F O A M I N G   E X E R C I S E S

  The Ship of Fools(Narrenschiff)









                 Brandt Sebastian. The Ship of Fools, trans. Alexander Barclay.

                      Edinburgh: William Paterson 1876, 8. (Kessinger Publishing’s

                          Legacy Reprint of Brandt’s book)


LOG starting 23 April 2019




We begin our exploration thinking foams as metaphors that help understand how our environment, broadly understood as multiple ecologies and ecosystems, are interconnected. Spatial experience connects us to the world and in that sense much defines what, who and where we are. And at the same time it is crucial to acknowledge how the conception of space is ever more complex e.g. via globalisation and digitalisation. In a way foam-like co-joined structures manifest the spatialisation of our vantage point to the world today. Through foam exercises we at the same time explore and manifest spatial scenarios of equal co-existence.



foam, foaming

Inspired of the third and final volume of philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s spatial trilogy Spheres (Volume I: Bubbles, Volume II: Globes, and Volume III: Foams – Plural Spherology), this research examines the phenomenology of polyspherical spatiality, and the metaphorical use of foam. I use the term foam as both noun and verb (foaming) in order to explore foam-like co-joined spatial formations at the intersection of physical, imaginary and virtual space, and in terms of space as socio-political construct.

The Foams book is described “a phenomenology of spatial plurality”. Inspired by the relation of polyspherical spatiality to our being in the world and its imaginality, I open a try-out scene for  practicing (with) foam. These foaming exercises aim at manifesting different ways of polyspherical spatiality, and the effects this bubbly existence trial launches and produces. This exposition introduces two recent foam exercises in two different scale: one a small scale material experiment, and another an installation that was part of the Research Pavilion #3:Research Ecologies composition as part of one of its research cell's, AIRA Artistic Intelligence Research Alternator, initiatives. Of Sloterdijk’s Spheres trilogy[1] I here reflect mainly the Volume 3: Foams, a plural spherology.

Sloterdijk's foam contemplations stem from his attempt of sketching "an onto-anthropology which takes into account the metaphorical imagery and visual thinking that shape the contemporary human coming-into-the-world." Sloterdijk’s spherology can be seen as an effort to produce thought images that make us see and navigate in world-images of which the (contemporary) world itself is made. (See Jongen, Marc 2018. "On Anthropospheres and Aphrogrammes. Peter Sloterdijk's Thought Images of the Monstrous.")




We all know from childhood fun bubble bath moments how every single bubble touch each other, share the same wall, but still each cell maintains its individuality. Topology of this kind makes every unit, every being (like) an island. Each microsphere can ignore its neighbors only to a certain extent – they are immune of nature, but at the same time they are dependent on the spaces that surround them. Could we call this ethics of foams?



scenarios of co-joined spaces

The foaming exercises started in May in Research Pavilion #3 in a form of installation, and as process where things and entities may have a real place and may as well have no real place.

FOAM'S ANATOMY. The foam laboratory focused in its first phase to foam’s anatomy by way of micro-scale (analogical and digital) explorations of foamy existencies by setting up and archieving micro and small scale observations, reflections and documentations. The experiments were made in collaboration with Paul Cegys, and our roles were differentiated into "the analogical-material one" and "the digital-virtual one". I produced and collected the "analogical samples", photographed and video-shot the documentation in and out of the aquarium, filled with foam (made out of various combinations of water, dishwashing detergent, glycerol and sugar), and tested different modes of presenting an anatomy of foams – on dark silk, on plexiglass, and as collection of archaeological treasures. Paul produced and collected the "digital samples", focusing on the immersive cinematic experiments e.g. by the use of 360-dergee camera (fly and other video shooting gear) that enables a cinematic staging of "being-in foam-space".

INSTALLATION. Foam-ing continued in June in the space of an installation staged as a large aquarium for foam-ing experiments,  accompanied with other spatial, visual and textual notes, narrative and historical observations, pathways, translations and exchange – analogical and digital.

Albrecht Dürer’s Wheel of fortune for Ship of Fools


series 1, fly360 stills

series 4, foam islands on dark blue silk

series 2, fly360 stills



in collaboration with Paul Cegys, tests at Aalto Studios.

