I instantly felt welcome in Norway and giggled to myself at the airport when I saw the big sign mounted on a rock-face seen from the window of the arrival terminal.
Bergen? it read.
I was grateful to be staying with a friend of mine whom I know from an alternative art ‘situation’ in Iceland and who folded me into Bergen’s world of art for the brief moment I rested between the mountains with her. Two years apart felt like two weeks.
When I landed I immediately took the light rail to meet her at the art university where she studies. Every time the train reached a stop it played a micro-clip of a song, a real musical composition, a different one almost every stop. I laughed looking out of the window at the sunlit mountains. What a joyful place to be.
Entering the huge atrium of the art university the first thing I was faced with was a big banner that read ‘this used to be a work space for students’. I think of my colleagues in Helsinki.
I arrive here to perform. An eight page script in my pocket, I spent the entire trip memorising my
lines. On the bus, metro, plane and train I quietly mumble to myself. Over and over. ‘covered with
slimy placenta’, ’perhaps the problem isn’t so much the bloody rowing’, ‘I love you’.
I had applied for an open call to a queer performance event hosted by Performance Art Bergen, a local edition co-curated by a colleague from KuvA. The idea was to “give space and visibility to queer-identifying performance artists, and to get a sense of what’s out there in the pond of queerness”. So I arrived on stage and poured out my own pond in the only queer bar in Bergen. Norway is currently wrapping up its Skeivt Kulturår (Queer Culture Year). Apparently when proposing a queer edition performance event the curators were met with the question of whether all performance art isn’t inherently queer anyway.
We walked on the windy streets of Bergen to meet the curators and fellow performers for dinner. Next to the student housing on Årstadveien is an elderly home, it’s a beautiful semi circle of a building painted red. In its backyard is a graveyard lit up by the hospital across the street. I notice the verticality of the city. It feels impossible to escape the city because it is always towering over me, especially in the darkness of November nights. The romantic image of city lights. Everywhere. All the time. Where do people hide here?
Up in the mountains most likely.
Before the dinner we pop into a tiny hole in the wall exhibition by a local art student, colourful depictions of Tarot hung on the walls, a playful and nostalgic collage of drawings and ceramics. There I bumped into a student on exchange from KuvA, a familiar face from a drunken night frolicking in the academy. The world is so small. I arrived at the dinner to find the other performers and was met with a colleague from TeaK I hadn’t seen all year. Wow, it’s you! The world is SO small.
The performance event was full of love and affirmation.
Affirmation of queer love and kinship.
I was incredibly grateful to be performing within this queer context for the community in Bergen. To feel safe and heard. To have the pleasure of curating my work towards this specific audience. To be just that little bit more vulnerable and direct.
It is from this privilege that I first turn around to question who I really want in my audience.
We spent the day following the performances hiking and I felt how much I missed the mountains. But I also realised that I find hiking quite the laborious work despite how much I glorify it when I never do it in flat flat Finland. Up there in the hills there stood a tiny rock hut of a gallery: galleri kronborg.
I was grateful for the sunshine. I haven’t seen it since I returned to Helsinki.
I’m pretty sure I got a bit sunburnt but my friend did not believe me.
Without so much as reading the title of a performance my friend suggested we attend I found myself to be an audience member in the Uprising (Soulèvement), by Tatiana Julien at BIT teatergarasjen. There was lipsyncing to both pop music and to french philosophy. The audience was necessary and necessarily being directly spoken to as the performer made eye contact with us, clutched our feet and touched our knees. Whilst simultaneously the soundtrack of the piece sounded it’s own applause at its beginning and conclusion, the performer was the superstar, the politician, the dancer, the boxer and the feral child who climbed naked and wet over the audience members. They hit the sweet spot of intensity and criticality delivered with a joyful and comic attitude, almost like a tragicomedy. I was touched by the wholeheartedness of the performance and happy to see the theatre floor transform into a slip n’ slide.
Enjoying what free wine we could at the curtesy of an exhibition opening elsewhere in town, we sat on museum doorsteps bathing in the afterglow of work well done when a happy stranger strutted past with a spring in their step singing passionately to whatever played in their headphones.
Joyful, absolutely joyful.
All of it.
The master’s programme in Live Art and Performance Studies (LAPS) was launched in 2001 as a Finnish-language degree programme, Esitystaiteen ja -teorian koulutusohjelma. Since 2013, LAPS has been an English-language, international and residential MA programme based in Helsinki. The programme combines critical thinking with experimentation in artistic work and artistic research. The objective of the programme is to enable artists coming from different environments, classes, cultures and upbringings to focus on their work, develop their research and map out the future of their artistic practice. The central question for contemporary performance concerns the futures of performance and cultures at large —on the exploration of the possible futures, ecologies, technologies, cultures and economies of performance. These themes are widely explored over the duration of the two-year programme. This blog discloses the various aspects of the LAPS programme, from individual notions and statements by individual students to narrations of themes or topics of a course or providing background in preparation for a public performance event. The blog posts reflect the various collaborations, projects, or individual artistic processes taking place within the LAPS programme.