Learning about choreographer Jérôme Bel after Pilvi’s recommendation (The Kettlebell Choreography I guided for her at NPTurku entitled me to call myself a choreographer, so I have to learn the ropes). “Step-by-step guide to dance: JB” on the Guardian gives an overview of his practice and in a lecture “About ‘The Last Performance’ (1998) 1-4” the artist discusses the development of his “The Last Performance” piece from 1998 in detail. The themes of sampling and recycling as a basis of artistic production (or un-production) are appealing and I comply with his thinking. In an other short video were he talks about his practice “Rehearsal Matters interview with JB” he comes off as a rigid and flamboyant artist persona. I don’t agree with his definition of improvisation being “an attempt to free oneself”. I’ve always seen improvisation as a tool to illustrate the confinements we forced to comply with: Improvisation is about articulating confinements and vocalising the ideological positions sites/situations encapsulate us into. Trough improvisation we can see the boundaries of the working body. His rigid view on improvisation is in alignment with conservative and craft orientated mindsets of orthodox-artist, who search for a canonised and mystical order trough styles and beats (I’ve come to understand that Hip-Hop is a conservative cultural movement. Sampling is a form of prayer).
Copying what others have done can be the most effective way to make something new. #ॐ
Stuck in Turku. Waiting for a technician to let me in the Tehdas-theater space so that I can fetch my kettlebells and synths. Went for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Asked the bartender for the menu. He begged me not to order food as the oven takes so long to warm up. He suggested that I buy a microwave meal from the nearby shop, so he could warm it for me in the micro. A novel way to eat out.
New Performance Turku events went well. The tone of the performances I saw was “uniform serious performance art”. Alejandra Herrera Silva presented “The Water” at Titanik Gallery. She stripped, broke vine glasses, bled and got drunk. John Court pushed enormous wooden cylinders around a school courtyard making a monument for dyslexia. Alexander del Re’s piece was about indirect gazes and indirect ways of approaching others (using mirrors) but I only saw the end of the piece. He had invited Salla Valle to collaborate in it (I remember her performing at an uplifting Là-bas event). Mark Harvey presented a humorous piece at the Turku Castle. He acted as the king and motivated the audience to rebuild the Kalmar Union.
The evening with Pilvi Porkola went reasonably well. I was nervous about my contribution and failed to follow the piece in full detail. She baked, dyed her hair, told short stories about her life and prepared the space. I was invited on stage midway the act and introduced myself as a choreographer. We made a series of kettlebell warm up exercises and after this she continued baking and chatting casually with the audience. When she went off stage to wash the dye of her hair Mark was invited to entertain people and I served as a sports commentator for his dance act (Ray Langenbach complement the blunt taunting commentary). As she returned, Antti Manninen was invited to talk with the audience and gradually the piece converted into a faux house party.
The artwork casted a critical view on the structures and conventions of performance art. Pilvi made the efforts of durational and endurance demanding performances vein by illustrating how difficult it is to perform everyday tasks like putting your socks on while standing on one feet or chatting casually while cooking. A highlight of the piece was when she made microwave popcorn. Jesse Sipola made a surprise appearance during the party phase as a DJ and we ended the night drink Ferned Branka at the Monk. I didn’t get the opportunity to chat with other performers at the festival. I missed some pieces I wanted to see.
Saw the “Legend of the Small Bone 2” (Legenda pienestä luusta) at the Turku Cathedral yesterday, which was co-directed by Susanna Airaksinen. The play by Kolmas tila company used the church space fluidly and the play’s structure and dialogue succeeded in building a feel for how early cartographers and scientific thinkers saw the world. The play was focused on the story of Muhammad al-Idrisi. The act of acting was frustrating to witness and the piece didn’t discuss issues concerning non-human as it was marketed. The actors wore 80ties style hairpieces and glamrock style makeups but were extremely serious about their postures. The church setting stripped the play of it’s potential for critique and dialogue. As a result the mid show dance acts came off as faux-rituals.
After the play I attended a Chile themed performance night of the New Performance Turku festival. Saw Cristóbal Yáñez Lanzarini: “Back to the Tre” a sort of depiction of his (possibly struggling) love life and the universality of love. After that there was performance by Señoritaugarte: “El grito decolonial”, a cry for the inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seeker by Finland (A short search turned up an interesting New Maternalisms project she’s been involved with). The evening ended with Alexander del Re: “Phobia # 131/367” which was a slowly building self harming piece about his fear of crying (illustrated by melting ice). Currently preparing for my Pilvi Porkola kettlebell choreography intervention.
Dancer Matilda Aaltonen invited me to serve as her “mentor” in the Theater Academy Helsinki’s dance departments mentor program. The arrangement is intended to be a light and flexible relation between a student and an artist the student chooses. There is no official structure for the relationship, we can contact each other and invite each other to see shows or to talk about art. The arrangement was explained as a “mentor-light” version by one of the programs organizers. I met Matilda trough the “Horse and Performance” course we organized for the academy.
I attended a mentor-night yesterday and we had a nice chat about the differences in performance art and contemporary dance. To recap some drafty ideas we talked about:
- Dancers can find cues for their actions from within and validate their intuitions by practicing with a group. The performance artist is guided by the gazes of the audience and the structure of the site.
- Performance artists limit their exposure to what motivates them in order to approach it with out presumptions. Dancers practice and study the cues that motivate their actions rigorously before presenting artworks.
The mentor program offers me the possibility to learn more about contemporary dance and to further these enquiries. I asked Matilda to send me some articles which could help me understand dance.
I’m currently on a bus, returning from the New Performance Turku opening celebrations. I assisted Mark Harvey an artist from New Zealand with his “Playbook” book launch performance. Mark wanted people to smear his face with paint and invited them to hit him on the face with the books blank cover. He called the performance “Bookface”. The paint smudge served as the cover art. People got the book after the act.
Brought my kettlebells to Turku in preparation for the Saturday events which Pilvi Porkola is hosting. Carrying two of kettlebells from Caribia spa to the TEHDAS theater space was painful. There was alot of people at Kutomo and it was a pity to leave so soon. I chatted with Ray Langenbach and Antti Manninen for a while. There was alot of young people in the audience.