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Private arts supporting foundations and the Arts Promotion Center of Finland offer grant writing workshops for individual artists and working groups. I’ve been to a few info-events and they are useful, particularly if you are new to the scene. I’ve learned that when you write for one organization you can easily reformat your texts to fit in the procedures of another. Many of them use the same web platform for application submissions, which means that mismatches are easily resolved. Only a paragraph here and there might need work. One organization might look for proposals which support local cultural practices (nationally defined) and an other seek to advance a particular artistic medium or field (design/performance). Adding emphasis is a cosmetic manoeuvre. My desire can be to work in public spaces and I can sincerely frame this as a “localized cultural practice” or an attempt to “make performance art more accessible”. This does not affect what I’m doing (making space public) or how I view my own work.

I understand why funding organizations call for proposals with specific goals. They serve their mission and align with policies that are set by the state or the city. The same cosmetic manoeuvres are at play on both sides. Understanding budgeting, project management and how to frame artistic aims within an organizations mission is good to learn. Writing an application is learning how institutions think. There is always a chaotic element involved. Even when you follow guidelines and your peers review a proposal, it can (and most likely will) get rejected. Organizations don’t offer feedback for individual artist (feedback is sometimes provided for associations which employ people). The best feedback I’ve received has been from peers who have worked in the proposal evaluation boards. Most of them say that short and easy to read texts work best. Most of them have also revealed that luck is very much involved in the process.

I enjoy developing proposals. The writing process sets a trajectory for my work and keeping my CV updated is good for maintaining an archive on where I’ve been and with whom I’ve traveled with. But recently I’ve begun to wonder who is teaching the foundations and the arts promotion centers to read applications? I don’t think it’s in anyone’s benefit that artists learn to make cosmetic maneuvers in aligning their desires with the vague organizational goals of exclusive institutions. A more beneficial cultural movement would be that applications would be written as the applicants pleases and the institutions would use their resources in learning how to read. How can we teach institutions to read? This is a naïve wish. I fear that people who have money get to decide what will happen next. I only have the power to make proposals. This is a good power but only sends weak signals.

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Polttava taide [Burning Art] (2020) Jenni Nurmenniemi. The text is passionate and echoes a strong commitment to the development of ecologically sustainable curatorial work. Nurmenniemi wants to engage in situated and localized practices. I like the part where she underlines that environmental matters should not be addressed as a “theme” because ecologies are about relations and connections. My presentation on Land-Art Conservation at SOLU is referred, which feels nice. Towards the end of the text she brings up a Haraway-ian idea that art could serve as a compost: It returns ideas into circulation. I believe art can help in creating containers for obsolete concepts (nation state, capitalism etc.) and help in disintegrating them into less toxic models (eu, socialism etc.).

But I think the process is challenging because, actual artworks have a weird relationship to the future. Many artistic gestures are imagined as eternal – Which is why they don’t make for good compost. I’m not talking about materials (Bronze or Wood). I’m talking about concepts, which I believe can be more harmful because they refuse to degrade. Concepts are zombies. I guess this idea is derived from a weird reading of Serres: He argues that objects are made to prevent social change. I don’t know if Serres views concepts as objects but I think bad habits, like eating meat, should be understood as such. The resources needed to maintain the habit rely on and bind to particular infrastructure (fossil fuels).

A performance artwork is defiantly an object. It is used as such and can even be commissioned as a classical monument. Gestures, like walking on the moon make for great monuments, they align perfectly with neoliberal fantasies of future service economies (More specifically to the postwork without communism -utopia). More work should be done in developing ways to digest and compost concepts and the habits they are bind to. This might be a useful expansion to the popular process of decommissioning modern authorship. Paradoxically: The best way to compost a concept might be to make it into a object, so that it can be destroyed. I’ve tried to write about this before.. Exploring how documentation of live art, situates it and makes it conceptually malleable (less modern).

Interestingly, if concepts can be objects then humans (with their skills) can be infrastructure! #ॐ Makes complete sense to me.

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Visited a children’s holliday singing event. The stage lights were bright and the kids danced while singing, which means none of the kids actually saw their parents in the audiences. I think stages work this way, their design (architecture, lighting / scene building conventions) convert the actual audience into a generic mesh of anonymous bodies. An audience converted to mesh trough design, distances the performers and the audience. Both parties are shielded from individual gazes, which allows them to assume positions their class does not permit. This does not emancipate them because their freedom is a projection, the vividness of which reflects their distance from stage apparatuses (such as backstage, moshpit, surrounding camps etc.).

This is how a performance becomes a ritual. When you don’t see the specific audience, it becomes a projection which manifests the spirit of the event. It can only be supportive, as the stage design only affords meshness and genericness trough its design. A performance can fail, but the failure only celebrates the functionality of the stage! If you accept the stage, you accept modernism. When you don’t know whom you are performing for it is possible to perform for the dead. Which, I think the kids were doing. Performing zombie trad. folk songs for past generations which weren’t present. It was a very modern, very hallucinatory event.

