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Oblivia, rakastettuni

Tiedän, että olet ryhmä, koostut useista taiteilijoista, pysyvistä ja vierailevista, mutta tässä fanikirjeessä otan vapauden puhutella sinua yksikön ensimmäisessä persoonassa.

”Oblivia toteutti 5.-10.3. live-installaation Oblivia’s Room, josta oli esityksiä päivittäin klo 18 ja 20. Teemana huoneet ja mitä niissä tehdään. Esitys oli jatkoa viimesyksyiseen You Can Call Me Art -esitykseen. Tämän lisäksi 22.2. ryhmä järjesti improvisaatiotapahtuma Improklubin, jossa esiintyjinä olivat Pia Lindy (tanssi), Juha Valkeapää (ääni), Riitta Huttunen (kantele) ja Annika Tudeer (teksti). Katsojia esityksissä kävi 130 kpl.”

Näin kirjoitin toimintakertomukseen kun olin kuratoinut Todellisuuden tutkimuskeskuksen Koetilaa, pientä 30 neliömetrin entistä liiketilaa Helsingin Kalliossa keväällä 2002. Se oli ensimmäinen kohtaamiseni kanssasi. Olit tuolloin yhtä kuin tanssija-koreografi Anna Krzystek, esiintyjä-kriitikko Annika Tudeer, pianisti Timo Fredriksson ja kirjailija-kriitikko Stella Parland. En muista Oblivia’s Roomista muuta kuin sen, että minimaalinen näyttämö oli vuorattu läpinäkyvään muoviin, edellä mainitut esiintyjät sekoilivat siellä seassa ja pidin esityksestä. Pidin siitä siksi, että olit mielestäni sopivalla tavalla ”hullu”, siis vapaa tekemään mitä halusit, ja jollain erityisellä tavalla sekä älykäs että humoristinen. Sen lisäksi kanssasi oli erittäin mutkatonta asioida, olit rento ja täsmällinen.

Pari vuotta myöhemmin, nähtyäni muutaman esityksen lisää, julistauduin Oblivia-faniksi. Kyllä, olin koukussa sinuun. Vaikka juuresi ovat ehkä eniten performanssitaiteessa, esityksesi eivät edustaneet performanssia per se sen enempää kuin tanssia tai teatteriakaan. Minusta se oli ihastuttavaa! Otit vaikutteesi mistä mielit ja olit täten osa sitä esittävän taiteen uutta aaltoa, joka myöhemmin ristittiin esitystaiteeksi. Mutta ennen kaikkea sinä teit obliviaa, omalakista, jäljittelemätöntä näyttämötaidetta, jossa kukkivat mielestäni ne 2000-luvun hyveet, jotka italialainen kirjailija Italo Calvino tiivisti teoksessaan Kuusi muistiota seuraavalle vuosituhannelle (1993); keveys, nopeus, täsmällisyys, näkyvyys, moninaisuus sekä johdonmukaisuus/tiiviys. Calvino käsittelee muistioissaan toki yksinomaan kirjallisuutta mutta vuosituhannen vaihteessa niistä inspiroituivat ja niitä sovelsivat muidenkin alojen taiteilijat, esimerkiksi minä. En tiedä, inspiroivatko ne koskaan sinua, mutta halusit tai et, viimeistään teossarjassa Entertainment Island 1,2,3 (2008-2010) sinä ruumiillistit Calvinon hyveet näyttämöllä:

Olet esityksissäsi ennemmin keveä kuin painava, raskaudesta puhumattakaan. Olet nopea, menet suoraan asiaan, vaikkakin hitaasti kiiruhtaen, ja samassa mielleyhtymien avaruus laajenee katsojan eteen kaikessa monitulkintaisessa moninaisuudessaan mutta täsmällisesti. Vaikka et koskaan vaadi ymmärtämään mitään, et ole epämääräinen tai pitkästyttävä (paitsi ehkä joskus aniharvoin). Ja miten sinussa näkyy kaikki! Mikään ei jää varjoon. Visuaalisuutesi on minimalistista mutta osuvaa, pommintarkkaa. Ylipäänsä, olet armoitettu minimalisti, osaat kiteyttää sen jonkin olennaisen, jota on vaikea sanoin ilmaista, ja sitä kautta olet aina johdonmukainen ja tiivis. Mutta, kuten sanottua, milloinkaan et jää minkään litteän sanoman asianajajaksi vaan isket halolla päähän ja laajennat tajuntaa niin kuin hyvä taide mielestäni tekee.

