Ruukku #11 is published!

 

 

Ruukku #11 is published! Contributors for this issue are Stephen Bain, Mieko Kanno, Anu Vehviläinen, Elisabeth Belgrano, Elina Seye, Lea Kantonen, Pekka Kantonen, Hanna Järvinen, Pilvi Porkola, Tero Nauha and Annette Arlander.

“In the research project How to do things with performance, we have focused on performance in a broad sense. Although performance is mostly understood in a broad sense as a “doing”, there is a tendency to hark back to the colloquial uses of the word associating to performing arts, and the idea of “showing doing”. This is also the way performance is understood by many of the contributors to in this issue. We want to emphasize a wider understanding of performance as a process, and thus also a more-than-human activity.” Read the full editorial here

Thank you for joining with us at Publics for the launch!

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Residenssissä Ateenassa

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Vietin huhtikuun Ateenassa, Suomen Ateenan-instituutin säätiön residenssissä. Alkukuusta asunnossa majaili myös kollegani Salla Salin, jonka kanssa suunnittelimme tulevaa projektiamme ”Riisinjyvä ja vähän pölyä” (tulossa v. 2020). Kiertelimme museoita ja nähtävyyksiä ja pohdimme niiden materiaalisuutta. Miksi joku ruukun palanen on arvokkaampi kuin toinen? Mitä vitriiniin asettaminen kertoo esineen arvostuksesta? Miten esineestä tulee jonkun asian symboli?

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Entä miksi matkustaa kirjoittamaan residenssiin? Ensinnäkin siksi, että paikan vaihtaminen tekee ajattelulle hyvää. Kun täytyy miettiä, että minne tämä bussi nyt olikaan menossa tai mistä kaupasta saa gluteenittomia tuotteita, se kaikki tarkoittaa, että täytyy irrottautua arkirutiineista ja ajatella uudelleen. Toiseksi siksi, että vieraassa paikassa voi olla helpompi keskittyä, ei ole samanlaista sosiaalista elämää ja kaikkia niitä menoja, joista muka ei voi kieltäytyä. Työryhmätyöskentelyn kannalta residenssit ovat erityisen arvokkaita, koska vihdoinkin on aikaa olla jonkun asian äärellä vähän kauemmin, vähän hitaammin. No, sähköposti on tietysti aina ja kaikkialla, joten ihan kaikesta ei pääse eristäytymään.

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Kaupungeilla on myös oma tunnelmansa. Aluksi hätkähdin Ateenan rappiota, laudoitettuja ikkunoita ja kaikkialle yltävää graffitien kirjoa. En ole käynyt Ateenassa aiemmin, joten en osaa sanoa, onko kaupungin rapistuminen seurausta muutama vuosi sitten tapahtuneesta talouskriisistä, vai onko se alkanut jo aiemmin. Sitten siihen tottui, ja kiinnitti huomionsa muihin asioihin, kaupungin omanlaisuuteensa: supermarketeissa soi kokeellinen jazz, parvekkeilla kasvavat sitruunapuut ja kulmille on jätetty ruokaa ja vettä kaupungin lukemattomille kissoille.

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Residenssin vaarana on tietysti se, että matkustaa niin kiinnostavaan paikkaan, että haluaa nähdä paikasta kaiken ja unohtuu vaeltamaan raunioissa ja loputtomissa museoissa. Unohtuu katsomaan seireenin jalkoja, uskoo kuulevansa niiden muinaisen laulun ja päätyy pohtimaan, miksi ihmeessä tutkin tätä mitä tutkin, kun voisin tutkia seireenejä…

Loppukuusta kirjoitin tutkimustani. Koko talven kirjoitus oman pöydän ääressä on takkuillut, mutta nyt vihdoin sekin sujui.

 

 

HTDTWP @SAR

For the SAR conference in Zürich this year, we proposed expanding the Long Table format with objects and actions. Given our past experiences in this conference, we also convened to create a structure that would both introduce our project and propose ways into the format through actions.

Annette began by introducing the project, followed by Hanna proposing the rules of the interaction, specifically that we wished for a constructive, critical arrangement, with action as well as discussion, but that was respectful of each other in the spirit of the Long Table ‘dinner party’ format. Next, Pilvi brought several different kinds of objects, with different kinds of materialities, to the table with her statement:

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The format, as Split Britches describes it, already allows for written or drawn commentary. We had printed our questions to turn them into objects, too, and these got spread around the table:

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After Annette read her proposal and set up her video projection at one end of the table, Tero described his action in which he read a text placed in a shredder that would be turned on either after one minute or after Hanna had thrown three sixes on a D6. In our tests, the one minute had always passed before Hanna managed to throw a six three times, but the performance of course proved to be different. The shredded paper became an object-pile on the table, malleable, incoherent, fragmented text.

This mess later provoked one of our guest artists to ask who will clean the space, alluding to how low-income and precarious work is often performed by immigrant labour and is gendered – here, as Tero pointed out, the artist cleans the mess they make. A conversation that could have been about politics of precarity in the art world did not emerge, perhaps because as members of SAR attending an international conference we were all too privileged to notice this.

