slides, and penguin slides - most lively post-christmas dinner I have ever experienced.
My desk just before starting to pack to go home
View from my window after the snow thawed
View from the train leaving Tampere
Hello from Arteles!
This artist residency organisation is situated about 40kms from the city of Tampere and a 2-hour train ride from Helsinki. Occupying an old school house, Arteles plays host to up to 10 artists at any one time. For the month of December myself and the other artists here are undertaking a themed residency focussing on Silence, Existence, Awareness. As December is the darkest month of the year, it provides an opportunity to reflect, be immersed in the local landscape and spend some quiet time on our various projects.
Arteles, I’m staying at the far end of the building on the left.
One of my key reasons to travel all the way to Finland was to be able to immerse myself in an environment that was foreign to me, and respond to this experience phenomenologically.
In order to do this I have made a plan to go for a walk every day, regardless of the weather conditions. So far I’ve been lucky - while it’s been snowing a lot it hasn’t been colder than about -6 degrees. Apparently we’re in for some colder weather in the next week or so.
One of my walking rules is to go without a camera, audio recorder or any other means of recording the experience while I’m having it. My aim is to walk mindfully, pay attention to my sensory experiences and ‘write them up’ after the walk.
I have cheated once and taken my camera with me. It was fascinating to see how differently I walk when I have the option of taking photographs. My attention is focussed differently and I will spend time going off the path, stopping and taking multiple photos. I’m not judging this as good or bad, just a very different way of encountering my surroundings, and interesting to observe and try to articulate to myself.
Another observation I’ve made is how my attention moves around. I will be walking and observing my environment looking out at the horizon, noticing the light or the clouds or the velvet expanses of snowy fields and my attention will switch to feeling my feet crunch or sink into snow, the bite of wind on my cheeks and the sound inside my clothes as I walk. My attention shifts again and I begin to describe the experience to myself in my head, or start to think about something I read before I came out, and I become removed from the immediacy of my engagement with the surroundings.
The view from my window - early in the morning
It’s interesting what a cocoon my clothing provides - I can walk without really hearing my surroundings because I’m rugged up in layers of wool and cotton. Today I took my hood off when I heard a dog barking in the distance. As I listened for the dog bark I became aware of a proliferation of twittering noises coming from the forest. So many tiny birds darting to and fro in the trees. It took a few moments for me to be able to see the birds - so for a time the sound had no visual source - it was just this incredible, subtle, mobile twittering sound.
As well as the mindful walks I’m taking daily I’m also going out with the camera to photograph and video the surroundings. Below are a few shots from my first few days here.
I haven’t seen the sun or a blue sky for a few days - but in the first couple of days I was here it was glorious. The frozen lake above is not yet frozen enough to walk across. Apparently when it is frozen enough the Finns run car rallies on it.
It’s such a luxury to have time to wander through foreign galleries. An art gallery says so much about the city and country around it, reflecting, representing and commenting. Galleries can be ambitious; conservative; out-of-step; lively; lumbering; slumbering and/or so many other things. Having been in Helsinki for two days I can only guess at how accurately the Kiasma gallery of contemporary art reflects the Finnish art scene.
What I can say is that Kiasma hits was the perfect exhibition for a visitor from overseas to stumble upon, presenting as it did a survey of the Kiasma collection, including a number of Finnish and international contemporary artists’ work. There were some ‘old’ favourites – one of Nam Jun Paik’s cellos, Baldessari teaching a plant the alphabet and Vito Acconci speaking with his mouth open. However it was the sculptural and installation works by younger artists that captured my attention. Being a collection survey there was a variety of work with broad-ranging conceptual concerns, but thoughtful curation gave the show a sense of cohesion and a satisfying conversation between the works on show.
Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen Levitation 2012
One of the works that had the biggest impact on me was Levitation 2012 the one that I missed the fist time I visited and only saw on my second walk through. This subtle work by Finnish artists Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen using magnets was simple and complex – exquisitely balanced.
Another highlight was Elevated jam 2012 by German artist Thomas Westphal. The installation was comprised of a video shown on a screen running on a track down one wall – as the screen reached the end it would rotate from either a horizontal or vertical orientation to make it’s journey back to the other end of the room.
The image of the artist’s hand walking a high wire playfully kept time with the movement of the screen itself, an absurdly complex presentation of a simple act.
In the same room a projection of a percussionist playing a wall with a pair of drumsticks is shown up near the ceiling drawing attention to the architecture and appearing in an oblique relationship to the endlessly tracking video screen.
Kimmo Schroderus’ Expander 2004 was also a playful yet quite monumental work – an adjustable sculpture that can be adapted to fill different environments.
Hilda Kozári’s copper discs spelling the Finnish word Terve (Hello/Healthy) in Braille were another elegant and poetic work, the copper becoming tarnished by the handprints of gallery visitors.
This was just a small example of a few works in an expansive exhibition that was lively, thoughtful and varied.
