Postcard from... Archive 2017

Postcard from...Helsinki

Maria Christoforidou sends us a postcard from Please Specify, 8th International SAR Conference on Artistic Research, which took place from 28 – 29 April 2017 at Theatre Academy, Uniarts Helsinki.

Looking back on all the events under the glass covered courtyard of Helsinki Theatre Academy, it is not surprising that Esa Kirkkopelto was barefoot. Kirkkopelto, the first keynote speaker and professor in artistic research, vigorously brought to bear the conference’s theme of sharing, underscored by ideas surrounding the body. His address was philosophical, his mood amused and his bare feet were ready to act, to share with us the action as well as the theory. This opening scene set the tone for the 8th conference of the Society for Artistic Research (SAR). Kirkkopelto not only talked about but also demonstrated weightlessness, urging us to “consider or treat human performing bodies as components” confronting “the equality of the all dramaturgical elements or material”.

The body in research echoed with our team of 3, Various Writings*. Various writings: Chapter I, we presented as part of the Saturday Performative Session: Writing Here and Now, sought the gestural and physical dimensions of writing, linking them together with a web of writing acts, studies and references. This performative session was a temporal embodiment of a 2-year ‘tri-alogue’, produced as a eulogic taxonomy of writing acts and possible works, featuring ‘live’ writing and examining a variety of codes, tools and surfaces.

Divided into performative, collaborative and text based sessions the Please Specify conference was designed to gently bend traditional frameworks of research. Projects selected, reflected on institutional processes, proposing alternative focal points of research and methodologies of sharing. Also, ideas of ‘experimental community’ were reiterated and clearly felt. The conference became a ‘we’ when we clapped for 28 uninterrupted minutes invited by Victoria Pérez Royo and Vicente Arlandis’ in Learning To Be Together. We became personally and politically engaged with art criticism in Mimi Cabell and Phoebe Stubbs’ Artfrom, who, using the specific case study of Artforum Magazine, mapped out a landscape of politics and political theory in the art world. Our work was mirrored in Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer & Mariella Greil’s, Choreo-graphic Figures who drew between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing.

Being my first conference specifically on artistic research, expectations were flexible, not imagining that our session would interlock so surely with other projects or that we would leave so fortified and informed. Acronyms like SAR and subtle terms such as ‘artistic research' transformed into faces, bodies, possible collaborators and opportunities to continue our practice of sharing research in diverse forms, to stretch and pull theory and practice across all kinds of borders. If my learning could be condensed into a single nugget it would be: we are on the right path. A path that intersects political, scientific and cultural action. Please Specify asked, what if: “…the thematised conditions of sharing research can[…] relate to provocation, excess, limited resources, reduction, mise en abyme, absurd argumentation, amateurism[…]” ‘What if’ is a powerful question in this period of upheaval where the voice, usefulness and responsibility of the artist-researcher is both questioned and much needed to etch alternative paths around several capitalist dead ends.

The only regret is we could not see more! We wanted to learn 'How to do things with performance?' with Nauha, Arlander, Järvinen & Porkola. And 'How to assess knowledge produced in artistic research' with Koskinen & Pohjakallio. It would have been good to 'StopTalking: Discourse through Artefacts' with Martin Rumori. Also to ‘Experiment and fail. Let go, and experiment again’ with Anttila, Löytönen, Guttorm & Valkeemäki in 'Researching In and Through Embodied Encounters.' Luckily we can catch up with these projects through some beautiful publications and also online: through Ruuku Research Catalogue – where a Various Writing exposition is hopefully going to be published in the near future.

The end of the conference brought a bright piece of news: next year the annual SAR conference will be in held in the South West, in Plymouth. We will certainly be sending a postcard from there.

– Maria Christoforidou


*Various Writings is a collaborative research project by Maria Christoforidou, Lizzie Ridout and Dion Star, based in Falmouth, Cornwall. The project exists as a perpetual generator of activity - conversations, exhibitions, events, artworks, workshops, publishing - that contemplates the conceptual nature of writing, through the deliberate disruption of its structures and conditions.

What's On

Groundwork: Steve Rowell, Points of Presence

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Eastern House, Old Cable Lane, Porthcurno TR19 6JX

Thursday 21 June 2018 – Monday 01 April 2019

Fabric Africa: Stories told through textiles

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Queens Rd, Bristol, BS8 1RL

Saturday 30 June 2018 – Sunday 19 May 2019

Phizogs - Bedwyr Williams at RAMM

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3RX

Tuesday 17 July 2018 – Monday 01 April 2019

Visual Arts South West

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