20200515

In Finland artists grants for individuals are called “apuraha”. I think a direct translation for this would be “support fund”. I like the term a lot: A fund intended to support an artist, such a beautiful idea! I imagine the name stems from an era when artists made their living primarily by selling artworks. The state and private foundations would grant their unconditional support when an artist wanted to take a break to develop their style.

Right after the covid lockdown was announced, the state and almost all Finnish art supporting foundations started developing covid relief packages. These were aimed for artists and creatives who lost their income in the first wave. Some of these arrangements were announced within two weeks after the lockdown and the first grants were given almost within a month. This was a great effort!

The covid grants which private foundations offer are also called “apuraha” (support fund) but in inspection, none of their open calls are meant to support artist unconditionally. The funds are aimed only for development and innovation. A prime example of this was a recent Kone foundation open call (mentioned earlier), which was criticized by Maria Ylikangas (among others). The fatigue caused by inventing creative responses to covid related calls has been criticized by Kaino Wennerstrand (among others).

In short: Private foundations want artists to produce innovation. The are specifically looking for “digital-leaps” and ways to adjust artistic practices to new digital platforms. As pointed by Ylikangas, the foundations are looking for black swan-opportunities! And this happens without shame at a time when people most affected by the lockdown, have very little freedom and very little to offer.

I think the funding private foundations offer should not be called “apuraha”. They should be called for what they are: “Development funds” (kehistysrahoitus). The covid period will serve as a historical reminder that private foundations have very clear political aims and specific agendas. They never support artists unconditionally.

I’m fine with this but the problem is that in Finland, foundations seldom announce their political agendas directly. They are clearly after something but their programmes are unarticulated. The public is left to interpret what a foundations mission is by reading their open calls. In inspection they are seeking abstract nonsense such as “boldness” or “digital leaps”. What do these calls actually mean, what kind of a society are they working for? Their current, wittingly drafted press-releases, underline universal humanistic ideals and creative freedom. But don’t actually say anything: Which means that they are for maintaining status quo.

I think this needs to change. If private foundations do not clearly announce that they are working for social justice, equality and to maintain the welfare state, then they are not. #☭

20190902

Packing for a trip reveals how artist equipment categories are aligned and indicate changes in praxis. I have music instruments in one pouch, mineral water making tools in an other and electronics in the third. Some items are difficult to place.. Where do the capacitors I’ve build using mineral water belong to?

Kaino Wennerstrand’s & Marina Valle Noronha‘s Art Off The Air (AOTA) (2019) is an audio piece about art and energy (or lack of it). I like the style of the work, the glitchy audio gaps and the boldly disruptive techniques they use to create an inspirational space for the listener. The work asks an important question: “What kind of lifestyles does our art produce” and calls for de-growth (or de-acceleration) within the arts. Their proposal is that artists should do less to combat consumerism. I agree with their proposal wholeheartedly. But I do think de-growth should not be demanded equally from all artists or arts, because this would hinder the constant reconfiguration and circulation of economical / social classes. Processes in structural change should take into account the demands different artworks place on their surroundings: Material artworks reserve more stuff then skill sharing. This argument is an adaptation of the critique of extreme taxation of flights and meat industries: Extreme taxation would reserve these “pleasures” only for the mega-rich (which is a dystopian reality by all accounts). I think a great model for change is the way value added taxes are designed. For prints and paintings the tax is 9% and 0% for performing arts! Perhaps in addition arts should be taxed using a progressive scale?

Mira Kautto has shared a collection of art grant applications and proposals online. I think this is a great gesture!

Onyx Ashanti is an afrofuturist working to reprogram himself. His video entries give me weird-sad-hope: Perhaps I’ll survive not getting a grant (applied for 108 000€ from Kone to finish the Trans-Horse project and didn’t get it). I’m seriously looking for work thou.

I’m not flossing, I’m just not cold. That’s cool and I’m cool with that. That’s a kind of freshness in itself. That’s dope. Not being cold during a polar vortex is very dope but being dope in a polar vortex is the mothershit. I’d love to explore it.

20190822

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 Kaino Wennerstrands lates Tarjoilija, festivaalissani on liikaa teoksia [Waiter, there are too many artworks in my festival]. Wennerstrand 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.

20190323

Visited Performance and Feminism seminar at TeaK. I went particularly for Marina Valle Noronha’s and Kaino Wennerstrand’s Performing professionalism: Why do we travel for art and what does it do to us? talk but stayed for Lim Paik Yins movie and Minna Harris presentation about time. The three presentations formed a loose arch, which dealt with ecology and challenges caused by development. The Performing professionalism… was a performance. The stylish duo played a prerecorded sound piece while sitting confidently in front of the crowd. I interpreted the presentation as an attempt to problematize the image of the contemporary creative (art) professional, whose relevance is measured by the amount their international flights and prestige appetites, which attempt to transcendent the limits of bourgeoisie taste (and end up being mega-bourgeoisie).

