Introduction - living in a polycrisis world
In this project, I set out to investigate and increase understanding of the ways in which art and music can be used to give us the strength to process difficult emotions arising from societal issues and injustices. Furthermore, I look at how artists are able to take action against these injustices in their own small ways.
The world is currently full of injustices and difficult societal issues, from the war in Ukraine, to people suffering from the regime in Iran, to the genocide of the Uyghur people, and the global climate crisis, to name just a few. We are living in a time of polycrisis (Torkington, 2023). Everyone on the planet is affected and impacted in different ways by issues such as these, and everyone faces the enormous challenge of how to deal with difficult emotions arising from these issues and how we can take action to create a better future.
The amount of hopelessness in predictions of the global state in the future is tremendous. I feel there are too many awful things happening at the same time in many places of the world. As a global artist I feel the responsibility to care for the previously mentioned issues and give them a voice, but there is only so much I can do. I find myself lost and overwhelmed with the amount of societal issues happening simultaneously.
In the modern day, we have access to infinite amounts of information through the internet. On a daily basis, we receive information about happenings around the world, which most of the time are injustices, tragedies or catastrophes. In my case, living in a cosmopolitan city such as Helsinki, I meet people from different parts of the world who inform me about difficulties their homeland is facing. This information can become overwhelming and with such a large number of issues and topics to be concerned about because there are so many people experiencing pain in some form. This information impacts us, bringing difficult emotions that sometimes even stops us from experiencing our present moment. What can we do from a distance? How can we participate and be active in our local place? How can we process all of those difficult emotions and carry on with our own lives with strength?
This project reflects on the ways I am able to process difficult emotions arising from the societal issues I encounter, and channel them into a creative outlet and form of artistic expression, through music. Art is the process of the artist processing the outer world in their inner world and channelling it into a form of expression, (Stratou, 2014; Kogan, 2018; Hagman, 2010) which in my case is music.
Through the process of building a connection between the external world and my own internal world, I found myself returning to the present moment and being more aware of my local surroundings. Therefore, the music of this project reflects on the topics in a zoom in, zoom out point of view. If there is something difficult that is out of our control and is happening elsewhere, then we can firstly return to our present, local space and explore what we can improve in our own space then reach out further (Peterson, 2019). I believe that discovering perspectives that bring us back to our present moment and our present surroundings can enable us to carry on with strength and make a difference individually.
The music of this project consists of my arrangements of traditional Latvian folk songs, in addition to a number of my original compositions. The songs have been composed and chosen from the message stated, with metaphors of living life with endurance, and appreciation of the present place, people and happenings. I believe the teachings of the songs can be applied to our daily lives as “mantras”, and offer new perspectives in moments of difficult emotions caused by frustration of societal issues.
In the following section, I will unfold the process of my research and my working methods. My project is guided by the following research question:
How can art and music enable us to process difficult societal issues, emotions and give us hope?
This project is positioned within the field of artistic research, which is an approach to constructing new knowledge through the interwoven elements of artistic processes, text, and artistic outcomes (Tomlinson & Wren, 2017; Varto, 2018). In this study, I initially observe my own artistic processes, myself as an artist, and the ways in which I am able to process difficult emotions arising from my experience of societal issues. I then compare my own processes and experiences with the processes of other artists, and the different ways they process difficult societal issues through their art.
Using different approaches to creating music and art, I reflect on how I am able to process difficult emotions connected to various societal issues. The concrete subject of the research is the wholeness of difficult emotions triggered by the broad scope of societal issues in the world, the polycrisis, the process of constant collection and information processing. I question my relationship with the world we live in and how I embody it through music.
The location of music creation takes place in the forest of Keskuspuisto, which is the central park of Helsinki, a peaceful place with fresh air and surrounded by nature. I approach being in nature also as a metaphor to the Baltic pagan religion, which is closely tied to nature, finding meaning and reason through nature (Biezais, 1998; Šmidta, 1918). The music is inspired by the atmosphere of the calm forest and reflects the processing of difficult emotions as a forest would process damage. The forest is also constantly facing damage, yet through the natural brilliance of self rewilding. Laonikos Psimikakis-Chalkokondylis (2016) points out the term rewilding is the forest's ability to repair itself, it bounces back and continues to expand and grow.
The Keskuspuisto forest hosts people going for walks with friends, family, dogs, cats, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities in the forest (Harlio, 2020). It is the place where people can release tensions and collect new energy from movement in fresh air (Tan, Liao, Hwang, & Chua, 2018).
The aim of the music is to recreate a similar effect of release and energy collection. The actual concert itself takes place in the location where I go on a regular basis to create the music. In this project, I consider that it is important for the audience to experience the music in the same atmosphere and natural setting where it was created.
In the next section, I will introduce myself and describe my background, including my previous artistic creations, collaborations and inspirations, as well as my educational background.