20190707

Helka was still in her pyjamas when Frida came to collect her. They ate bilberry pie for breakfast and decided to head for the Pimpelipom-hills. Frida sprinted upstairs to fetch her stuff and Helka begun the meticulous process of testing which of her caps would best match the band-aids in corner of her eye. She settled on the pink one, which showed the band-aid just enough to spark curiosity.

I was drying a piece of timber in the microwave. A slice of birch from Tammisaari which I cut the day before. While cooking it first smells like a damp forest, then like a sauna and towards the end like bread (I guess it’s the sugars in the wood). The bilberries were from the same site as the birch.

Frida returned with a purse and wore brand new white sneakers. She was proud to tell me that they were for her camping trip. Helka got a purse too, a leather one, with a gold magnet to secure the lid. The excess shoulder strap was held in a loop using an hair tie.  They packed phones, cookies and asked to knifes. Helka found the smaller one from Okkos backpack and Frida was happy to get the longer and sharper one, which I keep in the kitchen drawer.

They went outside and I waved at them from the window. Frida strolled around the housing hold company parking lot a few times, showing her new shoes and then they dashed into the woods. There was no conflict, no struggle or grand narrative to refer to. They were just a couple of kids in the woods with knifes in their purses. Detached from history.

20190416

Herbs of Wall Street Vodka

Okko had just started playing Zelda – Link to the Past. I was helping him get pass the hard parts and felt appreciated. My residency was coming to an end and I was driven to do all the small little things I was inspired to do when we arrived. It was a Saturday and after watching Okko play trough the morning, I felt like a bad parent and decided to take him on a quest.

“We are going to collect herbs for a potion” I said. “Just like Zelda”

“Herbs? In Manhattan? Yeah right.”

We swapped trains at Union square and got off at the Wall Street station. Okko acted like he was bored and it was a chilly day, so we went for bagels. I took a brown paper bag from the store for collecting the herbs and attempted to boost morale by telling stories of how the island used to be covered with plants and that a hundred years ago there were 100 000 horses in the city. He concentrated on the bagel. Right outside the shop, we spotted a flower basket decoration which attached to street light.

“Just like Zelda”. I celebrated.

“You can’t even reach them.” Okko replied.

I spotted an second basket closer to ground level but it turned out that flowers were plastic. I kept ranting about herbs but Okko remained unimpressed. Tourist flocking to the Charging Bull statue pushed us deeper. They were all queuing to pose under the bulls testicles. Okko was curious but after witnessing the performance repeated identically by the ten first people, we continued on our way. All the people were around the statue which made the streets feel broader.

The first real plant we spotted was around the corner, a common holly. It was a big bush planted in an ornamented vase which read 1692. It was high, next to a buildings entry and I had to reach for the leaves. Okko was embarrassed and didn’t want people to see me messing with the plant. From the stairs I spotted a white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) which I know contains a lot of vitamin C.

Okkos confidence grew, he mentioned how in Zelda the player has to hack their way trough bushes to claim diamonds. He spotted an aronia close to the cedar. We didn’t mind the other tourists anymore and headed to the gigantic christmas tree in front of the stock exchange. The heat of the city and sunlight reflecting from the skyscraper windows had disturbed the spruces senses. Some parts of it were drying out and others developing fresh needles. Right as we stood under it a very small branch fell off and landed on our feet.

We returned the Charging Bull and took a spin around the small park behind it. As a highlight of the trip we spotted chives, which perhaps was planted by the occupy campers or maybe escaped from a billionaires salad. We tasted it and smiled. I packed all the herbs and we headed to back to Brooklyn. I crammed the best parts into two vodka bottles. The other was a gift Honza. I prepared them as his son Gilbert played Zelda with Okko.

“Can we have a taste?” Gilbert asked. Okko smirked.

I sampled the vodka in two weeks, after it’s colour had changed. It tastes good. We tried it out it with friends two months later, after we returned to Helsinki and I’m having a taste as I write this. It smells faintly like resin, it is spiky but with an earthy tone. Like freshly cut grass. The taste has a hint of garlic and there is a hue of sourness to it. It improves my HP by 50.

20190203

Gigantic advertisement screens feel offbeat in Helsinki. I just witnessed the giga-screen of Musiikkitalo blasting adds against the gray Kiasma walls. One cyclist passed their confrontation in the rain, leaving the remaining snow glimmering alone in neon colors. Amos Rex mega-screen illuminated the entire empty plaza.

Below is an extract from an interview of Agnes Denes, conducted om the 5th of Oct. 2018 at the artists studio in Manhattan. I transcribed the 48m interview yesterday on the artists demand.

Agnes Denes: My poetry became haikus. Because the language was a restriction, so the haiku was an.. Well, not easier mode of expression, because it had restrictions but I wrote many haikus and then I buried them.

Johannes Heldėn: ..as a part of the Rice bur..

A: I buried all the writings and I tried desperately to remember my haikus because they were beautiful but I kept no copies. I wanted to divest myself of something that I loved, to get something back from soil.

J: That’s very beautiful.

A: I wanted to give it, to get. And there was one haiku I tried to remember.. And I can’t.. But I can tell you what it was. I was sitting in a fog, next to water and the fog descended on top of the water. And a mosquito landed on my arm and the haiku was that, the mosquito knew it’s platform but I lost mine.

J: Oh, that’s beautiful. I love it.

A: Isn’t that gorgeous?

J: It is!

A: And I can’t remember it, the haiku.

J: To be honest, when you are describing it like this and there is also the idea of the haiku but we can’t hear it, I think that makes it even more beautiful.

A: The mosquito knew my skin was its platform but I lost mine, because the fog descended on the water.

J: The haiku is lost, there is a beauty to that too

Eero Yli-Vakkuri: I’m now thinking about the Tree Mountain, there is this strong scent of death, somehow in this work. A feeling of getting lost, somehow. Am I interpreting it correctly, that there is like a sense of.. A sorrow of death?

A: Of what?

E: Of death.

A: What’s the word?

E: Death.

A: Death, like dead death, like as in died?

E: Yes.

A: So how does that come into this?

E: I don’t know it came to mind when you were talking about that haiku. Sort of these forgotten memories.

A: Oh, the giving things up.

E: Putting.. Stuff to the ground..

A: Jeah. Ok. So, ask the question.

E: There is no question, perhaps. It was a short..

A: There is no question but you want an answer?

[Laughter]

J: That’s a good quote. That’s a pretty good quote.

E: That’s my life.

20190110

Interesting texts about art-formerly-known-as-land-art are popping up. Here is an interview of Alan Michelson (2018) by Christopher Green from last December! I wrote earlier about his video-work “Wolf Nation” (2018) which is discussed in the interview.

MICHELSON: […] I am interested in Robert Smithson’s idea of site and nonsite. But applied to an Indigenous framework, you could say that the Indigenous site is almost always a nonsite, an abstraction or documentary representation of a site that may no longer exist, like the pond in Earth’s Eye or our villages in what is now Upstate New York. So the dialectic between the absence and the presence of whatever is there now has a critical edge to it. […]

How Michelson speaks of the nonsite reminds me a lot about the performance “All Visible Directions Between Sky and Water” by artist Maria Hupfield and poet Natalie Diaz at The Vera List Center for Art and Politics. Diaz made a strong argument that as the Indigenous peoples of America were forced out of their land, their bodies became a site trough which their culture was manifested. Their bodies became equivalent to land! The performance felt like a group consultation session which aimed to problematize categories trough which we experience land. First they drew an endless spatial horizon by reciting questions that referred to the differences between water and air: “Is this water?” “Is this air” they asked and performed a pair-dance, in which they experimented with the distances and arrangements of their hands. The audience was also invited to join. Then Diaz gave a shot lecture that experimented with written language structures as visual, faux-logical patterns. After this Hupfield asked people for stories about water. Many of the speakers were Indigenous and their stories referred to mythologies and believes. Hupfield asked me for a story too.. At the spot I only had a silly personal story to share, which showed how superficial my relation to land is. I felt unconformable. The event did not offer any answers (for me). Which is very good… If we would knew all the answers what would be the point in gathering?

After the event I remember a good story about water (which I send to Hupfield over email):

My friends Topi and Nestori bought a sailboat on a whim. It was very cheep and they spend two summers fixing it up. Neither of them were experienced sailors, so at first they took courses and made small trips in the archipelago. Eventually they developed courage and went on a long trip from Helsinki to Stockholm. There are a lot of boats on the lane and it’s a well documented route – It goes from a small island to the next. They reached Stockholm safely, felt very confident about themselves, had a night out at the town and started their trip home the next morning.

