20220727

Met with almost all of the habitants of the Degermossa road, the route leading to the Kurängen spring. There was a sense of community and all the occupants had good things to say of their neighbours. Their biggest collective effort seems to be the road maintenance cooperative. An occupant whose grandparents had built the road with the aid of horses, still lives on the site. I spend a few night camping in the forest, habiting a hammock and exploring the area. There is a beautiful cold pond a kilometre north-east from the spring, traces of old paths and endless dark woods. I could hear the east passage cars all the time, so navigation was easy. The spring looks good, I spotted frogs again but the peat I planted last year as a part of my restoration efforts is dying. Only a fraction of it shows signs of life and I think I should remove the unsuccessful re-swampification plants to make room for new growth.

I travelled from door to door and interviewed almost 10 families who live on the road. One of the oldest occupants had lived in their house for 55 years, the youngest had moved in 2016 and new occupants were arriving next month. Some were third generation natives. Most told me that they enjoy the proximity of the woods and perhaps because the forest is literary their backyards, they put in effort to emphasize that there isn’t anything miraculous about it. They collect berries and mushrooms. Some had spotted deer, pug dogs, rare birds and their nests, snakes and rabbits. A few knew members of a local hunting group but none I interviewed took part in it. A few years ago a moose had been tracked north from the road. There are also rare cape frogs [viitasammakko] living in an artificial pond by the road. The pond is marked with a read V. It was made in the fifties by the fire department.

Some told about a bear sighting in 2017 after which they had been cautions of the woods. One confessed that they don’t dare visit the forest alone and that they never had gone past the swamp by themselves. There were rumours of wolves too.

To my surprise: None knew about the spring! One occupant had possibly heard a rumour of it but they had never visited the site or had any idea which direction it would be in. I invited them all to visit the spring with me in the framework of Nomadhouse late in September. As it will be a new site for them, it makes sense to invite the occupants there. I will now have to plan how non-Degermossa road audiences (or if) will join the performance.

I’m dreaming of organizing a camping excursion, perhaps inviting five audience members to spend the night with me in the forest. Cycling to the site from Mellunmäki takes one hour and the route is easy. One occupant, who didn’t know about the spring expressed a desire to keep it a secret so that tourists would not block the road. I think this would make sense and on an earlier visit Miina also expressed interest in keeping the site unknown! I should take visitors to the site blindfolded or intoxicated. I asked the habitats for permission to place the clay vessel I made into the spring, so that visitors could use it and everyone though it was a nice idea. Weird fun!

As none of the habitants, some of whom had family contacts with the forest spanning over a hundred years, had any prior knowledge of the spring… I wonder if the spring exists. Assessing the terrain, I’ve suspected that the spring has been the eye of the swamp before a nearby ditch, piercing the small glen, was dug. The spring might be a by-product of a forest industrialization attempt. If I read the terrain right it was dug to dry the forest and to better enable tree growth. The Sipoonkorpi wikipedia article explains that some parts of the forest have been cut to supply wood for the Suomenlinna fortification (by order of Nicholas II) but I suspect that the ditch has been made after 50ties.

20220613

Our experimental clay workshop was a hit and we succeeded in most of the goals we had assigned ourselves. On the first day there were 21 attendees and around 15 members took part in the burning the following day. Some came only for the kiln building and clay collecting, while others were more interested in the burning and the surplus-metal-work. Some members had assigned themselves as mere observers. We developed the workshop program very fast and were fortunate that our open call appealed to a very skilled set attendees. Some were knowledgeable of ceramics and experienced in construction work. The flow of events mirrored our previous trips to Kurängen spring and our efforts to work with the clay we collected from there. The burning process replicated the events of our first kiln building session but this kiln was built with more precision using mud cement to secure the bricks. The chamber where clay objects were placed was bigger then previously.

