What is this project about?

In Between Silences is a multi-disciplinary project of three art forms: dance, music and visual arts. The initiative for the project came from dancer-scholar Kirsi Heimonen, who asked two other artist-researchers, pianist Anu Vehviläinen and visual artist Petri Kaverma, to explore the notion of silence. 


The institutional support for collaborative art praxis inside the University of the Arts Helsinki was behind this collaboration. Our research question was: How do we experience and understand the notion of ‘silence’ in art making, what is it to work in and through silence? Instead of using theory as a starting point (silence is scattered in various theoretical approaches, f.ex. in phenomenological approach, the silence of language as well as the ontological conditions of silence are discussed), we wanted to explore other ways of asking: we used directly our praxes, yet acknowledging that each art form has theory in itself. We consider this a fruitful approach for artist-researchers: bringing our three art praxes together was surprising and revealing for us. And it gave us new knowledge.  

To deal with such a broad and vague notion (silence), we needed something to ground our collaboration, and thus we started by being quiet for a few minutes in the beginning of our first session. This experience was rewarding since it supported our intention to form questions.


Also, we wanted to put the demand of aiming for artistic results aside; there was no urge to create collaborative or beautiful/provocative art. The idea was simply to let our praxes interact in a shared space through silence. The mutual trust created in our sessions enabled us to look at our own genres in a different way. Time frame as well as an inner structure for each session were  needed to support our emerging collaboration.

We arranged altogether seven practice-based sessions during the spring of 2016. The first session took place at the end of 2015. During the following spring semester (2016), we gathered for six more sessions. After starting every session with an informal discussion, we used the following format:

  •     Silence 10–20 min
  •     Praxis 30–40 min
  •     Writing 20–30 min

Sometimes we made notes after the ‘silence’ part as well since we wanted to capture as much information on our experiences as possible. At the end of each session, after the ‘writing’ part, we again had an informal discussion on how to proceed.

After seven sessions (spring 2016), we wanted to share our experiences and thus presented our project at two events: Artistic Research Forum in Stavanger, Norway (17–18 October 2016) and the ‘Arts without Borders’ conference at Uniarts, Helsinki, Finland (19–22 October 2016). We were able to condense something of our interdisciplinary praxis at these two public presentations.

We divided our conference presentations into two parts:
A) a demonstration of our praxis (1-5 minutes of on-stage silence followed by 7-20 minutes of on-stage praxis: Kirsi dancing, Anu playing a composed piece, improvising and moving around the stage, Petri drawing and moving around the stage)
B) spoken papers, which summarized our project

This exposition shows three voices (three columns) simultaneously: Kirsi's, Anu's and Petri's. In our individual texts we describe what happened during the sessions as well as how each of us understands the sessions with respect to our own genres.

Kirsi Heimonen writes in the context of the phenomenological approach, in which lived corporeality is in constant communion with the surrounding environment. Kirsi’s notebook comments are written as fragments which suggest both questions and invitations. 

Anu Vehviläinen uses the autoethnographic method, in which she analyses the work diary excerpts written during the collaborative sessions. Anu contextualises her data within the western art music tradition.

Petri Kaverma’s method lies somewhere between writing and visuality. For visual artist Robert Smithson (1938 –1973), there are three main approaches to making and producing a piece of art: the piece of art itself, a document of that piece, and writing. In that sense, Smithson may be considered as one of the first artistic researchers, to whom Kaverma owes a debt of gratitude as well as to the first conceptual art generation.

On the left one finds subtitles which refer to the different parts of our sessions: “silence”, “praxis”, “writing”. One can click on any of the subtitles to see Kirsi's, Anu's or Petri’s thoughts about them.

On the left, there is yet one subtitle: "discussion", where we meet each other and reflect our understanding of the idea of artistic research, through the notion of silence and particularly within the art institution.