Midway their return trip a pea-soup fog appeared. They only had the visibility of the length of the boat, which meant that they had to rely on sparse boat lane beacons blinking lights, a nautical chart and sounds for navigation. They took turns at the bow of their small boat and tried to listen for other boats and the movements of the water. When there is no wind one can quite very far, but you can hear echoes reflected from the islands shores too. You even might hear your own boat reflected from the distance. They were not moving fast but a collision with a bigger boat or a ship would have been bad. To keep focus they kept completely silent for the day and took turns at the bow, while the other steered the boat.

Topi told me that during that trip, they developed an appetite for the truth. If they would have altered their course on a false assumptions, they would have gotten lost, possibly wondered to the wrong lane and got into a collision with an other boat or an islet. He also told me the most paranoid part of the experience was that, it’s possible all of the other people sailing on their boats were trying to navigate based on sounds too. Which meant that everyone kept silent and collisions were even more possible! When he told me about it we started laughing: If everybody is silently looking for the truth, nobody is safe!

Maintaining Good Relations: Starting From Zero (2017) is a live radio show by Native Art Department International (Maria Hupfield & Jason Lujan). In this episode they discuss the recent trend of cultural organizations starting their public events by acknowledging, that the land the organization stands has been forcefully claimed from the indigenous people. Land acknowledgements are often followed with a moment of silence. Lujan asks what would happen if audiences would respond to the acknowledgements with cheers and applauds (I think I heard applauds after an acknowledgement at an event at the New School). I think cheers are very good response, they indicate that the issue is still vibrant and that every acknowledgement is a step forwards (not backwards).

Without Us There Is No You: A Conversation at Artists Space (2017). Brian Droitcour interview Hupfield, Lujan & Jessica L. Horton about a screening they put together as a response to the protests against the Dakota Access Pipelines near the Standing Rock Reservation.

How Whiteness Works: The Racial Imaginary Institute at the Kitchen (2018) Lou Cornum. A review of an exhibition.

On a huge screen in the main gallery plays “There Is No Then and Now; Only Is and Is Not” (2018) by Native Art Department International, a video that enigmatically evokes the slips between colonial time and being. Dennis Redmoon Darkeem, an artist and member of the Yamassee Yat’siminoli tribe, dances in his powwow regalia and, in large blocks of text that interrupt the footage, comments on his frustrations with being obscured as a black Indigenous man under the current racial and visual regime. The video’s central position in the exhibition was fitting: here in the entanglements of black and Indigenous identities lies the narrative of modernity in the Americas, the creation of categories by a supposedly transparent and self-determining group of European subjects.

20190107

How to shoot a video while you are riding a horse?

When you film while riding, the footage is bound to be shaky. When you ride a horse your body movements are controlled by an other being. The film industry has a lot of specialized tools and techniques to make the act of riding appear what they imagine it to be. They use cranes and drones to follow a rider, shoot footage using camera stabilization tools and even engineer fake-horses.

Working with real animals is costly. Companies often have to employ a herd to portray an individual. The pig in the movie Babe (1995) was portrayed by 48 different animals. Using multiple pigs guaranteed that a compliant, pretty and healthy animal was constantly on set. What were the rest to pigs doing, when one of them was at the set? Did they become friends? Did they think that they all look the same?

Robots are more compliant than animals. The film industry has learned to build mechanized horses. Mechanized animal hulls are designed to look convincing from a specific camera angle, but might miss the rest of their body. To can move their ears and eyes and are fitted with micro-controllers and servos under their silicone skin. I bet the inner-mechanics of these puppets get repurposed. One day the automatized servos fake the liveliness of a horse, the next week they are used to animate a partial robot cow or an alien.

There is a growing variety of camera stabilization devices available. Stabilizing components can be build inside the lens or the camera. They try to balance the frame based on the devices orientation to the ground. I guess they use gravity as a reference. This means that all footage shot with lens or with in camera stabilization is geologically orientated. This means that subjects they portray are oriented to gravity.

Another way of stabilizing video footage is to use software to read the stream of images and to re-render it frame by frame. An algorithm interprets what it sees and reframes the footage accordingly. It’s interesting to see this kind of image, because you get to see how the algorithm interprets movement. What are you portraying trough this kind of material? Speculative choreography?

Anyway you look at it the camera will get in the way and fiddling with the settings takes time from interacting with the animal. Real riders shoot it rough: Riding in the Bronx (2018)