REVIEW – BIG BROTHERS AND SISTERS ED. 2

Photo credits from left to right: RED ROOM (c) Janne Sund, Mirror Mirror Sees Them All (c) Roberto Fusco, Imaginarium of rational thinker (c) Uzair Amjad.

By: Tanya Tynjälä

Catalysti Transcultural Artists in Finland association has presented the Big Brothers and Sisters ed. 2 program for the second year. This event was previously introduced in Caisa Culture Center in Helsinki in 2018, and the theme was also then artificial Intelligence and its many implications in today’s world. 

In the program there were two original performances: MIRROR, MIRROR SEES THEM ALL by choreographer and dancer Nadja Pärssinen, media artist Roberto Fusco, and photographer Virpi Velin.  The second performance RED ROOM was from sound and performance artist Jaap Klevering. In addition, this year included  IMAGINARIUM OF THE RATIONAL THINKER, by media artist Uzair Amjad. 

I found that the events of the program were very interesting because each performance was presented in various locations within a big, interconnected and underground, bomb shelter. Vapaan Taiteen Tila has been, for a very long time, a platform for all kinds of artistic performances. To see all the performances, the public had to move in the space. In between short breaks between performances, people were talking, commenting, and making the experience very interactive. 

MIRROR, MIRROR SEES THEM ALL is an installation-performance in which the dancer and the photographer move interactively in relation to time, space, audience, each other and live sound installation, which consists of small moving mirrors, projected images, soundscape and light. 

The performance aimed to make us explore how identity and bodily presence are negotiated and transformed by using technology. For me, the performance best represented the title of Big Brothers & Sisters ed. 2. As a viewer, I experienced strongly how a dancer needed to be in the performance of constant movement, and at the same time was followed by that anonymous eye,  represented by the camera or lens of the camera. For a moment, I could feel in the audience how the dancer was so inside the presence of her action. Her interaction made me think about how everything is so easy to store and find on the internet. I thought that as we are using the internet could we be more careful,  especially when we know how easily our photos can be leaked? Or on the contrary, are we more daring in the search for the 15 minutes of fame? The fact that the photographer was specifically targeting the face of the dancer reminded me also somehow of the obsession of the famous selfies, of ourselves. The photos were immediately shown on a mirrored screen, making us also think about the transience of the image projected to the others, and also about our identity. I also found the dancer to be full of energy and precision on a highly technical level.  

RED ROOM was a performance that included Google’s “Voicepad – speech to text”. This performance was for me terrifying, funny and soothing simultaneously. The monologue by Jaap Klevering talks about the impossibility for someone to go outside their house, because of the feeling that something bad could happen. That reminds me of some scenes of Sartre’s opus La nausée, in which the protagonist was constantly oppressed by this uneasy feeling that something was supposed to happen—sometimes bad,  sometimes good, but the fact of just “knowing” was a nightmare. The use of Google’s Voicepad was somehow quite comical, especially when the translation was inaccurate, causing the text to be completely surrealistic. Between monologues, the performer improvised some music with the help of his voice.  The result was quite harmonious and calming. I really enjoyed Klevering’s skills of improvisation and performative act. 

IMAGINARIUM OF THE RATIONAL THINKER is a project that is concerned with reimagining human future in the age of the algorithm. The press release said: “By combining elements from algorithmic prediction, speculative fiction, image-making and performance the project manifests as gameplay and a series of paintings. The work through facilitating play invites the audience to engage with discussions about the ecological, social and political effects of algorithm-based technologies. The work encourages a  deeper investigation into our techno society to envision new modes of adaptation and a new ‘political  imaginary’.” 

I must confess I did not get it. I was quite confused with the concept that, in my opinion, was not approached from the performative artistic point of view. Perhaps it would be way more interesting to present this interactive installation in a technology fair.

In general, I still think that the concept of the Big Brothers & Sisters ed. 2 program was very interesting and contemporary. I also enjoyed seeing the work of professional artists with a foreign background these days.

BIG BROTHERS AND SISTERS ED. 2 

Vapaan Taiteen Tila, Helsinki 

23.-25.10.2020 

Tanya Tynjälä is a science fiction and fantasy writer who specialises in children’s and young adult literature. She was born in Peru and has a Master Degree in French as a foreign language.