Teatteri- ja esitystaiteilijana minulle rakas missio on ollut taistella sen puolesta, että päästäisiin jo eteenpäin tragedia/komedia -jaottelusta, että teokset sisältäisivät sekä huumoria että sanottavaa. Umpivakavat esitykset ovat mielestäni tylsiä, vaikka olisivat miten älykkäitä, samoin kuin ne jotka pyrkivät pelkästään huvittamaan, ilman ajatuksen häivääkään. Hyi olkoon, sellainen yksioikoinen taide näyttäytyy minulle elottomana! Ehkä tästä syystä sinä puhuttelet minua, koen olevani kanssasi ikään kuin samassa joukkueessa, levittämässä iloista vakavaa, elävää taidetta, paitsi että sinä teet sen runollisemmin, kevyemmin ja leikkisämmin (myönnän, sinuun verrattuna olen kuin mikäkin saarnamies). Sinulla on hyppysissäsi uskomaton taito yhdistää hauska vakavaan vaivattomasti, samoin improvisatorinen tunnelma tiukkaan muotoon. Entertainment Islandissa, esimerkiksi, oli paikoin kohtia, joissa nauroin vaikka minua samalla kylmäsi se tyhjyyttään kumiseva (viihteen) maailma, jota niin herkullisesti kuvasit.

On vielä pakko sanoa jotain myös jäsenistäsi, taiteilijoista, joista koostut. Minä rakastan heidän näyttämöpersooniaan! Niin kuin kaikilla ammattiesiintyjillä, jotka eivät näyttele rooleja vaan ovat lavalla ikään kuin omana itsenään, löytyy näyttämöminä, joka poikkeaa hieman siitä mitä he ovat siviilissä. Oblivialaisten näyttämöpersoonat muistuttavat minusta klovneja, heissä on jotain hyvin vilpitöntä, lapsenomaista ja ilkikurista. Silti he ovat näyttämöllä aikuisia. Aikuisia, jotka ovat vilpittömiä, lapsenomaisia ja ilkikurisia. Tämä on yksi tunnusomaisimmista piirteistäsi, Oblivia. Uskon sen johtuvan siitä, että perustajajäsenesi olivat jo tehneet ainakin yhden työuran ennen kuin sinut perustettiin. He olivat jo aikuisia, heistä puuttui alun alkaenkin keltanokkainen tarve julistaa, haastaa, raastaa ja kaataa kuvia. Mutta puuttuiko heiltä rohkeutta heittäytyä infantiileiksi? Ei. Siksi sinussa kiteytyy jotain olennaista performanssitaiteen ja punkin lähtökohdista, jota ihailen; kuka tahansa voi koska tahansa alkaa tekemään mitä tahansa vaikka ei osaisi. Tällä en tarkoita, että jäseniltäsi puuttuisi koulutusta tai kokemusta. Tarkoitan, ettei sinulta ole koskaan puuttunut rohkeutta tarttua mihin tahansa ja käsitellä sitä omista lähtökohdistasi. Esimerkiksi, onko Annika Tudeer balettitanssija? Ei, mutta silti hän on tehnyt omat versionsa Joutsenlammesta (Annika does Swanlake, 2015) ja Kevätuhrista (Annikas Sacre, 2016). Onko Timo Fredriksson double-act -koomikko? Ei, hän vain ryhtyi sellaiseksi (Invisible Works, 2016).

Oi Oblivia, mitä vanhemmaksi tulet, sitä ihastuttavammaksi sinä näyttämöllä käyt.

Mikä kiteyttäisi ensimmäiset kaksikymmentä ikävuottasi, mietin. Mieleeni tulee nimi ja kasvot, vuonna 2017 edesmennyt perustajajäsenesi Anna Krzystek. En koskaan ehtinyt tutustua häneen lähemmin, koska ajattelin aina että me ehdimme vielä. Aika löi minua korville, sain opetuksen. Luin Krzystekin muistokirjoituksia skottisanomalehtien nettisivuilta. Ymmärsin hänen tehneen merkittävän soolouran muualla. Silti uumoilen, että kun sinua tarkastellaan vaikkapa viidenkymmenen vuoden kuluttua, kahden ensimmäisen vuosikymmenen kasvoiksesi nousee Anna. Ne olivat Anna Krzystek -vuodet, pirun kunniakkaat vuodet, jotka sisälsivät myös hänen äkillisen kuolemansa jättämät jäljet. Viime vuosina esityksiisi on ilmaantunut uudenlaista henkilökohtaista syvyyttä. Keveässä ilmaisussasi on emotionaalinen viilto, kuin tietoisuus elämän rajallisuudesta. Kuten esimerkiksi teoksessa Light and Easy – a work about being human (2019). Nauroin ja itkin kun katsoin sitä. Kenties se on ennustus siitä, minkälainen tulee olemaan kunniakas 2020-lukusi.