The second time a conversation emerged was after Hanna told a story around the Russian doll Pilvi then exposed as someone else’s property she had not yet returned. This conversation connected to earlier discussions on voice and giving voice in performance, but once again, the long table format somehow kept the discussion to such a level of politeness the contents remained rather shallow nods towards identity politics. Perhaps no conversation of this kind amongst a random selection of participants can arise without specificity of focus that would, in advance, limit the scope or topic to a degree of clarity necessary for any in-depth argument. In this instance, the allusions to earlier conversations certainly did not help us achieve coherence.

In the third moment of conversation, which already turned towards the metatextual level of the arrangement, Annette pointed to how citations had functioned in a previous instance of a long table she had attended. This, like the above questions about privilege and focus, turned the discussion also to how, by bringing in objects and other materialities than conversation (spoken or written), we had made the performance more of a performance. There was, in effect, relatively little said during the one hour of discussion, whereas objects moved a lot, provoking drawing, tracing, illustration, and movement. Some of the participants even turned the chairs around the long table into moveable objects, marked with post-it stickers, shifted and piled in what momentarily became almost a competitive re-arrangement of the space within the circle of chairs for the audience.

Nobody sang, but a musician working with improvisation made a sound-art piece from the black balloon and microphone. At one point, the moderator immoderately threw the kiwi birds that sang in our Plymouth SAR performance at the window in what was probably the most violent act and the sole instance of someone actively disobeying the rules read at the beginning.

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In the Q/A led by the moderator, perhaps the most interesting discussion was what made the performance a performance. The focus was on the issues of sharing practices across interdisciplinary and methodological gaps that the call for papers for this conference also raised. Afterwards, as we were cleaning the space, one of our invited artists apologised for not having joined in, because they found the objects alien to their practice. They suggested we should have filmed the performance, because that was what they saw it as being, and analysed what we might not have seen by participating. However, as this performance was also a rehearsal for something already planned for the summer, perhaps it pointed to what needs be fixed and the gaps that have to be minded in participatory acts, especially if we do wish to bring uncomfortable differences to the table.

Thank you all for joining to Research Day IV!

Again, we had a great and interesting Research Day with multiple forms of presentations and viewpoints to the topic, performance and feminism. Thank you for all presenters as well as to the audience! The link for video documentations will be published here as soon as we get them edited.

The keynote Irin van der Tuin was really inspiring! Read an interview of her here.

An Archive in a Library

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This is me on my 45th birthday in one of the best places in the world: the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, New York, New York. The Academy of Finland funding has allowed me to have my first full-time research leave in a decade, and to spend the time efficiently, I gave myself a birthday present: a two-week “residency” in this collection. The above photograph is of the second floor circulating collections, where books are on open shelves, but much of my time was actually spent with archival collections in the third floor.

The archive requires certain specialist tools of the trade to deal with paper in various stages of disintegration – special supports for books whose spines are like those of a very old person arthritic under the weight of years, led string wrapped in cloth to hold one’s place without cracking the page, and a microspatula for turning a new leaf because a fingertip will only turn the edge to dust.

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A historian is taught early on that very old materials or things that are in poor condition have to be treated with care so as to preserve them for others who might need them later. You are never the last person to want to read this or see this or touch this. Someone else – probably someone smarter – will come along and discover it anew. This is a lesson in ethics: I am not who matters, the matter itself has the right to be treated with respect.

Yet, as with ethics, we always will fail and are thus encouraged to try anew and improve on ourselves in treating these material remains of a past chosen for preservation. Disintegration is simply inevitable, entropy seeks to overpower the universe. The materiality of this paper is one of brittleness, the foxing of old pages a sign of passing years like wrinkles on skin. Archivists conserve materials: they use cotton tape and special quality glue, twine and tweezers and brushes and yes, microspatulas, to fix damage, prolonging the life their chronically ailing patients. Some of the materials I sought for were not available because they were scheduled for conservation, others I encountered because they were on exhibit:

Contrasting video of rehearsal and performance, showing costumes with photographs of stagings, posters and film stills, and displaying a wealth of manuscript materials like diaries and letters, the current gallery exhibit celebrates the life of Jerome Robbins, after whom the Dance Collection of the library is named. As with previous exhibitions, most of the objects shown are from this library’s collections, and many have never been shared with the general public. Although the exhibit cannot be as critical as a research might wish it to be, the selection of different kinds of things somehow emphasises the sheer range of what remains of a long career, if some of the sacrifices made on the altar of that career are only hinted at. At the same time, it draws attention to how finding out what is actually in the collections might require a degree of detective work simply because what is on the shelves and on display is merely a fragment of what is there in the vaults, and for those in the know to request and figure out.

No matter how much care one takes, after some time in the archives, one has breathed in dust that was once part of the archived object, but one has also touched where another has cared enough to turn this particular page – if a little too rapidly for the fibres that used to form a whole but due to their age simply came apart in that one flip of a careless finger. Digital versions of archival materials do not have this immediate materiality, not even to the degree of the object meticulously positioned in a display case. Reading a digital book lacks the smell of dead organisms used in conveying its message, just as a costume on a dummy lacks the movement of the dancer. The more yellowed and fragile the leaves, the more worn the fabric, the more they recall the turning of the season outside from summer to autumn – fall, in the old version of English still used in America. Archives are corporeal work: a few more hours of sitting in a chair in the cool, air-conditioned room, and my body aches like the book in front of me does not.

Outside, in the rain, leaves are falling.