Sari Palosaari: Circle and Cut
I collaborated with artists Sari Palosaari and Mikko Hyvönen in the process of the first examined artistic part. Before inviting Sari and Mikko to the collaboration, I had familiarized myself with their works, and I had seen both of their recent works. In their approaches there were relevant meeting points with my research project and that was why I wanted to work with them towards the first artistic part. In June 2015 we worked together for two weeks in Saari residency and our process was exposed in the performance house Mad House Helsinki in between 22.9 – 24.9.2015. We opened the doors every evening for three hours and the audience was free to come and go to the space. Our aim was to experiment with the common shared process, and see what happens when various perspectives and materials, which shared the research questions come together. After finishing this phase, I got together with Sari to discuss the relevant questions around the ongoing research. This is the discussion:
Place: Cable Factory, Sari’s studio
How did the collaboration begin?
Simo: In June 2014 I came to see your exhibition in Sinne-gallery in Helsinki. I don’t remember the name of the exhibition, but I remember the works. It was a co-incidence that you happened to be there documenting the exhibition. I asked if you were the artist. We didn’t know each other in beforehand and I think I hadn’t seen your works before.
Sari: No, you had seen Blinds –work in Berlin. I heard when you talked about it with Vincent.
Simo: Yes that’s right! So that was the earlier contact to your works. I experienced the exhibition in Sinne dealing strongly with the questions and themes that I was thinking about, and I wanted to think further in the ongoing research project. I had planned to establish a working group, and that it would be a good thing, if there could be a visual artist in it. Well then I asked if you could be interested and we agreed to meet later on.
What common artistic interests did you have as starting points?
Simo: The works in the exhibition were really interesting, because they were place- and context-responsive, and I related to them very well. Of course the minimalistic touch and artistic choices connected me to your works, and basically they were the reason I wanted to ask you to join the research working group. When I later saw Mikko’s solo performance in Zodiak, I also asked him to join so the group was based on the artistic encounters. When I presented my research plan to you two years ago do you remember if there was something, which made you get interested?
Sari: Maybe it was about shifting the perception, in the sense that taking into consideration the spatial and material circumstances in each place and context. Yes, maybe it was something that opened towards me most easily. I experienced them as real questions, which could be interesting to ponder more.
Simo: Well for example your video work, in which there is the glass, which is removed away with the suction cap was shifting my perception. It was about multiplying the perception.
Sari: Air Gap. It begins from the landscape view, which sets expectations for the moving image, for how the space is continuing. The suction cap that grasps the glass in front of the landscape and removes it, makes unexpected change into this image space.
Simo: Plus the video of yours, which was behind the glass.
Sari: Back to Front –work. I used semi transparent film both in front of the filmed subject and on the windows of the exhibition space. The material seems blurred at first sight in the video. But the material reality of the image is revealed, because the film doesn’t cover the whole range of the image. The character in the video, and the characters behind the window were set in dialogue as well.
Simo: Yes, that’s right. To ponder common questions was meaningful. Then we had a period in Saari residency together.
Sari: Maybe I could also add that I experienced that two other works in the exhibition were also connected to the interest of shifting the perception, and to choreography as well. In Blinds I moved the glazed balcony with the Venetian blinds into the gallery space in a way that it continued the architecture of the gallery space seamlessly. And in By the Way –work I used the partition walls of this place as part of the work, and I build a storage out of them into which I moved the transport boxes of the Blind –work, and all the tools used during working. It brought out the following of the traces and movements of these elements. How something is stored, meaning how teh choreography of storing and the movement embedded into it unravels while spending time by the work.
What kind of experiments did you do in Saari residency?
Simo: We worked a lot with the notions of place and space. I was there first one week by myself and then you and Mikko joined me for another week. We also close-read some materials.
Sari: We familiarized ourselves with affect-theory and made some excercises.
Simo: Yes, it was about how place-taking happens, or what happens corporeally and experientially during being located somewhere. We experimented with these processes.
Sari: And how to document that process with images too.
Simo: Mikko activated a shamanistic trip –exercise, and with you we made on video with big removable mirrors. This experiment was linked to your Air Gap –work. We carried the mirrors outdoors and set them on top of each other so when I moved the other mirror with Mikko, the other mirror was revealed behind it.
