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In the middle of the night

“What are you verdrängen, Annika”, asks Alice in one scene that never made it to the performance. She continued explaining the shaming mechanism through the event of a cheese stick at a birthday party, where everyone laughed at the fictional little me including the mum of the birthday kid. This unsettling event led in turn to the fictional conviction, much later, that everyone laughed at me in bars, in cafées, wherever the I appeared. You know the fantasy, where YOU are in the middle of everyone’s attention and one day YOU will be found as the worthless creature you really are.

When working with a new performance there are always several scenes that are ”verdrängt” (displaced, repressed, thrown out) or left out as we proceed in the work. Scenes that merge with other scenes, scenes that transform into something new, scenes that are merely about the idea of an atmosphere or something else but never become a fully formed strong scene. These scenes are simply left out because they do not fit in, in the end. 

Like the story of the cleansing ritual that involves me naked strewn with ashes lying down on the mother’s white couch, the parade of angry ghosts and ghosts of former tyrants, the schlager version of ”Take me home country road”  sung walking on the knees evoking images of poverty and abuse in the hinterlands of America, and much more. 

Sometimes the impulses came from outside the realm of the performers. Yiran asked us not to use existing songs, so we wrote our own instead. Anna-Maija whose maternity leave is starting these days, moved from the ”inside” to the ”outside” of the stage, following the rehearsals and working out the dramaturgy, and the scenes with us who were to perform. This displacement has only been for the good. For the first time for the group work, we have had an outside dramaturgical eye watching all the rehearsals. It took a while to get used to it, but wau what a luxury, what a joy. 

In general, the verdrängung process is hard at work in the microcosmos that the creation of a performance is. In the process of Verdrängen Verdrängen Verdrängen perhaps more than usual. More scenes than usually hava been discarded and added to the compost heap from where performances grow. This is a very benevolent and organic verdrängung process, a process where the material that was left out is growing into something new. I am pretty sure that it will not return and haunt us asking: why was I left out, why was I not good enough? Because we can always say: you are there, you just look different and even if you have not been transformed at all and feel that you are a cast off and left hanging, you will return one day in another performance, when it is your time to appear and be transformed.

On Sharing

Tua Helve, costume designer, and Meri Ekola, light designer, discuss on sharing. Recorded at Pact Zollverein, Esssen, Germany in 2018.

February Flashback

Behind every premier or performance there is a massive amount of hard work done by highly skilled professionals during long days. Only occasionally when the work at hand requires unerring artistic vision the performing artist might have to roll up his sleeves. Here’s your chance to get a peek behind the scene before the show can begin!

Welcome to the Blog!

Yes, it is only 20 years ago that Oblivia started out in the Tram Museum in Helsinki, looking for alternative ways of making experimental art together.  The world was a very different place then. The fear of the millennium bug looks like childs play compared to the massive manipulations by Cambridge Analytica and the likes in general elections across the world.

Today the world is on fire, climate change is a fact, disaster capitalism is unleashed and unscrupulous ultra right-wing leaders that are enjoying immense financial support are in power in all too many countries.  All this is apt to paralyse and depress. Yet, at the same time, much is changing for the better, #me too empowered and unravelled everyday power-structures, new ways of thinking and being together is happening all the time. And artists across the world go on with their work, despite often asking ourselves whether it makes any sense to create art, to be the expert sensitive listeners of life that we are today. The answer is always: Yes it makes sense, because art is hope, art is togetherness and art grapple with and make sense of the world.   

In order to celebrate Oblivia 20 years, we decided to create a platform for sharing thoughts on working together in Oblivia. It started with the idea of creating an Oblivia manual on collectivity in Oblivia and ended up becoming a blog. The themes of the blog are based on the chart (see picture under) where we distilled the main topics that are important for the work. The themes from the chart are processed in different formats: writings by Oblivians and guests, podcasts with guests, videos, and photos from the history of Oblivia in the Flashbacks section. 

The process of the manual, aka the blog, started three years ago when we wanted to reflect on, articulate and open up what we actually do in Oblivia. We scheduled research on collectivity in Oblivia alongside the regular performance work in something that we called the Together project, where we talked, studied, read, wrote, filmed and planned. 

Our sincere hope is that the monthly blog will open up the world of Oblivia of course, but also instigate discussions on how to be together in the world today, how to work together and about artistic strategies and choices.

As an inherent feature in projects like this: they keep changing shape, and they grow in unforseen directions, we look very much forward to the shape this monthly blog will take and welcome you on the journey. May the blog begin!

List of Togetherness

Where do we store what we collect when we work collectively?

Making something together that does not belong to one.

Is it at all human to be working collectively?

Collective and cooperative. Same thing?

Collectivity-Familiarity?

Collisions

So not efficient sometimes. 

Is the collective history already?

How does working collectively limit individual freedom? 

Humming together. Always works somehow. 

Hating each other. Badly sometimes.   

Let´s come together. Right now. Oh yeah. In sweet harmony. 

The collective is the biggest lie of the 21st century. 

Have Faith, people! Have faith!  

Collective imagination. Collective subconscious. 

A group is a very good place to hide. 

Working collectively can kill a friendship. Or two. 

Precarious teamwork. 

Isn’t it way too cosy? 

On Collectivity

Annika Tudeer and Christian Koch. A discussion on collectivity, Pact Zollverein, Essen, Germany 2018.

Radical Happiness

Annika Tudeer and Martina Grohmann, director of Theater Rampe. A discussion on art, politics and happiness, Stuttgart 2019 (in English)

January Flashback

In 2011 Oblivia was touring Scandinavia with the Entertainment Island trilogy. One day on the Faroe Islands while driving around and sightseeing our photographer Eija Mäkivuoti took a group photo with us waving at the camera. We did not know it then but a tradition was born. Nowadays, especially on tour there always comes  a moment of ”we have to take a group photo. Okay, everybody smile and wave at the camera!” Here you can see the historical first photo and some later variations on the theme.