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Vertical Ecologies Symposium 2024

Thursday 30th May 2024; Time: 13:30 – 19:00 EET. Venue: Museum of Impossible Forms, Aallonhalkoja9, 00540 Helsinki.

Whyte&Zettergren live action at sulphur mine. Photo credit: Bryndís Björnsdóttir

This symposium is the culmination of Ecological Thinking | Vertical Ecologies course (2023-2024) led by artist-researcher Samir Bhowmik and curator Giovanna Esposito Yussif, organised at the Academy of Fine Arts. The course explored ecology and extractivism as investigated by visual arts, film and performance. By bringing into the conversation the term ‘verticality’ it is proposed to consider the extractivist implications beyond digging into the subterranean in search for resources: encompassing extraction from the deep below to human labour and the knowledges our diverse communities produce, to the earth’s atmosphere and in the future, outer space. What ecologies are destroyed and re-shaped by this vertical extension of extractivism? The course and seminar are part of the Terra-Performing project: https://www.uniarts.fi/en/projects/terra-performing/

For this session, our invited keynote speakers are Sámi Indigenous scholar, curator, and duojár Liisa-Rávná Finbog, whose research has focused on the devastating effect of the colonial epistemicide on the practice of duodji; and Léopold Lambert, editor-in-chief of The Funambulist and author of four books that examine the inherent violence of architecture on bodies, and its political instrumentalization at various scales and in various geographical contexts. As well, it brings together new artworks and presentations by artist participants to the course: Frank BrümmelSiew ChingLeena KelaHaiyun Yu, and Rut Karin Zettergren

13:30 | Open doors and coffee

13:45 | Introduction to Terra-Performing | Samir Bhowmik

13:55 |  Introduction to the seminar | Giovanna Esposito Yussif 

14:00 | Keynote | Léopold Lambert, The Key and the Spoon: Architecture’s Violence and the Means To Escape It

15:00 | Film | Siew Ching, A Manual for Raising Pigs

15:20 | Film and piano performance | Haiyun Yu, The Cowherd’s Flute

15:30 | Break

16:00 | Keynote | Liisa-Rávná Finborg 

17:00 | Installation and presentation | Frank Brümmel, From Cup-marked Stones to an Attempt of Home

17:30 | Recorded performative lecture | Leena Kela, Ghosts and Monsters

18:00 | Video installation and presentation | Whyte&Zettergren, Historical Spiritual Vibrations – a Space Travelling Program for Healing 

18:30 | Drinks 

Participant bios and Presentations

Frank Brümmel is an artist and educator with a background in stonemasonry. Brümmel graduated as Meisterschüler (2006) from the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg, Germany and received a Master of Fine Arts (2008) from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. Currently serves as Lecturer in Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki, and is developing his doctoral candidacy (since 2021).  Brümmel artistic research project is centred on the question of Allegory for Pedagogy – Sculpture as an Education Tool?  approached from the position of artists as teachers, the necessity of artistic communal work, and the development of fictional archaeological stone artefacts. For Brümmel, carving texts and ornaments in stone and considering stones as active agents are artistic methods of this current project. From cup-marked stones to an attempt of home is a sculptural installation that brings forward the relation of humans and place and what belonging means in this relation. Brümel focuses his research on how the place, the landscape engraves/imprints into the person and how the humans engrave themselves into the landscape. 

Siew Ching is a visual artist based in Helsinki. Through research, art-making, writing and workshopping, she examines cultural notions of human, animal and infrastructure in the context of climate change. A Manual for Raising Pigs is a video that examines the lifecycle of pigs from birth to post-death.

Liisa-Rávná Finbog is a Sámi Indigenous scholar, curator, and duojár from Oslo, Vaapste, and Skánit on the Norwegian side of the border. As a long-time practitioner of duodji [Sámi practices of aesthetics and storytelling], her work combines her practice as a duojár with an Indigenous research focus. In her doctoral research, Finborg has  looked into duodji as a Sámi system of knowledge; the devastating effect of the colonial epistemicide on the practice of duodji; how Sámi communities today work to re-remember practices within duodji and in the process negotiate Sámi identities; and lastly, how museums with their vast collections of Sámi heritage objects play into these processes. For her postdoctoral project, the specific focus was on the relation between Indigenous aesthetics in the Arctic and land, within the overall research project ‘Mediated Arctic Geographies’, which aimed to look at how Arctic geospheres are aesthetically shaped and mediated to become vehicles of environmental, [geo]political and social concerns. She was one of three curators for the Sámi Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 2022 and continues to work on efforts to indigenize curatorial practice.

