How to approach silence, which not only is soundless but also a bedrock of such existence that cannot be grasped or forced to appear? What happens when three artists – scholars from different art forms, not knowing each other – agree to join together in a working process that moves towards inconceivable silence? What happens when two people that I do not know – though I was the one who invited them here – join me in approaching silence, which after all commenced as a solitary journey?

From the very beginning, our mutual decision has been to explore the notion of silence by practicing our own art forms in a shared space, to let silence unfold through praxis. After that, words arrived in the form of individual writing, and finally speech filled the room. Each session started by being silent and motionless. The following writing consists of remarks that originated in my notebook over several sessions. 

Today silence acts as a sounding board resonating endlessly in the caverns of my corporeality. Simply to pause, to stop. Listening to the unheard leads to a land where suddenly everything is otherwise. Time dissolves. . . In the previous session dark thick thoughts circulated stiffly in and around, yet an instant releasing happens once between the inhalation and exhalation: a brief breeze gently rustling through the bones.  


Within the notion of silence, there is nothing to accomplish in the sense of deeds stemming from one’s will power or control. Just to surrender to the impossible, to listen to the unheard and to let something unfold. Vast space resonates with my corporeality; it unfolds, though I do not know what it is. Thus silence – not opposed to noise or continuous movement – means an orientation to something that cannot be known, and as such, it lies in the field of  non-knowledge.

Emmanuel Levinas refers to the French expression, il y a  something is  but one does not know what is; it is impersonal, and Levinas calls it the noise of silence. Have I touched this impossibility by breathing silence, letting things be as they are? 

Pausing feels like a luxury activity today, a great possibility. Just to be still here on the wooden floor. Thoughts attached to duties receive a cleaning, a momentary wipe across the hasty traffic of thoughts. A space is being created between the perceivable and this lump of flesh...Questioning oneself causes pain; there is no mercy in looking at oneself. And yet, sparkling joy accompanies the pain. A cut into flesh. Polarities melt. This odd sense of permission eats away at hesitation, and I am ready for and curious about the happening to come. To be with Anu and Petri, to sense their tiny shifts of position. Is their presence preventing me from silencing the wounds in myself? My glance shifts to the window and meets the maple that glows without reason.  

The questioning spreads into everyday life, in which silence is taken as a fundamental phenomenon, an ontological condition that determines language, meaning, understanding, and communication. The continuous attuning to silence creates a desert to wander in and in which one never arrives. Nevertheless, working alongside others brings consolation in the vastness and its unpredictability.


Already the previous day’s calm excitement enters my corporeality, walking happens by whispering feet. Sitting there on the floor, listening, waiting. Such silence where the border between perceiving and acting is blurred, shakes the grounds of my self. Spatiality grows inside, enabling thoughts to arrive and depart; I am here just listening to and perceiving them. 

Listening to silence entails waiting, waiting without any goals. This passivity is a kind of in-active-action, an act without action. Simone Weil states that one should not want to find what one is looking for, otherwise one becomes attached to it. Am I becoming attached to these shared moments of silence?

Silence as insurmountable eases the effort of holding. Is it possible to become immersed in silence and to become a vehicle through which change will happen? This institution, the University of the Arts, has its demands related to goals and achievements. Paradoxically, the sessions of this group have turned out to be an oasis distant from haste and accomplishment. Is it possible for this lived silence to spread to other circles of life, and not only to remain a brief relief? Or does its power lay in its ability to create gaps in meaning? 

The moments of stillness contain a kind of purification and confusion that creates a tension keeping me awake to the particular situation and ensuing praxis. 











We organized our sessions in different messy classrooms filled with chairs, desks and instruments. Sometimes we were able to book a chamber music hall, which offered a nice atmosphere. I needed a piano to play, otherwise there were no special requirements. Kirsi said that she can dance anywhere, which made a huge impression on me.

In the first meeting (only Kirsi and I), we figured that it would be nice to invite the silence in by shutting up for a while. When two or more people meet, talk is there all the time, so we decided to sit down or lie on the floor to be in silence for a couple of minutes (10’–20’). After the first session, ‘silence in the beginning of our sessions’ was established. Here are some notes made after our silences:

26.1.2016 (Kirsi & Anu) 
Meditation for 15 minutes; on yoga mats; Kirsi was sitting on a wooden conductor’s stand; we turned the lights off and I was sitting sideways to Kirsi, not face-to-face, I was experiencing my own space AND the space with another person (Kirsi), my mind going here and there, I changed my position, finally I accepted that I’m being silent and I could have continued for so much longer.

10.3.2016 (Kirsi, Petri & Anu)
We started with silence for 10 minutes. The moment was special to me, since the audition for the professorship might be held here in Wegelius Hall (Sibelius Academy). I’m thinking about my own space, the way I experience this particular space (Wegelius Hall) and I notice that I’m tense – I have a stomach ache. I wondered, could I somehow feel good here? Maybe. I would like to play the Variations [by Szymanowski, Op. 3] and Calypso [Szymanowski, Op. 29], but I’m not sure whether I will have the space to do so, or whether Kirsi is going to be loud today [in our ‘praxis’ part]. Loudness could ruin the performance. 

30.3.2016 (Kirsi & Anu)
Kirsi has been crying. Fuck. We went to the big dance hall in Teak [Theatre Academy], a lovely place. We meditated for 10 minutes, I was standing, I positioned myself close to Kirsi not to have direct eye contact but something else like that. I sensed Kirsi’s state of mind, I tried to breathe and to relax my hands.

(…) Kirsi hadn’t been crying, she’s allergic.


20.4.2016 (Kirsi, Petri & Anu)
We started with a 15-minute silence. Making noise with my chair made me laugh. I realized how well I feel with these people. I feel calm, I lose the urge to fulfil different expectations, I feel that I can focus on the essential issues right away. (...) 

