Vladivostok was the capital of pirates and brand cannibals. People looked stylish and the city center felt energetic. There was a pedestrian boulevard for tourists with Asian food novelties and gift shops. Visitors were from South-Korea and there was a lot of them. The city revealed itself as the South-Korean equivalent of what 2001 Tallinn was for Finns. Dolce, Supreme, weird Japanise sneakers with self illuminating laces. Referencing construction work and nuclear power. All straight from Chinese factories across the bay. All the goods in open street markets were tainted with a light layer of oil, it was meant to give the vinyl a shine but collected dust.
The cities makings were visible a stroll away from the boulevard. Away from the Kawaii shops, trams raddled like wheelbarrows, the pedestrian paths faded away and broken city heating pipes busted boiled trash fumes across the hilly skyline. Blockhouses like snakes, wrapped around hills as morbid rims. Solidified polyurethane dripping eternally from building seams. Cars moved furiously, using intuitive mutant patterns as lanes, in a choreography which echoed a collective death wish or lust for life. I loved it.
The city made me understand contemporary Russian infrastructure as the decaying corpus of the ex-soviet, presently habituated by a thin layer of privatization. The streets are rubble but people had pretty cars and clean albeit faintly oily Italian shoes.
Our one night show in Zarya felt really nice. The exhibition was more coherent and I enjoyed the videos in the screening more. Total atmospheric mean (2010) by Maija Timonen felt very fitting to the trip. Her analysis of a Shakira music video provided a ground to read styles which women are exhibited in Russian popular medias (that I’ve seen along our route). It has something to do with violent self-objectification and how this renders bodies non-penetrable and non-cavityish. I had some technical difficulties but apparently the audience didn’t notice any. My statue-stretch-poses were perfectly vague and I used my grandfathers voice as an underground cavern. It was porous and missing limbs. A line of men cued to have a taste of the water I prepared.
We are now on route to Moscow. Elina is working with a canvas for a text, photo, etc. piece. She’ll use the train and it’s movement trough the continent as a display. What I know of the work so far makes me think of our group as an Alkovi gallery in motion. Katja managed to aquire her more canvas material. The canvases will be delivered to a station stop on the way! Iona is working on her notes and Miina is reading. I’ll boot up my eurorack after Khabarovsk and attempt to link it to the train using piezos. I’ll also record noises and ambients of the trip.
We’ve been on a train for three or four days crossing four of five timezones. Arttu bought an extension-cord from Moscow which we’ve used to claim control over the train corridor electricity sockets. With it we’ve recharged our mobile devices, boom boxes and last night I used it to power my modular. As I was preparing for Saturdays gigs a lady passed asking: “Perpertum Mobile?”. I didn’t understand what she was asking and replied “Techno” (I’ve used the same reply during train security checks). Saturday will be my most complicated modular synth set to date, I’ll use samples and attempt to make electro-acoustic grooves live (D-2 in Karplus mode, C-5 with melodies from my Turing Machine).
Iona has read us train horror stories, we’ve listened to podcasts and made short presentations on various topics. We passed Baikal, endless forests and mountain ranges. Sprinted to shops during short station visits for eggs and pastries. We’ve learned to bathe in the toilets in an upright position, pouring warm water from plastic flasks which are mangled in the hot water. Some conflicts in the group seem brewing. Nothing serious.. I occasionally feel my pride clogging my perception and notice my nervous macho-chatter disturbing folk engaged in each other, views or reading. At our best we operate extremely politely. People have begun to ask permissions to enter discussions others are having and intentionally not-talking when others are concentrating.
Right now we are above Mongolia and Katja spotted a white horse on the north side of the track. It was the same mere which produced the fermented milk in Kazan. Working on the train is difficult due to the comforting motion trance (the soothing tremors of the tracks and infra-deep hums). Social causes are also to blame for the observable non-focus. We are learning about each other indirectly, though subtle ques which require time to spot and using energy for this labor is way more rewarding then fixating on art.
I believe that if repeated methodologically, this practice (moving in a train as a group of artists) could inform our praxises by building into a holistic cosmology of inside jokes and theories, which could be identified across our work. This ethos could build into a creative robustness. At present I can identify possibilities for this shift but I think we would need to expose our practices more to make this experience transformative. Becoming pourus is laborsome. The transformativity I imagine, is not radical or violent.. It’s subtle, like the taste of cucumber but persistent like the oder of sweat in clothes washed in the sink.
I’m preparing for a month lon trip to Russia. The Alkovi “In Various Stages of Ruins” -group includes (2018-19): Elina Vainio, Matti Kunttu, Iona Rosin and Katja Kalinainen. The project is organized by Arttu Merimaa & Miina Hujala. Other artists from Finland will also join in on different segments of the trip and their works will be presented in screenings / exhibitions on the way. The train from Helsinki leaves 2.9. I’ll give a presentation on mineral waters at Fabrika (Moscow) on 4.9 and later in Vladivostok. During the trip we’ll visit Ekaterinburg for the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art and Novosibirsk. I won’t have access to the internet on the train but I plan to write posts, which I’ll publish en masse once I get to a wifi.
The performances I’ll present illustrate how mineral waters are formed as rain passes through the soil and how different waters affect our bodies. The characteristics of different waters will be explored using electronic gadgets, anecdotes and by preparing a batch of mineral water for consumption. I’ve build a eurorack module for the occasion. It is a Simple EQ / Baxandall EQ module, which I’ve made as a trough hole unit and modified by adding switches and female pin headers, so that I can swap capacitors used in the original circuit.