Léopold Lambert is the editor-in-chief of The Funambulist. He is a trained architect, as well as the author of four books that examine the inherent violence of architecture on bodies, and its political instrumentalization at various scales and in various geographical contexts. He is the author of Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012), Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street (punctum, 2016) and La politique du Bulldozer: La ruine palestinienne comme projet israélien (B2, 2016). His new book is called States of Emergency: A Spatial History of the French Colonial Continuum (Premiers Matins de Novembre, 2021). The Key and the Spoon: Architecture’s Violence and the Means To Escape It. Most of us own a key. It is such an object of our daily lives that we often fail to consider the political power of such an object. In its materialisation of legal protocols of social inclusion and exclusion, however, the key enforces political regimes such as private property, settler colonialism, and carceralism. On the contrary, the spoon, seen in the context of the prison’s own time scale, proves to be a patient instrument of liberation. It provides the means to win a struggle that is fundamentally asymmetrical with the violence of architecture.

Leena Kela is a performance artist, doctoral candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki, artistic director of the New Performance Turku Biennale and director of the Saari Residence. In her work and research she explores the dialogue between corporeality and materiality in performance art. She creates performances that play with and twist our relationship to everyday objects, perceptions and phenomena. She has presented her performances internationally at performance art festivals, events and exhibitions in every continent except Antarctica.  Ghosts and Monsters is a recorded performative lecture, where performance artist and doctoral candidate Leena Kela presents two concepts – ghosts and monsters – to discuss ecological entanglements in the Anthropocene. She creates a dialogue with the publication Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (Swanson, Tsing, Bubandt, Gan. 2017), and her two recent performance projects, an online performance Temptation of Destruction (2022) and a postcard performance Greetings from Places I Never Wanted to Visit (2023). 

Haiyun Yu is a translator, writer and producer from Suzhou, China. With a background in linguistics and comparative literature, her artistic interest is to invite performativity to text. In her writing practices, she explores the intersection of cultural heritage, ecology and identity. Her libretto and dramaturgy work for music theatre Tales of the Beginning of the Time (开天记) was commissioned by R.A.W.! 10th Anniversary and supported by the Sibelius Academy Foundation. It premiered in Shanghai International Arts Festival 2023. She received the Finland Scholarship in 2022 and is currently finishing her master’s study of Arts Management at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. The Cowherd’s Flute is Yu’s ongoing project about recollecting the past through muscle memory alone –no references to scores or recordings are allowed. The catalyst for the memory in this case is one piano piece The Cowherd’s Flute (He Luting, 1934) that Haiyun played at the age of 8 and participated for the first time in a piano competition held in her hometown. The piece is inspired by the folk tune called “silk and bamboo” from Jiangnan region in China where Haiyun is originally from and creates a polyphony with the traditional Chinese pentatonic scale. By playing The Cowherd’s Flute, Haiyun embodies the ecological memory of her hometown – her soil. Being far away from home both in time and space, her ecological nostalgia uncovers memory that has been intertwined with the imaged landscape and reality.

Whyte&Zettergren is an artistic duo comprising Jamaican dancer and performance artist Olando Whyte and the Swedish visual artist Rut Karin Zettergren. The duo’s artistic works constitute an ongoing investigation into the historical memory held by a place, material, and body. Their process visualises the entanglement between geographically distant locations, objects, cultures, and times. Through their creative processes, they seek potential methods for healing historical trauma and strive to craft rites that envision possible futures. Rut Karin Zettergren will present the duo Whyte&Zettergren’s work with Historical, Spiritual Vibrations- a space travelling program for healing through video and objects. The material was collected during performance interventions in Iceland at locations where the Apollo 11 astronauts underwent their geological training prior to their mission to the moon. The space program was launched in 2022 as a reaction to the “new space race” and ongoing plans of future colonial extractive projects in extraterrestrial territories by companies and states. Whyte&Zettergren also uses space as a sphere for envisioning alternative worlds and futures, following traditions in Afrofuturism and feminist speculative fiction. 

Ecological Thinking

This is the course blog for K-JI-11-23A – Ecological Thinking. In 2023-24, we explore “Vertical Ecologies” by visual arts, film and performance. The course is co-organized by Giovanna Esposito Yussif and Samir Bhowmik. Previously, in 2022-23, we organized a year-long collaborative research studio with Aarhus University, DK, Research Pavilion 2023 and Helsinki Biennial 2023 on the themes of environmental data, sensing and contamination.

Header image credit: Abelardo Gil-Fournier and Jussi Parikka / Seed, Image, Ground (2020)- With permission from the authors.

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