MUSTARINDA OPEN CALL:
Two months residency proposal
SOUND ON PLEASE
City be my forest or I move to the countryside
In considering my application for this residency, it is necessary to understand my desire to work with two different but connected approaches:
1. I will discuss "forest practices", which deal with the question: Can the city be my forest? The first phase allows for longer periods of time to study nature spaces, places and objects and formalise my own "forest practices" influenced by those of Valdur Mikita. The two-month residency at Mustarinda will allow for this, within the context of working alone, though I hope that in time this could be developed into a collaboration with a larger group, or lead to a (dance) performance/exhibition or video work.
2. At Mustarinda I want to research in-depth why it is at the same time not so fashionable nor easy to live in the countryside. I would like to take time to prepare a project involving artists from Estonia and the UK, working with Estonian children's stories, and perhaps also stories about childhood in a rural context, growing up among animals and close to nature. Artists from different fields would interact with these stories and create visual or sound-based storytelling works. These interpretations could take the form of animation, video work, computer game, soundscape work, composition, performance, or similar and would be shown in an industrialised, cosmopolitan city such as London, but also in Tallinn and other Estonian and British cities.
Throughout history there are great names, who have experienced their daily life in a city environment and uncovered deep meditative practices. We can consider Guy Debord's drifting practices around Paris or Georges Perec's experiments to write exhaustively everything he experiences in one place in Paris or how he describes the streets of Paris.
Somewhat in opposition to Debord and Perec, Valdur Mikita, an Estonian writer, semiotician, and professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Tartu, disregards the act of writing as a valid interpretation of perception and strongly believes in physical experiences, whilst being in the forest.
In 2013 he authored “The Linguistic Forest”, which highlights and plays with the boundaries of nature and culture, connecting it closely with Estonians inherent attitude to keep in contact with nature, and especially with the forest.
Mikita speaks a lot about synaesthesia, the physical body and its bonds with the forest. He believes that it goes against human nature to live in a global cultural space, that there is a lack of knowledge about how to develop your own personal world and evolve personal physical sense perceptions. He believes that it is necessary to spend some time alone in the forest. He thinks that to deal with forms of individual consciousness, it is necessary to have isolation and traditions, which are rather impossible to achieve under the conditions of global culture. (Mikita, 2013, p205, 233)
PLAY SIMULTANEOUSLY PLEASE
SOUND ON PLEASE
is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of colour. Since synesthesia can involve any combination of the senses, there may be as many as 60 to 80 or subtypes, but not all have been documented or studied, and the cause is unclear. (Phychology Today, no date)
Synesthesia eliminates the difference in oral and written expressions, because 'writing is a somatic practice', for example, such as in gesticulation and finger drawing. 'Rituals, spells and magic signs are ancient written systems, written with fingers and invisible ink, with great excitement' (Mikita, 2013, p. 45). 'Culture and language, rather, harmonize the sense of human cognition rather than develop what is actually present in people.' (Mikita, 2013, p. 27) Mikita explains his thought by discussing how the brain might retain its adaptability, when the physiological variability is rich. He gives an example such as how in archaic culture, smaller groups of people still needed to find a way to maintain cultural diversity such as in bigger groups, yet, in the smaller groups individuals must have been more contrasting. Larger groups may have allowed individuals to feel part of the mass. (Mikita, 2013, p. 27).
Mikita regards that people are tired of existing in two civilizational systems: institutional culture of Hellenistic origins, and our writing system. He believes that instead, a symbol-based system represents a personal inner call in every human: a system that supersedes the periphery of human perception by traditional writing methods and related cultural development. (Mikita, 2013, p. 35)
Mikita has his own forest practices, where he lets his creativity fly and combines his visual sensations, triggering spontaneous sensations of touch with a movement of his hand or his entire body. I would like to map out some of his practices, combining them or leaving them as they are:
Finding dance scores inside of the three bark patterns, that which bark beetles have left.
Finding dance scores from the cloves, soil fractures, dropped down pine needles, tree rings etc.
Thoroughly sketch a personal signature on sand or soil, and later on make the same with words.
To find “nature neumes” inside of trees, which were medieval musical notation. The name probably meant breathing (Greek pneuma - 'wind', 'breath'). Trying to sing through them. (Mikita describes this skill more in his book).
“Monkeywild” - tree climbing visualization
“Dancewild” - Creating the world by waving, typing and drawing with your hand.
Can city be my forest
Performance and everydayness
`Any and all of the activities of human life can be studied “as” performance.` (Schechner, 2013, p29) According to Schechner, performances occur in eight sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping situations: in everyday life (cooking, socializing, “just living”), in the arts, in sports and other popular entertainments, in business, in technology, in sex, in ritual (sacred and secular) and least in play. (Schechner, 2013, p31) This research proposal will look specifically at performance and performativity in everyday life context.
It is understandable that human performances take place as action, interaction, and relation, but does performance take place also in objects? According to Schechner we can treat any objects, work, product “as” performance, as it means to explore what the object does. How the object interacts with other beings or objects and how the object relates to other beings or objects. Schechner argues that performance isn’t “in” anything, but it is in “between.” That the performer in ordinary life does or shows something – performs an action. (Schechner, 2003, p30) This research proposes to study both human and object performances as a relationship to a natural place, space, and other objects.
Everyday life acts are happening in various locations, in private places, lonely places, in nature and in the city - in different public spaces. In this research, as I have a chance to spend some quiet time isolated close to nature, to be able to grasp something specific and unclear, I will take into account a natural place, space, and objects performances happening in nature (forest, waterfront, field) with a relationship between human and object.
