Experimental Clay Workshop at Artist House Vartiosaari (6.-7. June)

Experimental Clay Workshop: Digging, shaping and firing from nature at Artist House, Vartiosaari island (FULLY BOOKED!)

Artist House in Vartiosaari island warmly welcomes you to the first workshop from the speculative nature series focused on CLAY. The workshop is hosted by  artists Monika Czyżyk, Elina Vainio and Eero Yli-Vakkuri who have formed an experimental clay group. The workshop has a DIY approach with a keenness to material experimentation and research. The goal of the workshop is to learn where and how to collect clay from its natural environments. How to clean and work with it. How to build your own ceramic kiln, how to fire it using local area resources as fuel and to enjoy the abundance of energy natural settings provide us. We will also prepare your own ash glazing, to complete a full geoartistic cycle.

Location: Taiteilijatalo, Artist House, from Reposalmentie 1 you can take the sun ferry.

Monday 6th of June. 10:00-18:00 (or as long as it takes). Building a kiln and preparing firewood.

Participants are welcomed with tea, coffee and spring water in the garden of the artist house. The group will share insight to Kurängen spring, a site where clay objects which will be burned in a kiln are prepared from. The group will divide based on their interest. The first half has the opportunity to join a sensual walk and dig or commence work on the kiln.

On the walk participants can either partake on a walk together to the heart of the island. The area with the richest biodiversity and swamp, the rich bacterial microflora allow more rare plant species to grow. From there we will respectfully collect clay. After the walk the clay will be cleared. Tools and stations will be provided. Participants can make their own small objects. The kiln building group will prepare mud-cement and lay bricks to form a functional kiln and prepare a lot of firewood for the next day’s burning session.

Tuesday 7th of June. 10:00 (or as long as it takes). Firing the Kiln We made and forging iron to pass time.

Participants will be welcomed with tea, coffee and spring water in the garden of the artist house. Participants can bring their own dry small objects ready for firing. Note that for the wood firing it is recommended to use more sandy clay. You are welcomed to experiment with glazing ceramics, arranging ceramics in kiln. As soon as the kiln is ready the firing of the ceramics begins. We will use three different techniques of increasing temperature and work on site by adding wood for 6+ hours.

You are welcomed to invent rituals by the fire with us. We can learn a bit about forging using scrap metal bits and rail track for an anvil. During the firing time we will eat a vegan lunch. It will be possible to visit gardens, and some sites in Vartiosaari island. At the end of the day after the ceramics have cooled a bit we will sneak a peak to them and leave them to cool overnight.

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The Non-Sitting-Stuff-Not-About-Horses-vol0  publication is based on a collective online study-journal which was written during the spring of 2021 by participants of the Horse & Built Environment course for Aalto University (UWAS-C0071). Group members met weekly at the Kaarelan ratsutalli stables, discussed horse & animal matters and observed horses while executing various stable chores. During a six week period the group succeeded in tiling a floor in the main stable, demolishing an old storage, planting grass and performing a plethora of other maintenance tasks. The group’s activity intertwined with the daily routines of the stable and was periodically interrupted with horse handling exercises, lectures and discussions.

The publication is co-authored. It is inspired by early 1990’s horse hobbyists zines (see Ihahaa mag. in useful links). Group members have used the online document for collecting observations and to discuss different inputs & articles. Texts could be written anonymously and authors were tasked to create guidelines for managing the document. The text is wild: It was presented as a Pasture where group members could wander seeking nourishment and as a Compost which shows how different inputs and shared moments have been processed and digested. The publication is a snapshot to the thinking which the groups activities and engagement stirred up. It is raw –in the best sense of the word– including creative writing, diary entries, article reviews and links to inspiring media.

We hope you will enjoy this decay.