I’ve build capacitors which use mineral water as the conductive material and plastic balloons as the non-conducting substance (dielectric). The capacitors have different architectures and shapes: A component which is made from a balloon (filled with 10ml water) inside a balloon (filled with 10ml water), shows as a ~3000pf capacitor. A component which is constructed from a balloon (filled with 10ml water and 10g copper) and a jar (with 20ml water), shows as a 12nf capacitor if its charged with a 9v battery for 10 sek. A component which has two spiraling compartments, shows as a 40pf cap. etc. Measurements vary and I guess the capacitance changes over time as the electrolytes in the salty water run out.
The EQ’s treble setting shows a notable difference when a capacitor is swapped. Unfortunately the change in the nature of audio passed trough the circuit is non-spectacular (my water capacitors behave as normal capacitors). But it is intriguing to use water as an electronic component! I’ve also build a nifty eurorack case for the trip (I’ll share the design later). The 84hp skiff has laser-engraved Byzantine ornaments and maps form our groups previous trips to Russia. The inside of the case lid shows module schematics (for debugging) and a manual for the Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 unit. The case also has pictures from different water based parasites a illustrations. I’ll laser cut the panels for the module tomorrow. The panels also have inserts for the 4,45mm jars I use for the water caps.
Participated on my second Russian excursion with the Alkovi “In Various Stages of Ruins” -group (2018-19): Elina Vainio, Matti Kunttu, Iona Rosin, Jussi Kivi and Katja Kalinainen. The project and the trip are organized by Arttu Merimaa & Miina Hujala. This is a raw list of events.
- We visited Lappeenranta South Karelia Museum and South Karelia Art Museum: Saw a really cool looking hoody by the Hanti-Mansia folk, a painting of a Saimaa canal fell off the wall
- Jussi took us to chalk quarries, there was an emergency rescue personnel fire training facility on site
- Swam in Saimaa and tasted the water of Huhtiniemi spring (no taste, cold)
- We headed to Vyborg with MS Carelia
- Spotted underwater “putin-face-altars” on canal wall with Elina
- We walked across a train-track bridge and identified semiotic-deconstruction: Some columns of an old bridge were dismantled and others left standing – To signify that work to dismantle the bridge is on its way
- Vyborg suburbs are pretty and full of fences which guard vacant stripes of land. Some fences also guard fences
- Visited Monrepos-park: Picturesque wooden faux-temple on a hill, endless reconstruction work, a caste on a hill (felt jealous about others discovering graves on a sea shore hill)
- Our groups organization resembled fermented milk (viili): We stretched into a thin line, individuals swapped between lumps (also unintentionally, when a shoelace came undone etc.) and bounced back together
- Stayed in Hotel Druzhba
- We visited Vyborg castle, the tower renovation was complete and we got a tour to the top: Dropped a 1000 rubles bill between the tower ceiling structures, the group came to my aid and we build a variety of tools to retrieve the money (Elina: This is a team building exercise! Maybe art is)
- We spotted a mineral water display in the castle exhibition
- We roamed around the old fortifications around the Avangard-Stadion: Visited a toxic cave and a gunpowder storage
- Jussi announced the concept of Non-View (designating views that are difficult to describe trough present aesthetic standards) and prompted us to make a publication around the concept (before leaving to Helsinki)
- A chauffeur drove us to Kurkijoki: We stayed at the Lars Sonck House Museum (we got really good introduction to the place by Nikita), at sunset we headed to a hill in the town center (felt like 3000 bc)
- We identified semiotic-reconstruction: A plastered wall in the Lars Sonck house was spay painted with wild ornaments (asemic writing), so that it would align with the wall with the ornaments found in the rooms wallpapers and window curtains
- Spotted Finnish travelers in town: “This is the place I feel most at home. Cuckoo sings”. They detailed.
- We visited a local-culture museum in Kurkijoki: Some exhibition displays and cabinets were filled with objects from different eras (they were organized by their shapes and sizes), touched a mammoth bone
- The museum guide gave us a tip to visit a local spring, she described the it as a “silver spring” and drew us a beautiful map
- The spring is located on a hill behind the library, Arttu spotted a path which took us to a humble spring-well: Water tasted great, I carbonated a batch too
- Flag of the Republic of Karelia next at a town monument was bigger in size then the Russian flag
- We took a buss to Käkisalmi: Stayed at the Park Hotel Kapitan Morgan (sauna was not working properly), took a dip in Laatokka
- Made various electronic experiments with the water: 3,3v square wave signal was passed trough and a diy electroslush (LOM) used to listen to water, the returning signal was amplified with a lm386 and played trough a bone conduction speaker. The conductivity of different waters was similar.
- A chauffeur drove us to spring close to Kluchevaya. I had spotted the site from the mineralwaters.geo.uu.nl service (link)
- Finding the spring was challenging: We drove for three hours and then headed deep into the woods (saw a grave and house ruins), after a 20 min walk, a path was discovered which led us the spring origins, water tasted great. The chauffeur smiled for the first time when he was offered a taste.
- We spotted Ludvig Nobels well and took a taste of it too: The terms “Wild Waters” and “Untapped Waters” were coined
- We headed back to Vyborg (stayed at Hotel Vyborg): Iona showed a video she has been working on related to Monrepos-park, Karelia-nostalgia and geohistorical estrangement (my interpretation)
- We had dinner close to the hotel. Castle tour guide Vital was in the bar with a friend Misha and we banded to watch sports. Vital provided a thorough lecture on the history of the castle
- Elina took us to ruins close to the railroad bridge and installed a sentence she had been working on during the trip on tree branches
- We left for Helsinki on the train. On route we had a blind-water tasting: Kurkijoki spring water was rated the best
Vyborg water-voyages, spring and well water tasting etiquette (draft): The person who has called for the quest of the spring will taste the water first, so that its quality and drinkability can be assessed. Group members should not be pressured to taste the water but everyone should be offered a sip from a clean cup.