Screenshots from mp.4 video by P. Cegys and photos by M. Loukola.

Coming from a background of scenographic and spatial artistic practices, I wanted to highlight the performative and scenic aspects in staging the foaming installation. The first explorations and tests (April-May 2019) were made in collaboration with scenographer, media artist and a doctoral candidate Paul Cegys.

Our roles in the foam exercises were divided into "analogical" and "digital":

My research focused on the co-dependencies in foamy architectural structures, and on the "anatomy of foam" in different scales and material formations. I explored how the passages between often abstract and fluid matters and ideas may enter, in terms of co-joined spatially grounded existence, into the sphere of conceptualisation and articulation. These experiments will evolve into a more site-specific direction along the lengthy process.

Paul Cegys’ research focused on the intersection of immersive 360º cinematic foam-poems and tactile environments in order to explore the knowledge that is created when real and virtual worlds come together.

The shared approach was based on a will to acknowledge the co-joinedness of "foamy spatiality" and the contemplative aspects of foaming.

part of AIRA Artistic Intelligence Research Alternator

within one of the seven research cells, the AIRA + Disruptive Processes research cell. AIRA investigates how notions of "new fictiveness" modulate our social facticity, especially when in conjunction with processes that produce new narrative-image constellations. AIRA is particularly concerned with sites of inquiry that enable temporal meeting points for negotiation of parallel realities initiated by the five AIRA artist-researchers. AIRA explores means of thematising through processes that produce new narratives, images and constellations. It deals with suspension of belief in the interplay of concepts, spaces, things and ideas that can be either/both gravitational and tangible (physical, concrete) or floating and ethereal (clouds, spheres).


Understanding the world as a non-round entity sets a ground for studying polyspherical spatiality, that according to Sloterdijk defines our time and our world-views. I take ‘foam architecture’ onto a surgical table and take a closer look at its conceptual, material and practical implications together with an ongoing series of foaming exercises. Some of the exercises are material tests and experiments in small scale, and some are experiments in form of large-scale installations. 

series 5, foam on black plexiglass

series 3, foam islands on black plexiglass



W O R K   I N   P R O C E S S

FOAMING EXERCISES is preceded with several research, art and teaching activities during 2018–2019: SPACE READING CIRCLE (SPACE in context): FOAMS was a monthly reading circle organised for master's students at Aalto ARTS during spring 2019. Two artistic research conference presentations related to the work-in-process were: terror spaces, foams presentation was part of Star Chart Performance (in collaboration with Harri Laakso, Liisa Ikonen, Mari Mäkiranta, Jonna Tolonen and Eija Timonen) at the Alliances & Commonalities Conference in Uniarts Stockholm 25–27 October 2018, and God is in the bubbles. Exercises on polyspherical spatiality was a presentation in the Floating Peripheries Conference 2019: Sites and Situations at the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 14–16 January 2019.

In the frame of the Lapland conference I also presented a related site specific silent disco work in a forest, called Dance. It's the natural order. as part of  the Sites and Situations Art Event . I invited a group of people to share a freezing winter scene in the Ounasvaara fell (a place where people usually gather in the middle of the summer for Midsummer's fest) to dance *together and in isolation*, headphones on, listening to Anti-Love Song composed and performed by one of the harshly undervalued pioneers of female funk Betty Davis.



Open-for-public sessions by the performative installation, in collaboration with Paul Cegys.

The installation consisted of a large AQUARIUM on a ROUND TABLE as the centerpiece. Around the table there were small stools to enable gathering by the aquarium.

The aquarium was filled with soap and water, enough to produce an aquarium-full of foam with using compressed air through a pipe. The gathering became a contemplative moment, at times almost mediative, as the intense focusing on the foam as it was "made" and as it started after a while to transform as it gradually grew smaller – "died". The foaming exercises proved performative as itself, and the intensity of performativity became hightened as we arranged reading-out-loud sessions – readings of chapters of Sloterdijk's Foams edition by the aquarium. The staging opened unexpectedly effective scenes of group-thinking.