Dormalen, Gaudé, Harouny, Jalasaho, Keil, Kiviaho, Kolehmainen, Pietari Kylmälä (lecturer, editor), Lecerf, Moberg, Nimetön Nyan Cat, Nurmi, Polkinghorne, Rosina, Visuri, Eero Yli-Vakkuri (lecturer, editor) & Zhao

Trans-Horse: Horse & Performance for TeaK 2020

We were fortunate to organize the fourth Horse & Performance course for the Theater Academy in the fall of 2020. Together with Pietari, we experienced challenges teaching art during a pandemic face but in the end things sorted out well. At the time COVID spread in Finland was at a decline and the University of Arts Helsinki deemed the course possible. The horse-hobby and equestrian industry here seems well equipped for dealing with the pandemic. Riding group sizes seldom exceed 10 members (and horses) and activities are organized in sparsely spaced sites, which deems it a safe activity. In fact horseback riding is a booming hobby, it offers a much needed outdoor experience and companionship. We were kindly welcomed to Malminkartano by Kaarelan ratsutalli Oy. Kaarela was a well suited site for organizing the course, it is easy to access with public transport and the area has an interesting history.

Horse & Performance had seven participants: Antonia Atarah, Anna Lehtonen, Daniela Pascual, Martta Jylhä, Gaspare Fransson, Mikael Karkkonen and Jouni Tapio. On previous courses most of the participants have been from the acting department but this time around attendees formed a balanced mixture of dramaturgist, actors, live-artists, pedagogist and sound/light designers. In 2017 we started to collect course notes to collective study journals which participants can access online. The journals present open ended questions which the course stirs up, links to texts people refer to and discussions on the exercise we partake in. This time around the document is semi-public and can be accessed  as a .pdf document. We didn’t offer the same volume of practical horse handling exercises as before. Instead we focused on working with the animals at their pasture and got to engage in an array of stable chores. Participants build a hay-shelter, erected fences and collect a lot of droppings from the pasture. I think the course was ultimately about maintenance art and laced with a crafty approach to non-human knowledge.

Taru Svahn who had established the stables twenty years ago gave a thorough introduction to the site. We learned that there has been horse related activity in the area at least since the 18th century and that the site had been a farm until the 60ties. She presented us documents from -62 which detailed farming experiments Helsinki University conducted on site and provided a history of the Malminkartano mansion from 1579 onward. Svahn told us that her motivation for establishing the riding school was set in motion by a dream which presented her a galloping horse. The dream led her to equestrian studies in Ypäjä and eventually to start a business in Malminkartano. Quite recently they have managed to expand the stable by building a manège which enables them to organize courses comfortably during the winter. When we started with horseback riding with Pietari in 2014 the manège was yet to be build and the outdoor classes in Malminkartano were really cold.

As expected working with city officials for permits to build a horse stable to a suburb was an enormous effort. Rights were eventually granted based on the site’s historical value and history with horses. In short: The horses of the past, paved way for the horses of the future. There are archaeological sites (röykkiöhauta) close by and the nearby forest is protected from development (Malminkartano was an island until 3000BCE). Svahn explained that ultimately the permission process was paved by personal relations she formed with individual city officials and a lucky coincidence where the right mix of city committee representatives happened to be in the same room at the same time. It is revealing that charisma and luck are central for city development. Svahn’s motivation for establishing the site was to grant access to horses to the youth of the district. The suburb was troubled in the 90ties. Still is.

Each day started with a morning meeting at a forest opening. Pietari heated water with a portable stove, we all sat on a branch and chatted while having coffee. The morning sessions worked well for establishing a casual relationship to the texts and theory which we structured the teaching on. There were lectures in the forest too. I fondly remember Pietari’s introduction to speciesism, with yellow rays of sunlight reflecting from the moss. When preparing for the course we were inspired by the Gustafsson&Haapoja: Museum of Becoming HAM exhibition and picked up texts by Cary Wolfe and Terike Haapoja from it. The main culprit for the theory of human-horse-relations was yet again Haraway and we turned to Soppelsa for developing insights to the role horses have had for the development of modern Europe.

At the end of the two week long course participants were invited to develop group exercise or artistic outputs, which reflected their evolving relationship to horses. This lead us to organized a miniature horse-art festival of sorts. It offered dance pieces (witnessing a horse-human dance led me to understand the relationship as a highly choreographed communication), audio-based-works (which presented arbitrary horse movements as dance), meditation and body awareness sessions (we could imagine ourselves as plants and experience ourselves as a self organizing assembly). Summaries and group reflections on the exercises are documented in the collective study journal. One of the most memorable experiences I had was a session titled “Horse’s Birthday” (Jylhä & Karkkonen). The session started with us setting a picnic table in the middle of the pasture. As we started to eat cake and to perform a birthday ceremony, our gathering and the sweet smells lured the horses in and soon our assembly was rearranged by a herd of animals. They revealed their ultimate power-move: Breaking crowds with their hulls and caused disarray in organization. Our picnic was efficiently disbanded and we were caught between rivaling horses.