16.2.2017 (Kirsi, Petri & Anu)
We started to talk and then moved to the silence. Being silent showed how constant talking can be destructive. I can hide my thinking with my talk and hence prevent fruitful ideas from coming out. When I forced myself to be silent for twelve minutes, I got a clear vision of how we could write an article for one of the RC journals. The RC platform may really help us to clarify our thoughts for others.

The uniqueness of our group is in the fact that in it I feel safer and more relaxed than usual in my work. During an intensive week of work, it was odd to have a two-hour session where nobody sets any demands or regulations to follow. We met, we went into the room and we started our session with 15 minutes of silence. Then we discussed what to do next. The freedom of doing absolutely nothing was most fruitful: as soon as we decided to forget any obligations, we started to notice and point out essential issues and created several ways to proceed. There certainly was something really useful and meaningful in our working methods. Effortlessness.

We added silent moments all over our project, since we noticed that they help us in many ways. The possibility of being silent with my colleagues feels like a luxury. Normally all academic meetings start with discussion or planning or some other kind of efficient action. Normally, I feel the urge to show that I’m in the mood, ready for effective work or high-level music making. Normally, I need to show that…(whatever).


The silence allowed me to perceive my inner state of mind. Some of the excerpts above point to – not only concerns in learning the musical works but – anxiety due to the turbulence in academic life. The beauty of these silences is that they belong to the same academic life: this is an academic, artistic project, but instead of obligations, there is loads of space and freedom. On the other hand, the silences in our project don’t happen alone; I’m in silence with one or two other persons. This seems to strengthen our collaboration: we don’t just discuss but also are together in silence; we write and we carry out our praxes together. Usually this never happens in a world filled with talk.

In Kallio-Kuninkala, The Sibelius Academy Music Centre (8–9 March 2017), on the second morning we forgot to have the usual silent moment together. After breakfast, we immediately started to work with our new article. That was probably because we already felt safe and free. We had spent a whole day in Järvenpää with beautiful nature around us, enjoying good food, peace and quiet. We were so focused on the work that there was no need for ‘clearing our minds’ by being silent together. In Kallio-Kuninkala, we were detached from the fragmentary, academic work life and were able to focus our energy on the demanding act of writing.








We have always started our sessions by being quiet together with Kirsi and Anu. I have lain on the floor or on the chairs. My back has been sore during many of our sessions. I have listened to Anu's and Kirsi's breathing and my own breath as well.

My thoughts have been awake, and seldom have I relaxed properly, but it has indeed happened at times, even though my back has been hurting badly. Depending on my feelings, sometimes I have broken out in a sweat or been a bit cold. If I have had a bad day, I usually get somewhat too hot, but when I feel fine, my body temperature has been just normal, and I have felt connected with the place, the room, the space and co-existence with Kirsi and Anu.

We are all frustrated with the customary way of having different sessions, especially if it is about research or official meetings of the usual kind. Usually, we work only with ours "logos", by thinking. We - Kirsi, Anu and I - wanted to do it in the opposite way - by not making sense at the beginning but just ignoring our thinking, the way we usually act when gathering at meetings.

We have worked enough to prove our artistic qualities: Kirsi can dance, Anu can play piano and I can make nice drawings if I want to. To make these things in the traditional way is not a problem for us. The question seems to be how we use the beautiful instruments we have trained ourselves to be able to use throughout our lives. We have gained our artistic esteem by doing hard work for years and years; we are highly professional, and we don't necessarily need to take part in the discussion or the rivalry for our part in the kingdom of heaven. We just need to articulate what we have done and what we are dealing with. That's also true when it comes to the practise of artistic research.

"Silence is the kernel of noise" - it is a kind of extra, surplus or residue of our daily or professional activities. It's also a question of the remnants or remains of something unused. We are working with this kind of an "immaterial material" (nice concept, by the way!) and against the idea that these remains need to be exploited. This kind of material (i.e. silence) is always considered as something extra, which we are obliged to think that we have to take advantage of. We can work against or along or with these kinds of expectations. We are fortunate in our beautiful professional matrix; we can share it with others, and we can really play with it, too.

We are together, In Between Silences - one pianist, one dancer and one visual artist. Is there any sense in this? Or is it that the sense or meaning is not about our being in a particular place or what we are doing together, but somewhere else. We are approaching questions which really focus on what it is to be an artist. What our practise as artists is or what there is somewhere inside our artistic representations - ultimately, why do we make art? For myself, I used a lot of energy at the beginning of my artistic career in thinking about what might be the topic of my artistic representation.

I used a lot of energy by drawing things that didn't mean anything to me; it was just the habit of doing it. None of my teachers gave me any reasonable answer to my obviously relevant question: why are we drawing naked models or ancient Greek plaster statues again and again? This further emphasised the basic confusion I had for so many years. This was also the starting point for my research. I needed to know if there were any other reasons to be an artist than just repeating or reflecting these habits that I had always done before.

If we believe that there is something that could be called 'sense', it gives us the illusion that there might be a solution or satisfactory answer to our questions. There might be something that springs to our mind, but no solid, stable, simple, uncomplicated answer. "Problems are unnecessary because problems represent values that create the illusion of purpose", wrote Robert Smithson. So, what are the problems then? Is the problem that we are not allowed to do something the way we are doing it? Or that there is nobody who has permitted us to do it in such a way? Whose problems are these anyway? And what are the values? Critical, classical, thinking-based research?

We have learned to make a place for ourselves by making noise and by making our opinions known by taking our place in a group by speaking loudly and making our arguments clear even when there are no arguments. We might be able to work and act against this idea.