Yins movie IN[formal] INTERchange (2018) offered a good contrast to the critique. She had conducted interviews (video-voip) with various amateur(?) practitioners of performance art in the Southeast Asian region. The performers talked candidly about their relationship to performance art while engaging in various joined performances (or performance exercises) with each other and the Yin. The film was appealing because it used low-key/accessible esthetics and utilized consumer services (such as Skype) for artistic research. It reminded me that there are global alternatives and strategies that work against the performance of professionalism.

Made a short teaching gig to Hyvinkää for middle to high-school aged kids who take art classes at Willa Arttu. I continued with the “Poststructuralism for Kids” program. We talked about strikes and how the act of “striking” halts movement (which offers a good time to contemplate what to do next) and practiced halting trough contact improvisation. After this we played with doors. We explored what doors are (the kids had some really smart ideas: gates to new dimension etc.) and then we experimented with different ways of opening a doors and discussed about the experience. Used this door opening tutorial (1979) as reference. I’ll do a full write up after the last gig.

Also dabbled with electronics during the week. Scavenged smd components from a failed project and used them to make a voltage regulator for a headlight (9v-to-5v) and a assembled solder smoke removal fan.

I’m making electronics to energize my grant application process. I’ve prepared 16 pages for a five year plan. Five years is not enough. The application consists of an array of loosely linked projects and ideas, some of which are framed as development motifs for work that will be executed around 2038. I’m currently most excited about the idea to organize Smithing in Public Spaces forging workshops. I’ve written the texts so that Jesse can use them in his personal grant applications too. If everything goes as planned we’d host public forging workshops in open city spaces, during which participants would learn how to mend and make metal things. The workshops will also serve as a vessel for collecting stories partisipants tell of metal objects they hold dear.

Catching up on Critical Making. Design and the Construction of Publics (2009) Carl DiSalvo.

[…] the notion that publics are “constructed” is perhaps most salient to contemporary design because it prompts a consideration of the means by which publics are assembled; begging the question: “How does, or might, design contribute to the construction of publics?” [John Dewey]

[…] inquiry into design and the construction of publics begins with a more thorough understanding of the Deweyan public. The assertion that publics are not a priori existing masses is central to the notion of the construction of publics. The public is not something that has been and always will be. It is neither universal nor an abstraction. […] for Dewey, the public is an entity brought into being through issues for the purpose of contending with these issues in their current state and in anticipation of the future consequences of these issues.

As designers and educators, [Anthony] Dunne and [Fiona] Raby are well known for their development of “Critical Design,” which they regard as an alternative to mainstream design in that the goal is the use of design to expose and explore the conditions and trajectories of contemporary design rather than the utilitarian problem-solving or surface-styling that has historically characterized design (particularly industrial design).

By the contributions of design, will publics inherit problematic qualities of being “engineered” or “commodities”? Such concerns are legitimate and substantial. The subject of design ethics should go hand-in-hand with the construction of publics, and have a significant place in future discourse.

20190128

SOW Blacksmith ed.1 spotted in the wild as a part of a Novation Circuit Sample Set! Some new entries in the Freesound.org comment page on the collection too. Feels really good to see the pack in use!

Ordered parts for a second Lorre-Mill uTone building session (more on that later – Planning to attach the unit to a 42hp blank eurorack panel). Also got parts for a PMFoundations Clock Divider (Eurorack PCB set). I now have an elementary set of modulation tools in the works. I’ll start compiling the units next month. The uTone will likely be build at Oodi. Odered parts from Digi-Key on Friday and they are already in Helsinki!

Saw dance works at Zodiak. Mira Kautto: Station to Station to Station was a faux-one-person-techno-party, framed as a reminiscence of the traces that past performances had left in the dancers body. Laura Jantunen: Talvi  was a monotonous, repetitive and pattern orientated piece. It placed human bodies and abstract electronic patterns on the same plane. I liked the experience of looking at human movement as a pattern but disliked the academic/neutral-tone of the work. For me the performance felt like a display of the concepts of repetition and patterns, rather then an exploration of them. Kaino liked work a lot and their text on the piece is a good read THE CIRCUIT I NEED: TALVI, A CHOREOGRAPHY BY LAURA JANTUNEN  (2019) Kaino Wennerstrand.

Also saw Their Limbs Their Lungs Their Legs at TeaK. I enjoyed the views and read the piece as a post-humanism for kids sort of show. The outer forms of the dancer bodies where changed with various disguises. Some parts were very humorous but it didn’t offer new insight to dance.