On one corner of the installation space was a large FLAT SCREEN (48") with a looping FOAM-EXPERIMENT DOCUMENTATION VIEDO (edited by Paul Cegys).

One part of the installation was a VERTICAL ARCHIVE for gathering notes, writings, images, drawings and foam-samples on and by the side wall. Documentation of the Discursive sessions were collected on this archive.

During the RP #3 Opening Week the audience was offered an immersive VR IN-FOAM EXPERIENCE through the use of Oculus Rift VR set (courtesy of Paul Cegys).




9/5 have you tried to store foam in vacuum to prevent it from breaking and diluting

9/5 meditative and contemplative aspects of staring at the foam while listening to three pages of text read out live. makes you dwell in the subject discussed in a deeply meaningful way

9/5 perhaps to be tested: reflecting you or the persons by the foam “as in inside a bubble”



9/5 when was foam invented?

what is the origin of foam?

who did the first human-made or synthetic foams and why?


9/5 to be tested in various ways… dramaturgies of presenting artistic research or a working session


9/5 layers of contemplation

…looking at the foam by the acquarium around the round table, alone or together with others

…temporality, a long while of contemplation (first without/before the text, then with the text)

…focusing on the actual foam staged on the pavilion vs looking at recorded clips of the process


9/5 how to deal with the beauty of foam


9/5 what will be the next stage – if there going to be a next phase? is there going to be an “end product” (exhibition or something similar)?







NOTES + COMMENTS, OPEN SESSION between 13:00–16:00

10/5 hans christian andersen’s mermaid

10/5 discussion regarding possible pathways (historical, mythological, ontological, artistic, humanistic, topological, narratological)


10/5 is it an ontological project – and if it is, is it a Hegelian or a Husserlian project?



10/5  does the synthetic origin of the foam (soap) indicate a parelleity to Sloterdijk’s way of manifesting a “foamy theory” ? And, if yes, what is the next phase in framing thinking through spatial multiplicities and what will emerge as the core questions or conceptualisations?





DISCURSIVE EVENT16–18 June 2019,



SKENE + GRAPHEIN  | WRITING SCENE | performative presentation was inspired by Esa Kirkkopelto's talk on “Artistic components”[1] at the first Research Pavilion #3 Assembly (6 Sept, 2018 in Vuosaari Helsinki), and by OuLiPian ideas and text provided for us on this occasion by Marcel Benabou[2]. 


Compositional elements on a writing scene by two scenographers

 and a dramaturge

 – what are the special ways of argumentation in arts?

 – how are the sceno-graphic components in relation to one another?

 – in what ways do they exist in connnection?

 they are fictional

they have familiarity with dreams and hallucinations

they are magical

they are real

COMPONENTS 1, conditions

skene + graphein

COMPONENTS 2, material

paint brush






COMPONENTS 3, methodologies

Kuleshov’s effect [3]


Oulipian ideas [4]

[1] See Kirkkopelto, Esa 2020. “From quasi-objects to artistic components: Science Studies and Artistic Research”, in Borgdorff, Peters and Inch (eds). Dialogues Between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies. New York and Abingdon, Ox: Taylor & Francis / Routledge, pp. 31–45.

[2] Benabou is the "Secrétaire définitivement provisoire depuis 1971" of OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle), and active in the "OuLiPian Fridays" weekly gatherings organised in the Paris National Library since 30 years ago. We invited him to participate Convocation with us, but unfortunately he had to cancel, but participated remotely in a form of sending his text as material to our WRITING SCENE presentation in the Convocation Event. More on OuLiPo: https://oulipo.net/fr/oulipiens/o

[3] With “Kuleshov’s effect” we refer to the manipulation of space and time via juxtaposing two or more images, or – in a similar way –lines, words or concepts, in order to create assemblages of word-like components. Other reference points are creative geography + artificial landscape.

[4] For example experiments via rhythmic improvisation according to strict (or less strict) rules. OuLiPo is a 1960-founded gathering of writers and mathematicians who seek to create works using constrained experimental writing techniques. OuLiPians define ittérature potentielle as "the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy".