Previously, in teaching art I’ve emphasized the act of “stopping” and we often practice it as a part of physical exercises: I encourage students to be rude, to halt the charismatic flow for making notes, formulate opinions and set new plans in motion. During the pasture-birthday session I noticed that I have not developed artistic exit strategies which would afford sensible and secure retrievals from difficult situations. Most horse-human exercises I’ve participated in have been focused on becoming with the animal and after the exercises have peaked we look for an opening where we can depart peacefully. This works great for establishing a sense of security but requires that the horse-human session is carefully planned: I’ve witnessed numerously how facilitators work towards soft departures. Working in the pasture –which is the horse’s domain– requires that people would also be equipped with skills in distancing themselves from the horse at haste. I think I should develop artistic skills to escape a bad situation (like a rodeo clown). I was petrified during the performance. We got stuck between five horses, a table and the cake we brought with us. I didn’t know how to safely distance our group from the dominant maneuvers of the horse herd.

On the last day of the course we got a tour of the Ruskeasuo Police horse facilities. Senior Constable Jukka Aarnisalo took us in and offered a glimpse to the offices of the 130 year old police unit. We were invited to their very compact kitchen and debriefing room, which is located in a corner of the Ruskeasuo horse stables. Inside we were presented with old Russian era swords (brought from their old headquarters in Kasarminkatu), WWII memorabilia and trophies from past competitions. Their current stables were built for the Helsinki Olympics and manifest the functionalist architecture movement in its prime. Modernist traits can be identified in the facilities waste disposal arrangements and the usage of natural light, which early modernist architects associated with hygiene (as defined by Kirsi Saarikangas).

Our visit to the stables ended the course to a very conflicted setting. Participants had just spent two weeks (re)sensitizing themselves to the nuances of horse-human communication, after which we were confronted by a professional with over 30 years of experience in working with animals in urban settings and effectively teaching multiple generations of horses skills for desensitizing themselves. To add to the confusion the skills in question were taught in a respectful working relationship, in institutionally monitored and publicly scrutinized setting. All done just so that the police-horse and the police-human could enforce the law effectively. It safe to argue that mounted officers (and their horses) are the most visible public servants and most criticized law enforcers. I personally enjoyed the conflict because the sensitive and emotional sessions we shared with  horses in Malminkartano, were balanced by the reality and lived experience of people working with animals and animals working with people.

Horse-pedagogical efforts will continue in the spring as well organize a course called Horse & Build Environment for Aalto University. On this course we will explore horse stable designs and the relations they afford us.

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Returning from a teaching gig at Villa Arttu youth art school in Hyvinkää. I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with 28, 12-17 year olds, teaching “Performance Architecture” (as defined by Schweder) by using various movement, body awareness and voice based exercises. Participants came from Rovaniemi, Hämeenlinna and Hyvinkää. The group was divided in two batches which alternated each day between my workshop and a sound/media sessions taught by Simi Ruotsalainen.

The “Performance Architecture” workshops started with fake-laugh yoga and an exploration on how voices resonate inside bodies. Voice-making was framed as an internal-organ sculpturing exercise. Participants massaged the insides of their mouths using their tongues and attempted to identify where different tones resonate from. The idea of sound-making as an internal-organ sculpture practice was inspired by әṾӨȻΔ𐐉 -exhibition by Jenna Sutela & Lars TCF Holdhus at Sinne (2015). After the warm up we begun massaging your imaginations in a “What if…” session, in which participants only communicate by asking “What if…”. This exercise is something I picked up from a seminar called “Performative Utopias” organized by Reality Research Center in 2013 (for Baltic Circle).

