Seasons as Choreographers: Where Over the World is Astronaut Scott Kelly? was a one-year–long project that started in March 2015. The project examines choreographic sense and experience of different seasons, which means to process and materialize the embodiment of how four Nordic seasons choreograph a choreographer. As seasons set different material circumstances for my movements, I consider the seasons to be choreographic agents. Changes of light and temperature are the most obvious qualitative variables when it comes to the seasons in Finland. The project coupled together the sense and perception of the season, experience of the season, and accomplishment of movement through which I explored what kind of terms and conditions seasons set for my daily movement, namely slow-paced walking.
In the beginning of the project, I chose a route around the Theatre Academy, to be walked few times a week in a calm manner. At the same time, on 27 March 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly was launched to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s One Year Mission project. I followed Kelly’s journey through his Twitter account while I was doing my project, and in one way the project became a duet in which I and Scott Kelly were performers in a choreography formed by the movement of the planet while orbiting the sun.
The movement parameters of the project were as follows: Scott Kelly was orbiting Earth approximately 12 times ever 24 hours; planet Earth is rotating at approximately 1,670 km/h; and Earth is orbiting the sun at approximately 10,7200 km/h. To set one more layer on this rotation grid, I studied how our galaxy moves. I took the scientific data as a movement that conducts my body and which exceeds my lifetime and spatial understanding. These movements I cannot directly perceive, but through seasons I have access to the movement of the planet’s orbit around the sun.
The project led me to become more aware of ecological macro-movements on Earth: how migratory birds come and go, how whales move based on how the sun warms the waters, and how in order to fly, some butterflies wait for the morning sun to warm the air sufficiently. The project was framed by the awareness of how animals either come out or hide in the rhythms of day and night and how masses of warm air collide with cold ones. Through this perspective, Earth is a place in permanent movement, and my body is part of this kind of movement-world. In this place, movement does not have a linear beginning or end. In choreographic terms, I understand this in a way that the movement I decide to perform is already conditioned by the movements that surround me.
Over one year, various affective, experiential states were formed in the dynamics of reciprocity with the seasonal environment. These diverse states constitute the choreographic relation I embodied during the project and through which I examined the choreographies that direct my body on a planetary scale.
Beginning of the astro-
The project led me to study more closely the history of land-art, environmental art, space-art, and site-specificity. I presented the project at the 2016 Performance Studies International #22 conference, Performance Climates, in Melbourne, on a panel called Astroperformance. To experiment with the scale that extends beyond my lifetime was something I had not done in such a literal manner before. The work initiated future paths for continuing to develop choreographic thinking and choreographic art beyond human spatial or temporal scales. The project launched a strong interest to explore further possibilities for choreographic art beyond the human towards outer space, interplanetary, and galactic scales. The change of scale encouraged me look for alternative possibilities to materialize the choreography, rather than staying within the proximity of my body and its movements.
During the project, I decided to expose the work as an installation and invite the viewer to witness various experienced spatiotemporal movements and seasonal choreographies. After one year of taking walks on the same route, the project was contextualized as an installation in my workroom at the Theatre Academy. I wanted to invite the viewer to take my place and sit in the chair at my desk. I wanted to share the experience of moving in space and raise the various questions of my – and the viewer’s – position towards the planet, outer space, and movement.
The installation consisted of a video loop of my tweets on the desktop screen, image of my parents from the time before I was born, the spaceman costume hanging in the closet, the thin mattress on the floor, recorded sounds from the online broadcast of the actual moment Scott Kelly left the International Space Station, and large wallpaper printed from one documented walk among autumn colors. The workroom became like a base in the Theatre Academy from where I took my walks into the unknown space.
Installation: Wallpaper, slide show, photography, locker, spacesuit, mattress, notebooks, table, chair, desktop, sound recording
The sound material of the installation is an edited recording from the live broadcast of the departure of Scott Kelly and his colleagues from the International Space Station on 1.3.2016, before returning to the Earth.
Photography and slide-show: Vincent Roumagnac
Tweets on the computer screen on the desk, click the image, video-loop is 17 minutes
(camera, editing: Vincent Roumagnac)
Astronaut and Twitter
The reason I was interested in astronaut Scott Kelly was that his perspective from space, approximately 354 km above Earth, functioned as a relevant counter-perspective for my walks around Theatre Academy. He maintains a Twitter account onto which he was posting images of Earth’s surface, which he took from the International Space Station. I followed this account, and his images operated as an artistic stimulation to the question of how to experience and materialize the movements of the planet.
I thought of Scott Kelly as an external eye for Earth and for my project, and I kept his rapid orbit in mind while calmly walking around the Theatre Academy. I did not want to contact him through Twitter; instead, he was a distant duet-partner, and he functioned like an imaginary friend with whom I maintained a dialogue during the project.
At one point of the project, I decided to post my own ‘tweets’. After each walk around the Theater Academy, and based on the experience of each walk, I wrote my tweet. During the project, instead of posting these tweets online, I collected them as an archive from which I later on planned and made (with the help of my colleague Vincent Roumagnac) the video loop for the actual installation work.