Sitä uskollisesti odottaen.

Rakkaudella,

Janne Saarakkala

Oblivia, my beloved 

I know that you are a group of several artists, permanent and visiting, but in this fanmail I will take the liberty of addressing you in an intimate manner as one entity. 

“Oblivia presented the live installation Oblivia’s Room on 5–10 March with daily performances at 6pm and 8pm. The theme was ‘rooms’ and what happens inside them. The performance was a continuation of You Can Call Me Art from last autumn. Furthermore, the group also organised the improvisation event Improklubi with the performers Pia Lindy (dance), Juha Valkeapää (voice), Riitta Huttunen (kantele), and Annika Tudeer (text). The performances welcomed a total of 130 spectators.” 

This is what I wrote in the annual report after I had curated the Reality Research Center collective’s event space Koetila in spring 2002  – a small 30-square-metre former business space in Helsinki’s Kallio district. Back then you consisted of the dancer-choreographer Anna Krzystek, performer-critic Annika Tudeer, pianist Timo Fredriksson, and author-critic Stella Parland. I don’t remember anything else from Oblivia’s Room except that the minimalist stage was wrapped in transparent plastic and the aforementioned performers were going at it among the stage scenery, and that I liked what I saw. I liked it because you were the right type of “crazy”, meaning free to do whatever you pleased, and in a special way both intelligent and humorous. Furthermore, it was pleasant to work and communicate with you, you were laid back and punctual. 

A couple of years later, after seeing a few more performances, I pronounced myself an Oblivia fan. Yes, I was hooked on you. While your roots are in performance art, your performances didn’t represent performance per se, and neither did they represent dance or theatre. I found it delightful! You took your influences where you pleased, and in this way were part of the new wave of performing arts that later was given the label “performance”. But most of all, you were dedicated to oblivia, your own kind of untraceable dramatic art blossoming with the virtues that were summed up in the Italian author Italo Calvino’s posthumous work Six Memos for the Next Millennium (1993):lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity and consistency (most likely, as the last memo was never finished). In his memos, Calvino clearly addresses literature, but at the turn of the millennium they became an inspiration for artists of also many other fields to adapt, such as myself. I don’t know whether they ever inspired you but, whether you like it or not, it was with the series of works called Entertainment Island 1, 2, 3 (2008–2010) at the latest that you embodied Calvino’s virtues on stage:

You are more light than heavy in your performances, and there can be no talk of you being burdensome. You are quick, you go straight to the point, even if you move along in a measured pace, and at the same time the vastness of associations expands in front of the eyes of the spectator in all its ambiguous multiplicity, always with exactitude. While you never demand understanding, you are neither vague nor tiresome (unless in a very rare moment). And everything is visible in you! Nothing is left in the shadows. Your visuality is minimalistic but precise, like a dart. Overall, you are divinely minimalist, you are able to crystallise the essential that is otherwise hard to express. Through this, you are always consistent and concise. But, as noted, you never remain an advocate for flatness but instead you always smack us on the head and expand our consciousness like good art does, in my opinion. 

As a theatre and performing artist, a dear mission of mine is to fight for moving beyond a division into tragedy and comedy, to fight for works that include both humour and a message. I find strictly serious performances boring, however intelligent they may be, just as I find boring performances that only aim to amuse, without a thought in sight. Yuck, such uncomplicated art is lifeless in my eyes! Perhaps this is the reason why you speak to me, I feel that I am on the same team as you, spreading around happily serious art that is alive, except you do it more poetically, more lightly, and more playfully (I admit, compared to you I must come across as a preacher). You hold in your fingertips an unbelievable talent to combine the funny with the serious with effortless ease, as well as to combine improvisational moods with tight forms. Entertainment Island, for example, included parts where I laughed even as I was haunted by a world (of entertainment) of hollow echoes that you so deliciously described.