Then we continued doing echo-izings: Each group member was expected to utter a word or tone, which others repeated. The word or tone had to relate to the space we were in. The exercise continued until everyone had shared their voice. The idea that everyone has to speak out for an exercise to end, was motivated by Peggy Pierrots community talk-shop guidelines from 2017. We practiced deep breathing, standing and walking in a confined space. These exercises were based on basic contact improvisation teaching techniques: The group begun by moving in a rigid grid pattern (90° turns, slow and fast walking). After a while they were allowed to stop their movements when they felt like it. The act of stopping was framed as a personal political strike, which offered an opportunity to reflect the situation. Striking as an action comes from an idea by Jussi Koitela: Activism becomes political, when people stop being “active” and reflect their situation.

After the trust within the group was founded, they begun to use the space more freely and we combined echo-izings to the movement. When people spotted motivating objects, shapes or things in the space, they were advised to stop, to point at the thing and voice their observation. Group members then followed the action: Stopped, pointed at the same thing and repeated what was said about it. This method of reading a space collectively was inspired by Patterns of Life by Julien Prévieux (2015). Participant were then advised to use the same technique for reflecting the joined movements and actions, that were emerging from within the group. Then the group spend a long silent session moving and exploring each others clothes, garments and jewelries. This lead into a very nice session, were people touched each others softly and recognized each others. Each phase of the exercise was discussed collectively before progressing.

Then we performed a repetitive minimalistic stepping dance choreography, which I saw executed as a part of the “Monstera” performance by Essi Kausalainen. I consulted Kausalainen about using her pattern in teaching and got some insight on it. The movement was framed as something intrinsic to living things and when setting it up for the participants I compared the dance to the movement of plants when they are seeking light. People associated the movement with something they do while “idling”, when waiting for a buss etc. We then performed very long sessions following the choreography and discussed what it felt like. People experienced the movement as soothing and enjoyed performing it collectively. We executed it in a large circle and the size of circle alternated during each session. It felt like we were breathing. I recorded the rhythm of our feet and we listened to the recordings, discussing how movement can be documented and how we can hear movement articulated. People seemed to really like listening and spend up to 10 minutes in silence, returning to the rhythmic noise they had produced earlier.

The group was then divided into 3-4 sub-groups, which were tasked to invent their own movement patterns. I presented the authoring of these patterns as a process were we write shapes inside our brains and recall them using muscle memory. We contemplated the ethics of writing inside an other persons brain and tried to visualize how our brains were altered by this experience. Reading was presented as a method of writing into oneself. The sub-groups then developed their own patterns in semi-privacy. After a while we returned to the collective circle, groups taught their pattern to others and performed them for as long as it took for everyone to incorporate them. After this we performed all of the different dances, so that they followed each other with out any forced direction. These sessions were recorded and we listened to them reflecting the experience. Here is a clip from the first session (12 students moving).

The event ended in a soft-lecture, trough which I attempted to explain what “performativity” and “post-structuralism” are. These sessions were more like chats as participants could ask questions and share their ideas during the presentation. The lecture was loosely based on Richard Schechners Performance Studies book from 2013 and the group was tasked to contemplate how repetition inscribes attitudes to our bodies. The workshop was a continuation of the “Post-Structuralism for Kids” sessions I taught in the same school in 2017. There is a short text about it in Finnish: Kehittäkää itsellenne lukihäiriö ja istukaa lattialla [Develop Dyslexia and Sit on the Floor] (2019).

[En] How to teach Performance Art: Media & Performance (2016)

The 90 hour long “Media & Performance” course was organized for the Kankaanpään Art School under the supervision of Aapo Korkeaoja and Matti Velhonoja. Participants learned how to analyze their relationship to technology and to develop their artistic praxis in dialogue with other practitioners. Catarina Pulli, Heikki Korkala, Ilkka Wahala, Karoliina Korvuo, Terho Sulkala and Viljami Nissi co-authored a detailed study journal which is available for download. The group also wrote short texts which examine horses as media by detailing technologies, tools and infrastructure which is used to control and define the animal (See chapter “Horse as a Media” for details). The course materials (3d designs, images and texts) are licensed under: ​Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)​.

Download the document: 20170130_media-and-performance_kankaanpaa-art-school.pdf (4,6mb).