28th May 2014: what happened?
What happened? Did something change? Was it more of the same? The month and my time in Tallinn is over soon, and it's time for another city, another show. Light observations follow.
There were four events, or five actually, or maybe six, no seven. I had four Sundays, and an Improv concert with John. Then I also took active part in two other activities at Ptarmigan: Triinu Aron’s talk about art organizing & money (which turned into a lively discussion about so many other things), and another Improv open jam (which was 15 minutes playing and 45 minutes talking).
What else? I went to some parties, danced at a club three times, went to an after-party but was too tired to do anything, talked with strangers, listened to the nitty gritty stories from Tallinn, sometimes feeling like an idiot the next day, sometimes not, bought two books from Paranoia publishing party, went to a beach twice, ate maybe ten times at vegan restaurant, didn't have one cup of coffee outside of Ptarmigan (it's so good in there), witnessed a choreographer figuring it out in a cellar, listened to the rain on my sleep, went to only one museum/institution party, used the terms "aspiring middle-class", "landlording", "neoliberalism", and "conceptual" more than I should've, received two business cards, went jogging around Kalamaja maybe 8 times, gave tourists directions to a bar in the middle of the night in Old Town, had Georgian food once, looked for food after 11pm at least four times, tried to meet people but didn't, and mostly stayed at Ptarmigan writing and cooking. Tags: Introvert cultural tourism, cocooing, artisan socializing, valued loneliness.
Things I remember: a discussion about Finnish and Estonian qualities and why Finns seem to never find anything good to say about Estonia, a local rapper giving it up for the late DJ Rashad, having me almost in tears (crying now when I think about it: music connects us), the one conversation where we talked about philosophy and truth, looking at the sea again and again, someone describing Robert Wilson sad and alone in a European city where everyone is too afraid to talk to him, reading a feminist magazine and thinking how can a city be this white and straight, someone leaving the bar and saying in Estonian how it's time go home since talking all this English makes one tired (heart-warming, witty, and the most funniest thing I've witnessed), someone on stage making sense of noise, high-fiving strangers in a bar named after my home town while Finland scores against Russia in hockey, walking through an exhibition thinking this is the world soon behind me and then being surprised of my own thoughts, someone telling me how to understand brain's behaviour through sexual metaphors, various banal details and everyday occurances, countless smiles and funny things, people taking people serious.
About the Sundays, then. The concept was ok, or sufficient. I like regularity and being around people. Making food for guests was pretty fun, although it would've been much more meaningful to cook together. The first one was somewhat awkward, I guess, since there wasn't really anything happening. We just sit at a table & ate and talked this and that, and then I got nervous and decided I should show some of my works. Next Sunday it was a concert with Juhani Liimatainen (who should've been on my teachers list, but I didn't want to include anyone I know as it felt pretentious). It was so vital for me personally, I enjoyed it immensely & I hope the audience liked it too. Juhani walked around the two rooms with mechanical birds like a surreal Alvin Lucier afterthought. Before and after that, he created effective, dynamic, short sounds with some simple electronic and digital devices. I was recording myself speaking, made small noises with my laptop's keyboard, played around with some samples, tried to be there as a performer, someone with a body, who has lost his way but is crawling back on all fronts. We had four parts to our gig: slow, fast, quiet, loud, 10 minutes each.
The third Sunday was a workshop. There were very few people there, just five of us. I asked people to work in pairs, with the other person telling what once had happened to him or her. We elaborated these stories into semi-theatrical scenes. And so on. I was afraid this would make no sense to anyone, but at the same time felt there were some beautiful moments. But it should've been longer, and slower, and with a more specific theme. I usually do workshops with a group of people who share something to begin with (ie. they go to school together, they're all designers, etc.), so this was new and evidently more harder, too. It was a hot summer day, and everyone I knew had gone to Kalamaja days, an event filling the streets of Kalamaja district with flea markets, music, food, and so on. Again, it's amazing when people choose your thing over every other form of entertainment in the world. Anyway, I don't think I did that good of a job. My ideas were shaky at best, and the whole day was lacking in direction. I can do better, and I should.
Then, on the last Sunday, I gave a non-artist talk. The idea was simple: I couldn't talk about myself or use such words as "I". If I would, then John and Hannah from Ptarmigan would punish me with these sort of dadaist tasks, such as inserting a slice of lemon in my mouth, wearing my shoes on my hands, putting more clothes on, letting someone cut my hair, singing Sunday-related karaoke songs, and so on. I showed works by Jenna Sutela, Henna Hyvärinen, echo+seashell, Georges Jacotey, Maanalainen seurakunta laulaa, and Elina Minn. They are all connected to Antagon, a biennale I founded last year (2013) in Turku, and to which most of these artists created new works. I enjoyed this session so much, as painful it was sometimes to stop and do the punishments, like a 6-minute workout (it was a hot day). People seemed to get the works very well, especially Elina Minn's film Maledetta Primavera gathered praise for its directional vision and its universal, albeit art-related themes (small town scenes, career pressure, love+work). You can see it here.
My residency continues in September when I go to Mooste, for Moks' residence. It's the other part of this two-month residency called Axis of Praxis. In there, I guess I'll do something similar.
What's the point of a residency? This was my first one, and it felt like a reasonable thing to do. I could be happy just doing residencies: staying in a place, possibly with other people, for months at a time, doing my own work and communicating with human beings, ideally being able to bring something to the local context and struggles and whatnot. I imagine it to be much more sensible than doing a performance, exhibition or the like, where you go somewhere for a day or two, maybe a week if you can afford it and you're not too busy, and then it's over.
But also the idea of having a house which is not only -or at all- about productions and premieres is what I like about residencies. That there is this space that opens its doors frequently, usually with the idea that it's easy to participate to its events. But I think the house itself (#landlording) is very important. I used to run an artists' association that hosted a gallery and a residency. One artist at a time came there and stayed in a nearby university dormitory. We, the people working at the gallery, were busy keeping the artists' association up and running. Then in the end of their residency period, there'd be a public event, such as an artist talk. Personally, I prefer the model with a house, where ideally the people running the residency live as well, and that the space is not all the time in use for exhibitions or other stuff. This is the beauty and luxury of Ptarmigan: the days were open, there was time.
Here's a monologue to sum up my vibes from Tallinn and life right now: