This is an update on the park project in Kalasatama. Previous post is here.
After a vote, through facebook and paper form left in a Piggybaggy and City Library community area, the name of the park was decided on – Katiska, a fish trap.
Now for the new additions. The kids from local kindergarten really wanted to come and help with the park, but by the time that was arranged, autumn had arrived. We couldn’t take the 4 and 5 year-olds out on the lashing rain, so we brought the park to them instead. Annika picked up some smaller rocks and we had a painting session (well, two – one with each age group) and the kids covered the rocks in safe and washable finger paint. As they were painting, we all talked about the park and the kids even taught me some Finnish. Once the rocks were dry, Annika and I varnished them with a weather-resistant paint and brought back to the park, for decoration and also for playing some kind of a Finnish game (I’ll tell you about it once I learn how to play it).
To get a donation of some used tyres, I contacted various car repair places, addresses of which I found on the official Nokia tyres web page. A lovely guy, who works for one of them, Rengaskeskus, agreed to donate about 30 tyres for us and even dropped them off to us on his day off. We wanted to use the tyres for sitting, making flower beds and building forts.
Then we held another outdoor painting session. As the temperature was close to zero degrees, only the most hardcore mums and their well wrapped up toddlers took part in the Taidetalkoot (Taide being art, and talkoot – something along the lines of spring clean, a get together of the neighbours to beautify their common areas and have a bbq afterwards). Nonetheless, this is what we had in the end:
I’ve been asked to help with a community project in recently developed district of Kalasatama in Helsinki. Annika Niskanen and Mikko Niemisto are working now to assist the local community in claiming the public space and turning it into a park. After nearly a year of work, they got a city council permission to turn a section of an outdoor public car park into a recreation area. Several meeting with Kalasatama community were called, where the adults and kids of the area designed the hangout area.. Painting the tarmac road and granite rocks in vibrant colours was first in the agenda.
Two weekends were spent in August in the parking lot, rain and shine. Dads particularly enjoyed drawing the traffic map and the game area and painting dragons.
Kivinokka is a peninsula on the seaside in Helsinki. The nature reserve a place of summer cottages, gardening allotments, forest walks and an annual environmental art exhibition. This year I’m taking part in the show, that is in its 11th year running.
A group of former and current EA students of Aalto, we called the exhibition “The Last Lingonberry”, to reference the constant threat of building development in the area, as well as the recent decision to discontinue the Environmental Art program in the University.
The fourth informal urban initiatives conference Delai Sammit took place at the ZIL Cultural center in Moscow on April 19-20. The Delai Sammit / DIY Conference is the embodiment of practical philosophy of personal involvement and collective action with the idea of changing oneselves, one´s society and cities. The conference provides space for learning and interaction among people who are not indifferent to their cities. The Delai Sammit focuses on the most interesting and effective cases of civil actions and initiatives aimed at creating a friendlier urban space. (http://delaisam.org)
I was due to go to Moscow anyway and, after hearing about this event from partizaning.org. I suggested help with the running of the event. I wanted to be involved and get to know people. I wanted to go home and do something, something other than stuffing my face with sushi and stocking up on buckwheat. My role turned out to be awkwardly announcing the speakers, keeping the time by discreetly waving A4 sheets of paper with the minutes left and running after the lovely sound technicians when the mic ran out of batteries. The job was tiring and a bit stressful as I was very conscious of my Russian with an Irish accent (last time I had to come on stage and make sense through the Russian language had been over 10 years ago). Initiated by the civil initiatives community:Ecowiki.ru Community Project, Partizaning Project, Moscow Youth Multifunction Center, Guerilla Gardening Movement, Greenhouse of Social Technologies Project and opened by Darya Melissina and Tatyana Kargina, the festival had four strands: Urbanism, Street Art, Self-Organization and Advocacy. The Sammit was launched with lectures and discussions on April 19. The Green Room, where I volunteered, presented the speakers:
Daniel Latorre (USA) — expert of Project for public space (PPS), ideologist of the Digital placemaking concept that has been used to develop and implement online tools for changing urban space by the citizens. Daniel spoke of the importance of public spaces in the lives of the citizens both as physical entities and symbols. He discussed the Gutenberg parenthesises and the invention of printing press as the start of nations and control. He presented social media and map making for understanding and communicating social movements. Some examples of post-digital networking techniques that he discussed included taxi drivers as agents for revolution in the East. His lecture was followed by a workshop that took place on Sunday.
Alain Bieber, art critic, curator and author of Rebelart.net, one of the most influential street art and art activism blogs, and books Art Agenda and Urban Interventions. Margarita Augustin, specialist in Art History, researcher at the Department of Art History at the University of Freiburg (Germany). A great text my Margarita is here (in Russian).
Sasha Kurmaz, street artist and photographer from Kiev. He showed photographs from Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kiev, the place or the protests, barricades and fights. Through his photography he captured the ways that people coped with the long-term living on the street. He was amazing.