Two different isolations
Mikita thinks that it is necessary to have isolation and the traditions of spending time in the forest, yet, this might be rather impossible to achieve under the conditions of global culture. Guy Debord in his book called “The Society of the spectacle”, speaks about isolation as well as an outcome of capitalism:
The reigning economic system is founded on isolation; at the same time it is a circular process designed to produce isolation. Isolation underpins technology, and technology isolates in its turn; all goods proposed by the spectacular system, from cars to televisions, also serve as weapons for that system as it strives to reinforce the isolation of "the lonely crowd." The spectacle is continually rediscovering its own basic assumptions and each time in a more concrete manner. (Debord, 1994)
In my research, besides dealing with the physically experienced sensations of the city, which pushes me to think about and evolve personal physical sense perceptions, I will also discuss isolation and globalisation and ask the question of how one creates another and do we actually need to feel isolated in order to cultivate our individual consciousness.
As a child, I spent whole summers in the countryside, deep in the middle of Estonia's forests and fields. When I moved out from my small hometown, situated on a peninsula, always gently smelling like the sea, to the university town in the middle of the country, I still found myself enjoying southern Estonian forests and the big lake. The Lake of Viljandi was visible from the city centre at the top of the hill and my home window. I did not lose anything, I just learned a new way to see the water from a high distance and continued my walks to the forest and close to the water. I did not question different realities that somewhere might be different, it was so natural sometimes to choose to be alone and find myself in the forest or close to the water. Parks are different, even when they have many trees, they are not forests, maybe because of the knowledge that you cannot be alone. There is always someone walking a dog or reading a book. It feels like there is no chance to be “lost” and practice strange movements or scream loudly if you get the feeling to do so.
This research idea started to grow from a hazy feeling way back when I moved to London in 2017. I suddenly felt that there is not much space around me and where ever I go I cannot be alone. Although I felt socially isolated in the city, I was still looking for a physical space in nature to be alone. I can say that with this strange feeling, the sensation was physical and sometimes "painful". I am sincerely thinking that there must be a different way to make space around someone even in a buzzing city situation like London. The way might be unusual and perhaps involves practice that is still undiscovered. I consider this to be one of the targets of my research: how to “make space” and manage the city noise in the street in a way that makes me feel like I am in the forest. Here is my petite, romantically hypothetical research question: Can the city be my forest? Through this question, I formalised a prayer-like title:
"Noise management: Can the city be my forest or should I move to the countryside?"
In order to do my practice, the first phase is to take time to study nature spaces, places and objects and formalise my own "forest practises" influenced by Mikita.
I am questioning the city environment. I am questioning whether we really know the consequences of living in the city? I am questioning the need for silence, natural order, the necessity of being alone physically, the need of taking time to respond, rather than making impulsive decisions day by day by pulling them out faster and even faster from our guts and brains. Why do I feel anxious and stressed within the city environment, but calm and steady in the country or forest? If it is impossible to change that which the urban spaces and cosmopolitan cities can not offer to us, and that which forest do, then how can I change myself? Can I even do something about it? Here is my naively romantic research question:
CAN THE CITY BE MY FOREST?
Or I move to the countryside
A bit more about my childhood
I am feeling so lucky to have had a childhood as I did. Running around in the forest, fields and spending time with animals. Every morning about the time when the sun rises, I was taking calves to the field. We did not have many, just 2-3 cows, but also goats and sheep. I loved taking care of our cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, dogs, a pig and a cat. I fed, watered, combed, caressed, and scratched them, told them stories, gave rewarding crumbs from time to time, and sang them my own songs. My days were filled with joy, imagination and play, and I have dozens of funny stories about me and animals. This is the childhood I wish to everyone, sadly I am seeing something totally inverted as if today's globalized society takes away freedom from kids to be kids and instead teaches them competition, one type of success, being always the best and expecting to act adult-like far too soon. Children lack the natural way of co-existing among nature space and animals, to learn more how to be empathic while having the possibility to take care of an animal.
I am questioning how could I impact positively and tell stories to children and their parents about my natural childhood. As an Estonian, born in the '90s, I am one of the last generations whose grandparents had the opportunity to keep a small farm. Now, this kind of lifestyle would be just too expensive, contemporary agriculture is now large-mass-production-of-agriculture. This leads to question another extremely important topics - the overall need for such a big scale of having unethical animal factory farming system practices. Having this wonderful natural childhood and now being actively involved in the cultural scenes of London and Tallinn working as a dance teacher, artist, choreographer and cultural worker, I truly want to share my stories about my childhood and create a powerful discussion around this topic. Perhaps the reason we are not living in the countryside anymore, keeping our own animals, is not only because it is not fashionable and far too expensive, but because it does not serve the corrupt corporate government demands and therefore there is no support at the governmental level. With my project, I hope to ask questions and bring some awareness in this area by making it possible for Estonian children to collaborate with professional artists and bringing the final artwork nationally and internationally visible.
Certeau, M.d. and Rendall, S. (tr.) (1984) The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Debord, G. (1967). The Society of the Spectacle 3th edn. [Online]. Available at: http://www.antiworld.se/project/references/texts/The_Society%20_Of%20_The%20_Spectacle.pdf (Accessed: 3 September 2020).
Mikita, V. (2013). Lingvistiline Mets. (Linguistic Forest). Välgi metsad.
Psychology Today (no date). Synesthesia. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/synesthesia (Accessed: 21 August 2020).
Schechner, R. (2003) Performance Theory. London: Routledge.
Schechner, R. (2013) Performance Studies: An introduction.Oxon: Routledge.
video & photo: KEITY POOK
musical composition: JEPH VANGER