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A Radio Picknick and Other Stories

„I grew up in a mining city. And so, I found the air in Ii… very fresh, very clean. You notice this quickly when you know so well, how the mining dust is just everywhere and covering everything.”

The air this morning was indeed clear and fresh, sheep clouds were sailing across the blue, and our first guest, arriving speedily on a bicycle was Joana Cortez from Vitória, Brazil, a philosopher, curator, and artist.

Joana Cortez works with ferments. Her project in Ii involves among other research and its (re)presentation, the extraction of specifically ‚Iian‘ fermentation microbes from the immediate surroundings. Three mixtures evolved, and three loaves of bread were baked from the dough that was generated.
In her talk with Tina, Joana tells us about the beginnings of her career, when the act of creating bread dough formed a parallel expression of her urge to ‚ferment‘ her diversified approaches into something artistically whole(some).
Working with the tiniest beings, such as microbes, she says, can teach us many things. „Diversity is a natural thing, it is not something that is forced on us. Only by environments that provide a ground for numerous species of microbes, interaction and fermentation are enabled.“ In the course of her research with biologists, and chemists and in cooperation with numerous international scientific institutions Joana has formed a body of work that focuses on those processes which are just as minuscule as determinative for our life on earth.

Joana Cortes: Ferment: from the air around you (selection)

Our second set of guests arrived shortly after. Turku-based sound artists Simo Alitalo & Tuike Alitalo work together as a couple ever since… meaning, since they first met in their teens. They sit close, in unison, they listen to each other, exchange glances, gestures, knitting an airy net of stories they have both shared in their work as advocates for a culture of listening. Their project for Ii involved just that: Listening. Without recorders, without distractions, without Vorbehalt. Together they staged three to four audio walk through Ii. Along the river, around the town, through gardens, and across roads. A white ear made from porcelain marks the location where the walkers would be asked to stand still and listen. After those walks, the two of them invited their listening guests to share their experiences with the group.

In the course of the talk, many stories were told. Tuike and Simo are widely traveled… and one of their favorite cities seems to be Cologne in Germany… for many reasons and as many stories. As for listening, I think, my favorite story was about Tuike telling us about their stay in NY City, when they were stuck in some hotel, and she said that after days and days, she could not only tell, which direction ambulance cars were coming from but also the hospital they were heading to. Of course, Ii is less dramatic, yet…

Simo Alitalo & Tuike Alitalo: Ecouterias / Ekouteriat

Our final guest – before the break and the ‚narrow cast experience‘ as Jetta Huttunen labeled it – was Hanna Kaisa Vainio. Together with Saara-Maria Kariranta, Riikka Keränen she is part of the Suomaalaiset-working group.
While most artists’ works were only meant to be accessible during the Biennial, her’s is to stay. It is Installed in the nearby „Sculpture Park“, we all had visited the Environmental Art Park of Ii before our trip to „Merihelmi“ where Kotoaki Asano had created his artwork „Frame & Thread“. We found Hanna Kaisa extremely knowledgeable about birds. She knows many of their calls, helping us to identify a recording made earlier. Her sculpture „The Fisher“ is made from wood and bark and threads, a bird with a wing span of perhaps 1,5 meters hanging suspended between two trees. At the belly, a weight is fixed to a string, and when this is pulled, „The Fisher“ flaps its wings.

Hanna-Kaisa Vainio: „Osprey – The Fisher“.

The Picknick

The FM-transmitter was transmitting, the music was playing. We looked out onto the lawn which was still and empty: Did our guests forget to come? Will they bring radios to listen? Will they bring food… because, we were really hungry!

But they arrived and also brought a radio. Next to the curators, Jetta, Mark and Minna, and their daughter, there came also the biennial producer, Heli Paaso-Rantala and Joana too made herself comfortable on the grass. A bike-riding couple stopped and was offered refreshments and a small radio to listen to. Baskets were unpacked, bottles (non-alcoholic of course) were opened.
Radiowise we had hoped to meet some more of the actual inhabitants of Ii. Heli, who turned out to be one of them, had tipped us of on the beautiful bar in town, the Baari, as a place to meet the locals. Alas, when we visited, we found this Kaurismäkian movie-like refuge deserted from people except for its most charming bartender.
Our radio talk with her dwelled mainly on the theme of climate change and how it influences the daily life of the people in the region. The summers got colder and the winters warmer, she stated. And instead of snow, she said, there is more often black ice around Finnish Independence Day (6th Dec.). „We had either to walk like little babies or to use the kick-sled to have something to hold on to. We only had to cross the road over to my grandma’s house. But without the sled, you make tiny steps, but you still fall down…“

This post is also available in: German