Sari: In fact we didn’t read texts that much in the end, but went through questions of what oneself experiences meaningful in one’s practice when it comes to the notions of place and space.
Simo: Yes, we aimed to create common conceptual ground and vocabulary, in order to build common understanding what are we taking about.
What happened in Mad House? What kind of a project did you work with?
Simo: After couple of months from the residency period we gathered to work with a proposal in Mad House for three days, which had been given us from the programmers. We decided to continue experimenting with our practices and we decided that each one of us can bring a proposal with which one wants to work there. We didn’t have any pre-determined performative goal or aim but we aimed to leave space open for various kind of materials to meet and see what happens during these three days. So it was this kind of an experimental approach. The most giving for me personally was to bear the mess and unorganized and unstructured and see what comes through that in that specific framework. I brought in the process of Seasons as Choreographers and mixed it with the thinking and processing of the notions of place and space in that particular space, Tiivistämö. I also wanted to wear my cheap astronaut costume.
Sari: I had previously thought that our collaboration could mean something like me making architectonic elements into which a dancer Mikko, or you, could be possible to be in touch with. But the question of taking place became a challenge in Mad House, because the context of performing arts was completely new for me. As an architectonic place Tiivistämö did not have any specific identity, compared to the gallery space, instead Tiivistämö functioned as a multi-purpose space. The space for performing arts or other purposes did not really offer me something to grasp on, at least for that kind of work which I could have realized in such a short time.
Simo: We studied and went through the history of Tiivistämö.
Sari: Yes, it felt good to study the place thoroughly. Though I am not working with the history, but with what is going on at this moment, now. I decided to resolve the work in completely different way. I would do that work (as an installation maker and sculptor), which is hidden from the audience in my processes. It functioned as a way to attach myself into the performing arts, and performing, and being visible, through bringing forth what do I do out of sight. I often make big installations, which need to be deconstructed into many smaller pieces after the exhibition in order to re-use the material. For a long time I already had had big metaltubes, which I could not dismantle due to the lack of space. In Tiivistämö there was plenty of space, so I brought these metaltubes into the event, and I wanted to cut them into managable sized plates during three days so I could re-use them later on.
Simo: So it was part of your earlier work that you were cutting in Tiivistämö. We moved the work from the Cable Factory to Suvilahti where Tiivistämö is, and when the material was cut during these three days, we drove the pieces back to your studio in Cable Factory. Then you had a performer also who performed you.
Sari: I was surprised by the set performance time, which was agreed for each evening. I worked during three days from the morning until the evening and the space was open for the audience all the time, so you could come and see the work anytime. The separate performance time was a plus, which set me into a new position as a performer. I resolved this challenge by working with a performer who would perform me. This act comprised a disruption to the expectation in which I was supposed to perform in front of the audience or the camera. At the same time, I could rest a bit during those hours. I got into the role my friend Sini Havukainen, who enjoys performing and working with these kind of materials. I had a tough goal to finish the work during those days. When I started to realize the actual characteristic of my work, I started to miss a way to picture this situation into which I had put myself into. I decided then to work with a cameraman Joakim Pusenius, with whom we had a method that during the daytime when I was working, we filmed close-ups, intimate material and movement focused images, and in the evenings when it was time to perform, the camera was set on a tripod to film the whole space and its events from further away from one point.
Simo: We had doors open every evening during three hours for the audience.
Sari: Yes and Mikko’s proposal needed a certain time if people wanted to participate.
Simo: Mikko’s part always finished the evening. I did not think in Mad House what is this all about, but I did my part and tested the mixed relations of different proposals. I trusted that it causes some kind of reflection and parsing later on. I enjoyed of not knowing what this is all about, and that the situation was also open for the audience made these evenings particular. I mean, we were not in the closed rehearsal studio and in some kind of need to accomplish a goal. It was not about improvising freely either, because we had a clear framework and the shared residency period behind, which functioned as common denominators. In this everyone of us tried to resolve the equation formed by our common questions, so in this sense it was not whatever where ever and when ever.
