|Introducing Tumbleweed to the Finnish Landscape, Claire Blundell Jones, Anti Festival|
photo Pekka Mäkinen
Site-specificity as a form is redefined and refocused by the attention the ANTI Festival gives to its surrounding discourses. Each of the works in the festival not only sets up a dialogue with the site itself, but also allows the audience to playfully and conceptually reconsider the potential for human and environmental encounter within these spaces. A diverse range of places is engaged each year, from small islands in the town’s harbour to a city bank building in the main square to the local grill.
At 10 am on the Friday of the festival, outside the Osuuspankki Bank, “UK artist activist collective of one”, the vacuum cleaner, gave away to the citizens of Kuopio 1000 Euros, including his festival artist’s fee. The money was distributed in a large pile of one hundred thousand one-cent pieces. When we arrive, a large crowd has already formed around the bank. There are cameramen from local TV stations, reporters with microphones and lots of people with buckets and bags. Our host, dressed in a security guard’s uniform, is encouraging people to take as much as they need.
As we inch our way to the front, there’s an awkward feeling as we realise that what we are straining to see is other people scrabbling for money. One man is on the ground, lying over the last few coins while someone else tries to push him off his pile. A man in a wheelchair has pulled himself onto the ground and is seizing the last few coins and shoving them into his backpack. The money disappears in less than half an hour. We heard later that someone had brought a wheelbarrow.
The performance is a proposition. If you join in, you enter into a game that is played everyday, a fight over limited resources, scrabbling to stay on top of your heap. Whether watching the game or playing it you are implicated. The coins had to be shipped into Kuopio from Brussels as one euro cent is too small a currency to be found in great quantities in a wealthy country such as Finland. In order for the money grabbers to spend their loot, they will have to take their wheelbarrows and buckets into other banks around the town and exchange their cents for larger denominations. After the performance, we imagine the hundreds of freshly minted coins continuing their journeys as people do their weekly shopping.
In Introducing Tumbleweed to the Finnish Landscape, Claire Blundell Jones, armed with a leaf blower, escorted a ball of tumbleweed through the streets of Kuopio. Bizarre chance encounters could happen anywhere over the three days of the festival. Down streets, through town squares and along the harbour foreshore, the site for this work was the entire city. As we see Blundell Jones wandering the streets, carefully directing her tumbleweed along the pavements and through parks, a narrative begins to unfold. She becomes a lone ranger, a woman out of place. A relationship is formed between the artist and her accomplice. As she introduces Kuopio and its people to her shy but strong tumbleweed, we begin to see this as an act of love. Over the duration of the performance, through various friendly interventions with people, cars, bicycles and enthusiastic dogs along the way, the mythical American weed slowly reduces to the size of a tennis ball.
|he Longest Lecture Marathon, Rebekah Rousi, Anti Festival|
photo Pekka Mäkinen
We go back a few times over the three days; Rousi is always energetic, welcoming newcomers to the class and returning immediately to her slide. When we go back to the schoolroom, an hour before she is due to finish, a number of people have gathered to witness the end of this great feat. The artist is carrying on with the same enthusiasm we had witnessed earlier. She never seems to flag even if she is looking a little dishevelled, her mascara running down her face (she’s either been laughing or crying earlier that day). We all hang on her every word. This performance is like a seed that takes root in you. For the last two days we have wandered the town always aware that in that room Rebekah Rousi is still going, her rhythm, tone and language firmly lodged in our minds.
On the Saturday, on the other side of town, Simon Whitehead [UK] rowed between the harbour and Vasikkasaari Island, inviting people to join him from dawn until sunset in the ritual building of a large bonfire. The fire was made from found bits of wood from the island and the offerings people brought, which ranged from sticks and leaves to household furniture and an apple. Our crossing was the last for the day and we had to move quickly as the sun was setting and Whitehead had last minute preparations to attend to before the final ritual burning. Despite cold and fatigue the artist spoke with warmth and generosity, inviting us onto the boat. We were asked not to speak during the journey, setting the tone for the next thirty minutes where every act was slowly pared back to basic necessity as we turned our focus inward towards the island.
We walk in silence into a clearing. To the left is a large table surrounded by white birch trees and toadstools. To the right is a large bonfire built to perfection in tepee symmetry by Whitehead and the strangers who had come before us. We stand there, taking in the calm beauty of it all, not really sure what to do. The artist points to the table and whispers more instructions. He asks us to record our gifts and our reason for bringing them in a book, a ritual inventory of the fire, and then to join him at the beacon to place our gift. He gestures for us to sit with him on the large rock next to a wooden mound. We look out onto the shore, back to Kuopio where the offering will shortly be directed. He lies down, we follow, and together we stare at the sky.
When we return to shore, we’re invited to stay to see the beacon of light burn at sunset. The experience, a slow, peaceful and yet fleeting encounter with the island, feels rooted in the island’s elusive temporal reality. The performance concludes beautifully in the final act of burning.
The ANTI Festival, Sept 27-30 2007. www.antifestival.com. Other Australian artists in the program included Rosie Dennis and the writers Madeleine Hodge and Sarah Rodigari (Panther), a performance collaboration currently based in Melbourne. www.pantherpanther.com
RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 30
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