In the upstairs section of the gallery was an exhibition of the work of Erkki Kurenniemi a pioneer of digital art and music in Finland. Presented as a survey of Kurenniemi’s life and work the show included many interactive elements – especially DIMI musical instruments, Kurenniemi’s home film collection and his experiments with early computer art and robotics.
I’ve been told the Espoo Museum of Art (EMMA) is not to be missed as well – hopefully I’ll be able to visit there on my way back through Helsinki at the end of the month.
On my brief stopover in Helsinki last week I managed to duck in and out of a few galleries and museums. I caught a beautifully wacky exhibition of early 20th century surrealist postcards at the photography museum and a dreamy exhibition at the Ateneum of work made by the Tuulsa Arts community, a Finnish arts and crafts commune.
I then spent a dark rainy afternoon immersed in the exhibitions at the design museum (http://www.designmuseum.fi/) – one on graphic design Don’t shoot the messenger had a fabulous room featuring Carnovsky wallpaper with different images becoming visible depending on whether there were R, G, or B lights shone on it.
Image from: http://www.carnovsky.com/RGB_limited.htm
The knockout of the visit for me was the Nordic jewellery show in the basement – From the coolest corner featured the work of contemporary jewellers from the Nordic countries and Estonia. This was really smart, intriguing and bold work. I was fascinated by the work of Icelandic artist Hildur Ýr Jónsdóttir; Norwegian artist Lillian Eliassen and Finnish artist Anna Rikkinen
Anna Rikkinen, necklace A Dutch Encounter Portrait, 2011
Lillan Eliassen, neck piece Run Baby Run,2012,betong, kobber, stål
On the contemporary visual art side of things I popped into the Taidehalli http://taidehalli.fi/english/ to see Young artists 2013, a survey of young Finnish artists under the age of 35. I went to the opening, so the hall was packed with artists and friends.
The show presented works across a variety of media and a broad range of conceptual concerns – and because it was the opening, it was tricky to see everything. The overall impression I was left with was of an energetic and engaged group of artists sharing many of the interests and concerns I’d expect to find in a show of Australian artists at a similar stage in their careers.
I also visited Kiasma - the Museum of Contemporary Art - but I’ll write a separate post about that…
In lieu of an update here’s some footage shot yesterday from the train between Helsinki and Tampere.
Marimekko paper cups - from the Finnair flight
I’ve been in Helsinki for a few days now ahead of heading to http://www.arteles.org/ as an artist in residence for the month of December.
I planned to have some time here to adjust to the climate and get over jet lag before heading off to be immersed in the Finnish countryside. I’ve enjoyed this city so far and would love to get to know it better. The flat I’m staying is warm - much warmer than my house and filled with lovely light. I could happily stay here much longer.
While the cold is not too much of a shock, the one thing that is really different for me is the darkness. It does get light in the middle of the day - and quite glary because of the clouds - but it never feels like the middle of the day. The feeling of the day shifts from long early morning shadows to long afternoon shadows as the sun just peeps above the tops of the city buildings. I’m finding myself at 3pm ready to go home and get into bed with a hot chocolate!
The centre of town is filled with Christmas lights and I swear I heard we wish you a merry christmas about 750 times yesterday. The pic above was taken about 4.30pm - the streets were filled with shoppers and there was a very busy buzzy atmosphere. I saw Santa in trad northern hemisphere gear and plenty of little stalls selling yummy gifty things.
I’ve visited a few galleries and will write a separate post about all the arty-designy goodness I’ve encountered soon!
The other fab thing about this town is the public transport - the Metro is super efficient and there are plenty of old green and yellow trams, reminding me of Melbourne. The Metro itself is the best shade of orange ever…
The weekend before last I attended SEAM, a conference hosted by Critical Path in Sydney - I’m only just getting around to popping up a brief post now because I’ve been on the road since and am feeling a bit more human as I recover from jetlag.
This conference was really interesting for me as it is run by an organisation that primarily supports contemporary choreographers, but has an open and interdisciplinary focus. There were speakers and performers from a diverse range of backgrounds presenting - with the common interests crossing areas such as movement, live performance, audience engagement, new-media performance, space and architecture.
One thing I enjoyed about the papers/presentations/performances that addressed the themes of Audience, Authorship and Curation was their livelyness and diversity. The space was reconfigured to accommodate different modes of presentation and the audience felt fluid and mobile.
Antennae (pictured above) by James Cunningham was in some ways a nice analogy for the whole weekend. In this piece the performer was both limited and extended by these protruding ‘antennae’. The body extensions enabled the performer to feel out the space, to traverse the surfaces and find the limits of the space.
The extensions limited movement in certain ways, and the body of the performer seemed to shift from being human to some kind of other creature as he negotiated the space. The antennae also presented problems and opportunities to the audience. Some members ducking or covering their faces to protect from the potential danger of the pointy ends.
Other audience members met the performer, allowed the extensions to poke and caress them, creating a tension between tenderness and potential risk.
It was a really beautiful way to encounter the conference themes of audience, curatorship and collaboration through an embodied practice other than spoken language.