INTERLUDE May 25, 2020

I took on the study with and of foam to find out how material-based artistic research can teach sensitivity in recognizing epistemic registers outside of the center of attention in scholarly debates. What could foam teach me? What could I learn from foams and bubbles of spatial comprehension in a way that is based on being-in-world in coexistence with other beings and things?

All spatiality is based on neighborhoodly structures, where each borderline, each membrane, each contact surface is both own and shared. We can say that the topology of foam-like spaces is constantly changing and in movement. When you touch one bubble, all the others become moved as in an immediate chain reaction.

Foam is a tragic substance, too. Slightest of air flows causes serial death to bubbles in foam. Each bubble is also immune by nature yet at the same time they are dependent on those surrounding them.


Every single bubble is constantly and actively “foam-ing” because they all share the same wall. Bit like buildings in a densely populated city. Topology of this kind makes every unit, every being, (like) an island. It is the way how typical meeting places such as conferences, seminars, stadiums, or seats in a theatre or cinema theatre are spatially positioned.

Peter Sloterdijk sees foams, wroths, sponges, clouds and swirls as metaphors of the twentieth century. They help us understand concepts and conceptions of our environment – ecologies and ecosystems, and the relations between humans, things and phenomenon. The plural-spatial structures and formations manifest the spatialisation of our vantage point to the world of present times.

So I brought soap and water and some other elements to make foam in various ways and settings. I spent a good amount of time with the at first just simple liquid mixture. As it turned out, a huge number of associations, topologies, mythologies and methodologically and socially driven reference points followed.

I have learned something of a newly articulated phenomenological perspective. I have learned to comprehend through a specifically intensified bodily sensation and aesthetic experience that can be called immersive both in a sense of the "arch-phenomenological" being-immersed-in-world kind of way, and also in another manner which needs further explanation:

Many of us recognize the sensation of assimilation with (an) other, which may come after having been closely involved with almost any particular situation long enough. Your thought and experience registers become as if recalibrated to a new position, and you start to notice things in a more heightened way – as all perception starts to be seen, at least for a good while, in relation to that particular situation. Everything seems to originate from it. We have learned about processes of assimilation or adjustment also in terms of kinesthetic empathy or tactile empathy – when we are for example dealing with someone or something that is not familiar to us, or of otherly kind – a horse, or someone completely strange to us. If we want to get along or get acquainted with that otherly being, we may say that we feel for them and we may get sensations of kinesthetic empathy, and it may appear as a physical bodily sensation as well.

In the case of learning from/of/with foam, I dare say that bringing along the element of fiction the picture changes. The “problem of real” diminishes. Also, as Rancière says in a way that makes me feel for him a great deal, “real” is always a matter of construction, and as such it is a matter of “fiction”. (Rancière 2014, 148) The practice of fiction undoes and again rearticulates connections and meanings between things, images, times, spaces. In this sense fiction/fictionalizing is always a practice that comes up with new ideas and connections and trajectories between what we see, say, do and understand. (Rancière 2014, 149) Fiction builds new relations between realities, appearances, materials.


Fiction gives a license to give or take what ever role one chooses in order to make a play make sense. Give foam a leading role and play along accordingly, and be particularly alert to what it says to you. If you only get silence, it is possible to imagine its talk, hear it insinuating and whispering.

The case however most likely is, that fiction is an urgent element here, since, even though we have learned from new materialist discussions that “material do speak to us” it may well be that we cannot understand what they are saying to us, or it is at least challenging translate their talk into any discursive language. (See Barad 2007 and Kirkkopelto 2020) 


I have aimed to build up co-joint ethics of knowledge where the process is exposed to neighborhoodly elements of consideration – of mythologies, cityscapes, experiential realms. Very different “materials” can coexist and in their coexistence the sovereignty of the process can come fore without any set pre-existing paradigm.




I have learned to think and talk a bit of foam. It means appreciation of another kind of epistemic stance discussed in the context of new materialism, feminist materialism or object-oriented ontology, but also through re-routing paradigms in order to answer to ways of being, experiencing and knowing that are only accessible to and observed through processes (seemingly) foreign to our species. 


I cannot for sure know how foam thinks or speaks or feels. I can imagine and construct reality and outcomes of this research setting by leaning on the knowledge gained by learning from these materials.