A decade of residency operations in Saari

Photo: Heli Konttinen

This is a jubilee year for the Saari Residence, which has been in operation for ten years. To celebrate the anniversary, we wish to highlight the work of artists and researchers who have stayed with us, through both small and larger-scale events. Leena Kela, Executive Director of the residence, tells us why birds were chosen as a metaphor to describe the daily activities taking place in the residence.

When we were reflecting on what we – the artists, researchers and staff members – do at the residence, we ended up thinking about birds. Because we are located close to one of the busiest bird bays in Finland, they have a strong presence at the residence. Important questions and functions in residency operations can be compared to behaviour typical of birds. Residency operations involve people arriving from around the world, to work in the same place for a while. Often, they don’t necessarily work together; instead, they work on their own ideas until they are ready to hatch, side by side with other specimens of the same species, their colleagues. After their residency period, the artists and researchers return home or continue to other places to work on different projects.

Artists, in particular, are often global nomads, and therefore migration, nesting and hatching can also be seen as basic functions that take place at residences. On the other hand, we have also thought a lot about the challenges brought on by climate change and of ways of adjusting to them. As a result of global warming, bird watchers at the nearby Mietoistenlahti Bay see new bird species arriving in Finland almost yearly, while we at the residence welcome visitors from around the world. Residences are hubs of conversation, where new connections are formed. They are places for the nursing and hatching of ideas that can re-emerge in other places and other connections. We cannot ignore the question of the effects of the climate change on residential operations and the international mobility of artists in the future, either.

Here at the Saari Residence, we will soon witness the arrival of migratory birds in Finland again. Mietoistenlahti is the first stop for many species coming to Finland, and the bustle we see here in the spring is quite something. During our jubilee year, we will highlight works and ideas hatched at the Saari Residence in various connections. We have already made a start with the Meet the Artist series of events, through which our residential artists showcase their work outside the Saari Residence. The first Meet the Artist events took place in Turku, in the form of an audio performance in the Titanik gallery and a workshop at the Regional Dance Centre of Western Finland’s studio. We are also making preparations for the Open Day and other invitation events of the summer. Between these events, we will also host smaller-scale events here in Mynämäki, as well as in Turku and Helsinki. In April, we will open a community space in the heart of Mynämäki, to increase our interaction with the locals by sharing art, skills and information. Keep your eyes open!

Leena Kela