Is France Having A Revolutionary Moment? ft. Richard Wolff (TMBS 120) (2019) The Michael Brooks Show. A good overview on how the yellow vest movement in France evolved into general strikes which attempt to kick Emmanuel Macron out of office. I wish a similar broad overview would be made of the recent Finnish strike & prime minister exchange maneuver.

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Why Art Criticism Sucks Right Now (Spoiler Alert: It’s Racist): Some Context and Suggestions (2019) Torey Akers. An insightful meta-critique of art criticism. It’s focused on North America and its commercially driven art markets but many aspects of critique apply across different western art scenes. The text starts off by referencing recent blunders art medias have made (which I’d need to know a lot more about to understand), then it offers a miniature history of art criticism (at its best it was an attempt to expose cultural power structures for the public, motivated by the French revolution) and ends by providing a list of people to follow (spotted Jessica Lynne, whom I heard at Pioneer Works last fall). The text also drafts guidelines on how to make art criticism more diverse and ethical (better).

Akers urges artists to learn how to read criticism: “Artists I’ve covered often can’t tell the difference between a standard write-up (this person made something!) and a review (the thing this person made was fine, weird, spectacular, useless, etc.).”. My experience has been that in Finland artists are very sensitive to how they are written about and how their work is mediated. Perhaps due to a fear of being misunderstood they seldom provide texts or engage in dialogue which could be used as material for creative writing. As a writer I’m often left guessing what the art is, which leads to non-opinionated or even anti-opinionated texts that describe the artwork or the creative scene the work emerges from, instead of engaging with it. Artists feel scorned if I use a wrong tone. I’ve found that the safest way to write is to first draft texts into my blog, then to ask for feedback from the artists and if I get a positive response, only then continue with the text (this cumbersome procedure makes me almost an un-payed employee of the artist).

I think in many Finland artists view art writing and mediation only as marketing, not joined creative thinking.

The art world, corrupt and opaque as it is, needs diversity of voice to mount any believable attempt at contrition; improvement, if we’re being optimistic. Old-school gatekeeping has long proven the enemy of progress. […] The landscape privileges clumsy, Caucasian cowardice above all else, and whatever content manages to escape the tonal clutches of a press release is usually engineered specifically for viral ire, to say nothing of International Art English’s recklessly pestilential effect over the last decade.

Nearly a century ago, Walter Benjamin opined, “Criticism is a matter of correct distancing… It was at home in a world where perspectives and prospects counted, and where it was still possible to adopt a standpoint. Now things press too urgently on human society.”

There it is—collaboration with artists rather than short-sighted conspiracy against them, institutional critique in service of concerted efforts at transparency. That is the non-monologic model artists deserve. An absence of immediate relatability should not hamper any responsible writer from reflecting upon the merits of an art work, and it’s up to us to reverse the tides of obtuse equivocation to which we’ve grown accustomed. White writers (this one included!) can, should, and must take accountability for art criticism’s eye-watering suckage in 2019.

Place Language (2019) a collaborative sound-landscape project looking to catalogue depictive landscape terms across the globe.

The quiet hope of ‘Landmarks’ was to ‘re-wild’ even a little of our available language for landscape, to celebrate and disseminate the extraordinary ‘word-hoard’ of coinages that has flourished historically – but thinned recently – for seeing, naming, and knowing aspects of place and its more-than-human life – Robert Macfarlane

Ei läsnäoloa, kiitos! Ahdistuksesta, uupumuksesta ja kapitalismista [No presence, thanks! On anxiety, exhaustion and capitalism] (2019) Laura Hautsalo. A nice text which (among other things) exposes that mainstream media maintains a black-market for depression survival and burnout recovery stories. These black-markets feed the neoliberal narrative, that we can overcome structural injustices by freeing our minds. Hautsalo refers to Rosi Braidottis 2019 talk Necropolitics and ways of Dying (which I’m looking forward to listening). The text fits well with Kim Modigs lates Tarjoilija, festivaalissani on liikaa teoksia [Waiter, there are too many artworks in my festival]. Modig argues that some artists and festivals are producing artworks merely to appear busy and that this extensive programming makes enjoying art difficult. He also urges artists to join artists unions to combat precarisation.

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I have a bad habit of planning my performances using lists. I often maintain two. One for the score and one for stuff I need for it. The score-list resembles a schedule and shows the order of different conceptual ideas I plan to bombard the audience with. More on score-lists in a previous post.

The lists attempt to represent a structure of the artwork. They are useful for assessing how things flow during the show and for spotting how different ideas and materials align. But I now think that lists do more harm then good. They advocate hierarchical, linear and deterministic (causal) views of time. Performances that are planned using lists for chores and materials, are rituals which advocate the passing of time and the (seemingly) inevitable changes the passing of time causes. Performance artists often set the pace and become temporal dictators of sorts.

I’m starting to like exhibitions because audiences can piece them together in their own pace. I bet contemporary art is very much in dept to geology in this regard. Every exhibition visitor is a psycho-geologist of sorts. Workshops are cool too because attendants most often try match their work rhythm with the group.

Listening to Ways of Hearing (2017) Damon Krukowski. A podcast on how listening has been affected by the emergence of digital media. It is been very sentimental and nostalgic but easy and inspirational listening when cycling thou. Finnish HC scene is mentioned in episode 5!