The program structure was easy to decide on, as the labour chores we needed to perform in order to built the kiln and process the clay, were well defined and simple. Preparing materials such as the mud cement and reclaiming the bricks, was demanding but the actual work did not require intricate or specialized skills. Mud is an educative technology #ॐ. The materials afforded improvisation and the development of makeshift tools. The attendees were divided into sub-groups based on their interests (kiln building, clay collecting & cleaning and Vartiosaari island strolls) which occasionally self organized to complete chores. I served mostly as a supervisor of the kiln building process, overseeing the hive of attendees assembling it.

The layout of the kiln was based on the affordances of the bricks. I think the geometry of the bricks had a stronger impact on the design then our desires. The kiln was made by the bricks. I think we all wanted to work with mud, bricks and heat and this guided our work. Before building we disassembled the previous kiln, which gave the group a good idea on how the new unit could be constructed.

The burning took place the following day. The temperatures inside the kiln chamber were uneven. A corner of it was overheated which lead to to clay melting and the opposing side was cold. None of our ash glazing experiments succeeded, which indicates that we did not reach a temperature above 1170°C. I think we were close because some objects with ash glazing had almost a glazing like surface. Sadly none of the object I made from the Kurängen clay showed any persistent glazing effects. A vase I made, which I intend to place inside the Kurängen spring for visitors to use, feels solid and looks great. I now prefer that the spring water will penetrate the earthenware object and that it comes a part of the spring ecology. Perhaps in time it will better document the taste of the water it will be submerged in. I will continue working with it as a part of the Nomadhouse-program.

I’m not a teacher by trade but I have strong ambitions regarding collective work and how collective labour efforts should be organized. I prefer to know how materials behave and what to expect from them before engaging. When working with wood (which I know a bit), this affords me the opportunity to guide attendees out of their comfort zone and to engage with tools or processes which they fear. I count a child using a power-tool as a success. I particularly remember a workshop where I showed a shy member how to use a dozuki saw. In the process I guided their hand and I remember that this physical contact activated something in our relationship. I knew how to touch them in a manner by which they could saw a block of wood with at ease, while maintaining and even expanding their personal agency. It was a gentle touch.

Laying bricks and preparing clay cement, required the adaptation of new skill sets and material knowledges. Because I was personally out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t reach out to the attendees as sensitively as I would have liked. The burning ended up being a show rather then a collective achievement. Similarly some processes of the kiln building felt deceitful. I was physically exhausted from the work, internally second guessing the design while attempting to assist people with masonry work. The stress resulted in situations were I presented my gut feeling as authoritative knowledge.

At times, this authoritative tone was needed to steer the processes, so that we could meet the schedules and facilitate the work cycles other sub-groups. But the tone does not emancipate the attendees. Rather it enforces pre-existing biases and hinders the attendees eagerness to engage with crafts & materials. Hence, material engagement with the environment, remains a matter of specialization and it does not emerge as a process which benefits from personal grounded stances and motivations. Personal, grounded stances should be the foundation of new mineral sciences.

This is sort of what Joreen writes in The Tyranny of Stuctureless (1970), mentioned earlier: The work was personified and the flow of events depended on our charisma. Our skills became embodied as the infrastructure of the kiln but we failed to include the skill sets of the group in it.

Fortunately my crafty blabbers, nervous laughters and the contradictory guidelines revealed the de-stability of my masonry & ceramic skills. I think the attendees mostly called my bluff and will build much better kilns in the future. Still, it would have been more fun and more rewarding to work from a more based position, to facilitate and not only to perform. Also, I don’t know what Elina and Monika were doing or how they felt during the two intensive days (and the four intensive days of preparation). We were all exited and happy with the results but it will require an intricate debriefing to set a trajectory to usher the experimental clay initiative forwards.

Towards new sciences!

20211026

Visited the Helsinki Performance Art Symposium at Mad House over the weekend. A nice line-up and big audience. If aliens would have abducted the guests, organizers and artists, Finland would have lost 30% of its performance core. I witnessed presentations from the usual suspects and artists such as Maija Kivi and Heikki Mäntymaa whose work I hadn’t seen before. Kivi presented a self-soiling striptease act – I danced a long but started feeling uncomfortable towards the end. It was emotional to see Joonas Jokiranta perform, I don’t think I’ve seem them in 15 years. Tomasz Szrama presented a long, rude and fun piece, were they deployed a large chunk of the audience as counterweights and other supports for their actions. Irma Optimistis lecture was great. Exactly of what is expected from her but this time it felt more intriguing. I think I’ve grown an appetite for slowly evolving, repetitive performances with subtle visual cues and references to art history.

