Sunday, 27 January 2019


Witnessing the performance Talvi by coreographer Laura Jantunen, at Zodiak centre for contemporary dance in Helsinki, meant the (or a) world to me. Or, these are the kinds of artworks that give me that essential, life-affirming energy.

For some time in the beginning, I was not sold. I wondered if the artist had went for a monotonous movement exercise for no other reason than to get the job done. Watching the two dancers, Jantunen and Pauliina Sjöberg, doing repetitive circles as if imitating birds, or being high as kites and floating about, the always-reconstructing Westernized brain was malfunctioning: How to interpret this, what does this mean? Why do they commit to those movements? And what is this static that seems to increase in volume? And what should I make of the two monolithic objects on both sides of the Zodiak stage, not unlike the alien rectangle in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey? Why does Jantunen sport a sweatshirt with a opal side split, while Sjöberg's clothing shows the same color flashing at waistline?

In a word, I was anxious and unforgiving. I wasn't ready to take everything in. I was trying too hard to make sense. My mind was on the lookout for literal and symbolic cues. This surprised me because I've seen works by Jantunen before that traveled in similar terrain. Perhaps the formality of Zodiak got to me, or whatever fear of the day I was dealing with, like the influx of familiar faces at the lobby before the performance, causing a near panic attack.

After 15 minutes or so, as the dancers' looping movement patterns begun to fall out of sync, all these considerations faded out. Instead, I marveled the piece for its more fundamental characteristics: The relations between things. 

The monoliths reflected light beams that in turn were synced with the sound. I am assuming there was a sub-bass speaker that caused the reflective surface to vibrate and thus create light reflections around the space, but I didn't ask. After the performance was over, I had no need for additional info.

The sound increased and the light flickered. Finally, it reached its peak, and after that the space fell almost silent. The dancers continued on their looping paths, but without the hand movements. They were just walking. It's as if you're stuck on your pattern but without the content that makes you you. 

Now there was a before and after. I wouldn't blame anyone for reading this as a post-apocalyptic scenario, in which unforgiving conditions hit you with amnesia, and there's nothing left to do but to barely exist. 

The sound came back, and the dancers found their gestures anew, this time more elaborate with their heads gently swinging. What was once monotonous repetition was now re-staged and taken back with joy. The body rejoices.

But more than a forced narrative, what pulled me in was the mathematical alchemy of dynamics, equations, and energies. On this later part, the piece folded on itself, forgoing its own rules and giving birth to a singular logic. And then it all made sense to me. I took the work in and it made me understood relations between rhythm, repetition, binaries, micro and macro in a wholly new way. The work touched me on an affective level. Today, the dynamics of the world feel different due to experiencing Talvi. This is what art can do, and does best.

A friend said they were suspicious of the binary of two's: two bodies, and sound and light. I must disagree. This binary setting was simply a safe beginning from which to take off to more adventurous constellations. Also, sound and light is not a binary. They are but a one thing, which I felt was at the core of artist duo Destroyer2048's spatial design. It's all vibrations, after all. 

In the choreography of rhythms and its rules-and-non-rules, the work seemed to nod towards dance music and clubbing. There's the feeling of leaving the party at early hours of the morning while the world looks alien but extremely potent, just like your body, and that feeling can nourish your curiosity and thinking-living for days, or decades.

Art is at its most political when your understanding of what's possible in space-time mutates. The bodies that leave from an aesthetic experience with a corporeal proof of the beauty of non-binary thinking, and of worlds that defy the patriarchal one-two logic, are the kind of bodies that can bring that said logic down. This is art that gives you energy to believe in new systems of being and beings. This is science-fiction embodied.

You can reach people with words, but you can also reach them with affective dynamics. An increase in volume, a body that trips, a fabric cut to show and hide at once, a break, a descending note, the chaotic flicker of light, a multiplicity of contracts between different materials that defy causality and correlation while playing with them: Such affects are felt in the body and they reach us in the now.

For me, Talvi gave a sneak peek to art that strives to create new affective logic. What do I mean by ”affective”? I'll quote Kathleen Stewart: ”Ordinary affects are public feelings that begin and end in broad circulation, but they're also the stuff that seemingly intimate lives are made of. They give circuits and flows the forms of a life.” (Ordinary Affects, 2007)

Could it be that art deals with inordinary kinds of affects, the ones not yet named and circulated to exhaustion? Maybe. My fellow artists, I urge to create and cherish the circuits and flows you need.


Talvi. Concept and choreography by Laura Jantunen. Space and sound by Destroyer2048 (Ilmari Karhu & Tatu Nenonen), costume design by Hanne Jurmu, dancers: Pauliina Sjöberg, Laura Jantunen. Premiered at Zodiak, Helsinki, 22nd of January 2019.

black rectangle, no image
This black rectangle bears no relation to this text or the performance, but blog posts fare better when an image is included