Welcome new Saari Fellows!

With the autumn come our individual residency guests after a hectic summer of group residencies. Nine new artists arrived in the Saari Residence in September and they will be working in the residency from September to October.

Dance artist and choreographer Diina Bukareva will be working on a piece called LoveVirtualMe, which is a solo dance performance based on movement, speech, and projected text, as well as costumes and theatrical scenery. Her project examines discrepancies between real and virtual roles of women in Western society and the conflict of closeness and distance in visual interaction. “The performance also explores the gendered and clichéd imagery of selfies and how they define our identity. Queer, gay, and trans aesthetics are also often overrepresented in selfies and duplicated to the point of becoming a joke. Is this simply about challenging heteronormativeness or do the pictures really relate to their subject’s personal identity in some way? The aim of the project is to challenge the ways in which people portray themselves on social media and to invite the audience to think about the roles that people play and the identities they build through their pictures.”

Performance artist David Frankovich (Canada/Finland) intends to use his residency on creating an invisibility cloak. His recent work has been concerned with bisexual erasure and invisibility. He is looking for a fresh and a more collective perspective for performance art and queer performances. Frankovich is taking the Master of Live Art and Performance Studies degree course at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, and he has been living in Finland since August 2013. “As LGBT people are welcomed into mainstream society, it is necessary to rethink what it means to be queer. I am trying to reconsider how to approach queer aesthetics and representation through the lens of bisexuality, its marginal position, and the challenge it poses to notions of stable identity.”

Playwright Virpi Haatainen will be working on her new play in the Saari Residence. The play is called Unknown Taina, and it tells the story of a woman who defects to Soviet Russia, marries the son of Otto Wille Kuusinen there, and is killed in the Great Purge. The play is about a largely overlooked period in Finnish history. It examines historical events from the perspective of an ordinary, unknown person and gives voice to untold stories that exist in many Finnish families. “Art is a means of building bridges to difficult subjects. It can be used to increase understanding and empathy, to fill empty spaces. Creating as rich a picture as possible of the past is crucial. To do anything else is like looking into a broken mirror. History is often written from the perspective of those in power.”

Visual artist Päivi Hirsiaho’s work in the Saari Residence will involve keeping a diary of animation and photographs, which combine drawing and nature. Her aim is to work on her animation using charcoal and pencil every day, and the theme will only be revealed as the work progresses. She mostly draws self-portraits, and her aim is to produce an animation of a few seconds every a day. “It will be exciting to see what the final piece will be like after two months of intensive drawing. I will also be recording the soundtrack for the film in and around the Saari Residence and combining those sounds with guitar and electronic sounds. I will therefore also be producing music, which I will later turn into a demo.”

Essay writer Silvia Hosseini is in the Saari Residence to work on her new collection of essays. Her essays focus on texts, books, and cultural phenomena that are usually considered in some way bad or artistically superficial and valueless. Her topics include, among others, photographs of flower arrangements in lifestyle blogs, the Tangomarkkinat festival, sexist rap music videos, dusty classic books, music by Leonard Cohen, and allegedly the world’s worst actor Keanu Reeves. Hosseini wants to examine these topics from a positive point of view: “My work is not about an ironic camp attitude but about exploring the aspects of bad that are genuinely good, interesting, or moving.”

Film director Otto Kylmälä intends to dedicate his residency to writing his first feature film, which he has named The Blue Period. The film is about a 17-year-old black sixth former called Tero, who is a three-time Finnish champion in biathlon. The film begins with Tero trying to decide whether to turn professional. “The Blue Period is my way of portraying problems of Finnish society in a multi-layered and dramatic manner. The leading themes of the film are the different forms in which violence, both physical and psychological, is manifested, and these are explored through phenomena such as racism and bullying.”

Architects Valle Medina (Spain/Switzerland) and Benjamin Reynolds (Spain/Australia/UK) will be spending their residency finishing their previously incomplete self-initiated project Civic Canyon. Their work combines 3D modelling, photography, and a web-based dimension. The project concentrates around the life of a contemporary citizen of Santa Barbara, California, and documents their decline from a sociable and active 30-something to a citizen whose city has removed any meaningful bodily and public interaction from his existence to the point where he feels no longer any sense of belonging. Medina’s and Reynolds’ work explores public spaces, such as the baseball stands of Ortega Park and the shores of Leadbetter Beach, which the character imagines in his mind as “a way out”. “Using 3D-printed Google earth terrains and fragments is part of the project, but they also invite a theoretical discussion about the value of spaces.”