Sari: Essential for my work was that we divided the space, and time, which usually does not happen in the exhibition settings. To share the time and that I should be in front of the audience is something that does not belong into my work otherwise.
Simo: Yes there were many different layers. Different scales, spatial, and temporal. I think that is what we were layering. We were not in the same time and space while working. Your scale was the scale of the city and I was travelling from Tiivistämö to the Outer Space and planetary scale.
Sari: Yes your scale was vertical, to the Space and back. Mine was horizontal, kind of sawing on the surface of the ground. And Mikko dived into the depths of the Earth…
Simo: What did this experimentation then do? I didn’t experience it difficult that we did not know what it was all about.
Sari: It was exciting to test and probe what are those materials and meanings when we set things and work like this.
Simo: I also made one Hiding –video with the staff of Mad House. That video was part of this experimentation.
How did you end up to decide that Mad House documentation is part of the first examined artistic part of the doctorate?
Simo: When you later on showed me the video that you had edited from Mad House, many pieces came together for me. At that point the first artistic part contained five artistic works, and your video multiplied perspectives and questions in a complementary way, and as being made from other artist’s viewpoints to the shared questions. This was necessary for the first artistic part. I simply experienced it meaningful that another kind of practice from another perspective multiplies the research questions. It generated, broadened and deepened my questions. It was the reason why I wanted this work to be part the first artistic part.
Sari: When I edited the material, I thought could it be possible to watch it just as material without a narrative, and process it further as material without any specific purposes. I tried if the documentary material could come out as movement instead of functioning as a documentation what happened.
Simo: How did you decide what to edit in and what not?
Sari: It was not that much about consciously deciding but more like working with the material in another way. Usually in my artistic works I have a clear concept with sets the framework for my work. Now, because of the characteristics of this process, I just started to process the material. It was a bit like cutting the metaltubes; I just edited the material and little by little a circulating movement started to emerge from it. I decided to take all circulating clips and make a circulating loop from them. In Maneesi then I divided the exhibition space in two, so that the viewer should move around the screens in order to perceive the work. I was thinking if all these elements could be thought as materials, which launch some movement in the viewer.
Simo: I had similar kind of experience about these three days in Mad House in the sense of just spending time and working with the materials, and that it is enough without having a concept to be realized. Practice was a way to examine what is in that framework, and how that specific framework creates shared situation without functioning as representative illustration of the common denominators and questions. I mean that we do not represent our common framework or read materials, instead shared materials function like tools which are present in the working itself. We tried to couple to each other’s proposals in that circumstance, and that was enough.
Sari: I don’t know if this has any relevance, but I participated some of your workshops during the process and I met people from performing arts and dance. Corporeality and movement were dealt in those frameworks in a completely different way, compared to the frameworks in which the bodies and movement coordination are not trained. To take place happened with expertise. Especially I remember the way people sat down or set themselves laying on the floor. And in the tasks which dealt with making contact with others. I was amused when thinking how would the professional performers and dancers would see the bodily movements in my videos.
Simo: We actually discussed a lot about working with the notion of movement. To perceive and experience movement, and to re-route these modes was important, and that the work multiplies the perception. From where does this multiplication consist of, movement.
Simo: Your installation in Maneesi was motivated for me through the circular movement of the spectator. This movement connected the work to other works of the first examined artistic part, for example to Seasons as Choreographers –work, which was based on the planetary movements and orbit around the Sun, and my route around the Theatre Academy. For me the orbiting movement was a common motional and choreographic element.
Sari: In the first artistic part you also thought about how essential the notion of context is, or is it useful at all. In this phase you wanted to talk more about place-taking.
Simo: Yes and that was the title of the first artistic part: taking place.
Sari: In my process ’taking place’ happened in a personal level. Usually I create situations in which the spectator, space, and objects are in dialogue with each other, and I try to remove myself as an artist or my personal experiences of that specific situation. In this process I need to take place in the context, which was new to me, and in which I was insecure. In the installation in Maneesi I still aimed to create a situation, in which the spectator, objects, and space would form an entity.
