Mesh is a short video work done in the Töölönlahti area of Helsinki. Töölönlahti is an area where people usually go jogging and walking, so it can be understood as a common public recreation area. The running, walking, and other kind of outdoor activity produces this place and provides its particular character. In my research project, I wanted to destabilize this kind of perception of this specific place and launch some other potential from the relations of the recreational grounds, movement, human body, and material surrounding.
Besides the walkway of one part of the route around Töölönlahti, there is a long row of shrubs with dense branches. I wanted to take a closer look at this particular part and experiment with that, because it was parallel to the usual path that people were jogging and walking on. I decided to climb into the shrubs and try to continue walking around Töölönlahti there. Mesh is a documentation of this experiment. In the video, I walk a few meters through the shrubs, and at the same time people pass by the screen on the walkway, either walking or jogging. In my movements, I take care of the branches in a way that I do not break them, so my moving is slow, bent, and attentive. The work points out the mundane movements of the passersby.
The video can be seen as a playful self-portrait and representation of the personal research process in its questioning of the habitual way of moving and a choice to move on a walkway. Later on the work exposed to me the question, in this particular location, of what happens when connecting two different, parallel, material conditions with the same bodily action, in this case walking. One act of walking happens on a habitual route and the other one in more challenging and unconventional conditions. In my body, the work activates the sense of walking and running, while at the same time it points out how urban planning choreographs and invites certain movement patterns to be realized by the body. In terms of place and space, this work can be read to belong to the quite traditional site-specific strategies in which an unusual action launches other qualities of the relation between the body and its surroundings than the everyday conventional spatial practice. In one way, the work can point towards the common social choreographies of my daily life, and through this the work contributes to building my understanding of the notion of place as impermanent, transient, changing, and dynamic, instead of permanent, static, and grounded.
The artistic approach in this work is once again through embodied movement, through movement that operates as locating me being somewhere in and with movement. Töölönlahti and this particular location is formed by various movements, and the Mesh points to that understanding of a place. Another point is that a certain movement – in this case jogging and walking – homogenizes and generalizes the character of Töölönlahti as being a certain kind of cultural recreation ground. My choice of embodying the material conditions that are out of that kind of understanding of this particular place and its social function can also be understood as a continuation of my process of developing understanding of the choreographic thinking, in the sense of taking another kind of position towards the material condition that organizes the body going around Töölönlahti in a certain way. Choosing to walk carefully in the shrubs was an attempt for me to activate the sense of place through another kind of physical activity (which reciprocally brings out this place in another way) than through habitual familiarity.
The work was presented as a video projection on the wall in the Performing Arts Research Lab in Helsinki as part of the first examined artistic part. The work was installed in the space together with another work, A Guest, and together these works formed a diptych exposing the research questions I was exploring at that point in the research process.