Their work made me think very critically of past lecture performances I’ve seen (and performed). It felt like Optimisti had internalized the theoretical aspects of the knowledge they worked with and instead of illustrating Wikipedia entries or offering a laypersons science presentation: They build an argument on how knowledge of the world is made and worked with the revelation using their body. It was an experiment, not a presentation. The work made me think of John Ó Maoilearcas writing on François Laurell. I haven’t read much of them but I think I get the point of the optics and directionality or hierarchy of knowledge: Optimisti was not looking to scientific conventions of presenting the world as something they aspired towards, they were looking at the methods of science trough art. Their presentation was of the world.

Successfully build the RYO Paths unit after receiving the Fairchild transistors. The Fairchild FJN3303R Delivery initiative is active and I’ve started launching it in incrementally.

20200831

Visited the Kurängen spring area (~60.2885,25.2120) and collected a few liters of water. We couldn’t locate a wooden edge-structure mentioned in the Helsingin … julkaisuja 17/2013 survey (pg.8) but there were a lot of clean ponds and some build structures in the area we explored. A knee high π shaped marker stood still in a dry pond. It had been assembled using Torx screws which dates the structure to later then ~2010 . A big pond close by offered the cleanest water we could find. It was odorless and had a yellowish hue. In a taste test (compared to Faux S.Pellegrino & tap water) the Kurängen water had a mellow tone which is possibly due to iron in the soil (alkaline?). Comparing the color of tap water with a glass of Kurängen is like comparing a 5000k lamp to 2700k lamp. Tap water looks sterile. I’m hoping to use the Kurängen water in upcoming mineral water performances in Helsinki (Mad House & Kiasma esitys_nyt). The https://kartta.hel.fi/ city map service service shows multiple “water holes” and “basins” in the region. The service uses ┴ symbol for water holes (Ascii code 193). There are two interesting sites to explore further 60.286063, 25.206394  and the other is deeper in the forest 60.287891, 25.204271 (I think this is the area we visited).

20191025

Visited Monstera by Essi Kausalainen at Mad House. I liked the performance and particularly enjoyed a minimalistic stepping dance the performers executed towards the end of the show. It felt like a simplified version of cicapo or some other court dance. Perhaps something enjoyed by Carl Linnaeus in the ballrooms of his era. Linnaeus’ work in starting the modern system of naming organisms had inspired the performance and he was heavily present in a séance-like segment before the dance. In a talk before the show Kausalainen pondered if the act of naming a thing could be read as an attempt to show affection towards it. The step-dance also reminded me of compulsory or involuntary movements people perform when idling (while waiting for a bus etc). The dance informed me of a vegetative movement or motion, which is possibly intrinsic to all living things. The practice of the performers felt like an amplification of this auto-movement and when performed collectively by the group, it felt like a method of building solidarity trough the lowest common nominator (which for me is idling).

Etched and build a Bastl Skis Expander 1u and assembled a Lite2Sound PX unit by Rare Waves. I want to send audio across space using leds and laser beams. Tested it yesterday sending audio form my Disting Mk4 using a bipolar led thing I build and it works well. I’m looking for a red laser which I can use to draw on material surfaces, so that the Lite2Sound converts the shapes of the surface to sound (much like a vinyl needle). I want to hear textures. I used a fee from a wedding gig (manufactured mineral waters, read poetry and served as a bartender) to acquire a spring tank (Accutronics 9EB2C1B) and I’m making made a 1u expanded for the Spring Reverb mkII.

What does sending audio in a laser beam trough parkling water, spatialized by a spring reverb (which feedback agitates the water) sound like? What will the surface of a slab of wood sound like when played like a vinyl? Do grooves of bark sound what they feel like?