Simo: Yes what does it mean to be in place? You need to direct your attention towards the material circumstance and here to the fact that we were in the production house of performing arts. Through these perceptions we made connecting choices, in the sense that ’taking place’ was one specific artistic strategy. What does it mean to be here or herein? The artistic acts and works also create the context in which we are situated.
Sari: I often aim to bring in the interference into the exhibition space, which turns the work into a situation and event, in which the spectator needs to experiment with the perception and relation to the work. Typically in this kind of video installation, in which the image surface is hanging in the middle of the space, the canvas would be transparent so that the same image is in both sides. In this work the image was different in both sides of the projection canvas, the events in the video almost the same, but slightly in different temporality. That made a proper interference, and caused movement of the spectator.
Simo: I found the movement in between the image surfaces interesting. It was a playful decision, which made me to peek from side to side.
Sari: The materials functioned in different temporality, so that the same material was not in both sides at the same time. The images had also different sounds.
Simo: In the first artistic part this was the only work that was based on the common process of the working group. Other works were more solitary processes in the sense that I have processed them little by little. The common denominator was the same research questions. For me this video work was one of the most layered one, when the other proposals were more simple.
Sari: The stratification emerged from the will to parse the situation in Mad House. One of the layers is your astronaut character too.
Simo: This proposal however brings out the dialogic quality of the research process parallel to the solitary one. It is enough that I have had a possibility to dialogue with other artists, and that the dialogue has been processed all the way until the artistic proposal for the first examined artistic part. I could not make the work like you did in Maneesi, but I experienced being part of something, that I recognized being research oriented. I spent lots of time with this work because I felt that it is part of the research method.
Sari: I jumped from my own mode of working to another kind of mode and process, and this process does not resemble my other artistic works. In this project I aimed to throw myself into what was offered, namely the place and context of Mad House. I couldn’t leave the process alone before I organized the material in some kind of a form. I felt like floating after Mad House, and we didn’t have a gathering discussion about the process together. To edit the video functioned for me as grounding myself again. To think and process these research questions has been meaningful for me and the process has an impact to my artistic work and the works that I have done after our mutual process.
Simo: The dialogue has also made me to articulate the ongoing research to the colleagues, who do not know anything about it. I mean, to think through how to speak about the research so that the common field is established. In this sense there has been a lot of conceptual clarification I think. I also found it meaningful to realize that I am dealing with something that does not get empty very quickly. The process produced a messy experiment in Mad House and this experience was pleasurable for example from the viewpoint of not being in charge or control over the movement. Concretely it was meaningful just to get connected with different materials and movements, instead of aiming to control them from the beginning. To spend time in this mode is fruitful because I have found scales in which it is not possible to position yourself to the controlling viewpoint. When it comes to the continuation of my process, this project has offered experiences of not-knowing in a specific framework, and into which answers should be found through practice. I think I got some tools from this process to do that.
Sari: It is exciting that the practice produces methods. To be sensitive towards the material reality and to the meanings that it proposes is important for me. I also notice now that I am finding other kind of way of working than with big heavy architectonical projects. And the idea that I can continue working with the same work from place to place does not mean to repeat the same or making a new version, but really making a gesture and act which can be considered as new, because the context makes you think and make anew the artistic act and choices related to it.
Simo: Maybe it touches that kind of skill and sensitivity, which is inherent in my practice, affective, holed, and interactive mode of knowledge with which one moves from place to place.
Sari: In a way the artistic context in this first artistic part was pretty much in the field of dance and choreography and the questions coming from that direction.
Simo: To parse and couple oneself to the movement, yes. Interesting question this that you can not do the same thing in different places. The practical know-how is however kind of the same.
Sari: It’s probably also a question of productization. Each place with particular meanings seems to demand making a new work. If I think of your dancemat –project, in principle there’re the same elements active, but the work becomes different when you move it from place to place. You aim to develop the project through various places. My works, which often relate to the architectural environment, are coupled into the movement when removing them from their actual context to the context of art. Architecture also proposes models and patterns for us how to move and act, and it directs our orientation. It proposes and persuades. Meanings are temporary and transformative also in architecture, bound to time and situation. I can think of architecture aiming to prevent so called free movement, but it also opens possibilities.