Vladimir Turner (Czech Republic), urban interventionist who combines documentary techniques, urban art and activism in his works. He spoke of the gallery as a graveyard of street art, stating that an exhibition by recently deceased Pasha 183 in Moscow Museum of Modern Art is taken out of context in MOMMA and looks like an “MTV skate shop decoration”. “The gallery isn’t the street the street is the gallery”. Dejecting any kind of commercial art, he spoke of ethical choices we make when agreeing to exhibit or sell out art. Other talks were presented by Transparency Russia, Greenpeace, and Richard Reynolds of Guerrilla Gardening Raimonds Elbakjans, director of the youth street culture and sports movement Ghetto Games to name a few. Speakers from Ukraine were most certainly the ones I found the most exciting, challenging and inspiring. Activist and artist Alexandr Wolodarskij spoke about volunteer medical help in Kiev during the protests. He really was unreal. I bought his book. There was a stall by Radical Theory and Practice independent publisher, presenting translated anarchist writings, as well as books by Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian artists and activist.
Sunday, April 20th was a working day. World art activism fair under the curatorship of Alan Bieber, focused on privacy and surveillance. Hairstyles to cheat face recognition devices and mobile phone cases that insure privacy were some of the highlights of the fair. There was a fashion show at the end that presented all the work made throughout the weekend.
Daniel Latorre conducted a Hackathon, a marathon of developing new useful web services and mobile applications for active citizenship. The task was to develop a concept for a self-organised place for meetings, art shows, exchange of knowledge and skills.
I participated in the discussion on activism, where we talked about the structure of the place. We decided on the format of an apartment, with kitchen to host cooking lessons, lunches, and philosophical discussions. The sitting room was dedicated to art and performance, the nursery – for kids activities, the study – for workshops and presentations, the garage -for cycling enthusiasts, library for books and the balcony/yard – for gardening and outdoor games, etc..
Daniel suggested some practical techniques for testing the concept – for example calling a friend and explaining the idea and the title and seeing if they understand it, or approaching a person in a park and chatting to them about the idea.
The organization was great, bar the strange location in the building (we practically sat on a stairwell) and hence terrible acoustics. I went because I wanted to meet the people who live, work and make in the country where there is no democracy. I wanted to gain faith and I did. I met some amazing people. There was no talk about politics. No complains about the lack of funding or the bureaucracy. People just got together and got on with it. I wanted to be somewhat useful. I don’t know if I was actually any good, but hey I kept the place going for a day, even if my oratorical skills are not the best. Everyone was really lovely though, even the presenters whose names I got wrong, or the projector stopped working on them, or the presentation got delay – the usual perks. Tanya and Dasha, the organizers, were great and mostly left me to my own devices. There was no break at all, but the lentil cutlets and vegan carrot cake from EkaLoka kept me going. Overall, I loved it. Definitely learnt a lot.
Photography: Anastasia Artemeva and Aleksandra Sapygina
Supermarket is an international artist-run art fair for artist-run galleries and other artists’ initiatives.It takes place in Stockholm, Sweden and this time run Feb 14-16th. This year, supported by Limerick City of Culture, two artist-run spaces from Limerick took part in it – Occupy Space, representing Carla Burns, and my own home away from home, Ormston House. I was delighted to be asked by Mary Conlon, the director if the space, to show work at the fair. We went with Entitled piece. It worked very well as it got near a hundred scans, and even an (encouraging?) comment on the blog:
Other artist represented by Ormston House included: Gimena Blanco, Paul Quast, Alan Phelan, Eilish Murrihy, Paraic Leahy, Isabella Oberlander and Celine Mahe.
Atmosphere of excitement and solidarity filled Kulturhuset Stadsteatern for the weekend. People I met from all over the world, from Finland to Syria and beyond were incredibly fun, friendly and excited about their and other people’s work.
One of the happiest moments was when Swedish artist, Patrik Qvist, a lovely and kind man, following a conversation after taking part in his photographic project, gave me a beautiful book of his, uncertain rooms.
The view from storage room of the fair was as much of Stockholm as I got time to see.
Image credits – artworks by Artemeva, Eilish Murrihy, Alan Phelan and Patrik Qvirst.
Lantern Park is a project located in Hesperia park, a popular city centre sea-side space. Curated by Kaisa Salmi, an environmental and community artist and a PhD researcher from Aalto University, this strand of LUX Helsinki presented over 150 lanterns created over the past years by Helsinki artists and designers. I was very lucky to be a part of this event, developed in collaboration with the University.
Lux Helsinki is an annual festival taking place in the darkest time of the year in venues, sometimes indoor bot mostly outside, including the Senate square, Hesperia park, the Opera House, the Opera house and Cable factory to list a few. The festival features multiple artists from all over the world, this year including the renowned Spanish fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada with the design agency D-Facto with Corazón, a huge heart beating in countless colours on Senate Square. Urban Flipper, by the French company CT Light Concept, turned the façade of the New Student House into a giant pinball game, which can be played onsite by visitors. Fire circus and large scale installations were also part of the festival.
Making this a bit ridiculous and a bit pathetic lantern was the best fun. Watching kids and adults walking up to the sculpture, looking in, turning the handles was a rewarding experience, one that conceptual artists don’t often acquire. The melancholy and the homey kitsch of the Point of View seemed to balance out the beautifully designed hanging lanterns, and the smart light sculptures on the ground and overall I felt the Lantern Park in Hesperia felt like a place of dreams, and it was incredibly exciting to contribute to such a large project engaged with by many a thousand of people.
Here’s a Lantern I made to be shown as part of LUX festival in Helsinki in January 2014. I was lucky to find the two windows in a recycling store in Espoo, and the pathetic netting and curtains along with the faded tinsel and a misshaped lamp completed the melancholic look.