I have to still say a word about your members, the artists that make you up. I love their on-stage personas! As is the case with all professional performers who do not play parts but rather, in a way, themselves, there is a stage self who steps slightly away from their everyday self. The stage personas of Oblivians remind one of clowns, as there is something sincere, childlike and mischievous in them. Yet they are fully grown on stage. Adults who are sincere, childlike and mischievous. This is one of your most defining features, Oblivia. I believe it has to do with the fact that your founding members had already made at least one career each before you were conceived. They were already adults, they were lacking the need rookies often have to proclaim, challenge, grind and take down icons. But did they also lack the boldness to turn infantile? No. That is why something so essential to performance art and punk crystallises in you, and I admire it; anyone can at any time start to do anything without knowing how. This doesn’t imply that your members are lacking in education or experience. I mean that you have never lacked the boldness to grab anything you wish and address it from your own starting point. For instance, is Annika Tudeer a ballet dancer? No, but she still made her own versions of Swan Lake (Annika does Swanlake, 2015) as well as The Rite of Spring (Annikas Sacre, 2016). Is Timo Fredriksson a double act comedian? No, he just became one (Invisible Works, 2016). 

Oh Oblivia, the older you get, the lovelier you become on stage.                 

I was thinking what could summarise your first two decades. A name and a face come to mind, your founding member Anna Krzystek who passed away in 2017. I never got to know her because I thought we would always have time. But time slapped me on the ears, I got a lesson. I read Krzystek’s obituary in online Scottish newspapers. I understood that she had made a significant solo career elsewhere. Still, when people look back over your history, for instance in fifty years, I presume that Anna will remain as the face of the first two decades. Those were the Anna Krzystek years, some damn glorious years, which also included the marks left by her sudden death. The recent years have seen a new type of personal depth reach your performances. Your light expression has an emotional cut, like an awareness of the finiteness of life. Like in your work Light and Easy – a work about being human (2019). I laughed and cried when I watched it. Perhaps it is an omen for what will be your glorious 2020s. 

I am faithfully waiting for it. 

With love,

Janne Saarakkala

Translation: Simo Vassinen 

To become part of, to be part of. Belonging.

I understand the need to shy away from the word collective as in the article of Bojana Cvejic from 2004. Some curators had perhaps lived in a collective, and felt the smell of lentil soup and the sight of chore lists passing by like a not all together pleasant memory of something that was once and something that was too much

Too much was how it was in the end, also for me. 

But still the ideal of thinking together and working together and that more is more has remained. To keep the good, and leave out the bad.

The bad as I saw it back then and still see, are hierarchies, strong power-structures, hidden ideologies that everything was looked through, a strong sense of good and bad, and bad that was really bad, closedness of the community – strangle hold.

Well, but that is history and personal history. But behind this wish and belief in the collective is a part from perhaps a personal psychological design that want to fill a gap, a ideologically formed belief that more minds think better, and also that the individual can flourish better in such a situation, in such a detached collective. Not the engulfing all encompassing version.

Perhaps you can hide well in the collective. Oblivia consists of strong personalities and individuals, and the structures are there also to enhance this. 

But I have to admit, that the collective might serve as a back to hide behind, not make too much fuss about myself as such.

But in general the return of the collective, (they seem to spring up all over, in arts, in life) must have to do with this increasing feeling of emptiness, alienation, loneliness that floats in the air, and is a very real problem today.  A will to think together, to resist alienation and loneliness, to find the power of the many together. To be surprised. To belong.

To belong is a driving force. The need to belong. The less anchor-points and sharedness exist in society in general, the stronger the need to belong becomes. Family, neighbourhood, friends is not even enough when time is eaten up and leaves an empty shell of a human roaming. Soullessness. The zombie. The sign of our time. God the stupid boring zombies roaming around born out of a cold war fantasmagora. Imagery.

But – belonging. A word that touches me deep. I want to belong, and I want to have time to enjoy my belonging.

If belonging in a larger context does not exist my identity is shattered, I am not fulfilled, I can not be a full human being. When I belong I am seen, I am re-assured that it is okay to be me.  That I am okay. Unfortunately I have a feeling that belonging has to be on a big scale, belonging to the world, to the society. Micro context belongings are not enough, although they help, a lot. We need an anti capitalistic world and that is not so easy to achieve. Capitalism kills art, heart and purpose of life – e.g. belonging.

Belonging is the key to the use of full potential. Perhaps.

Belonging is satisfaction and happiness, it does not contain only close relations but it is an acknowledgment of my having the right to be here because I have the right and that I am in the right place. When I was freelancing on the HBL newspaper I had a feeling of belonging although, I was on the outskirts of the machinery of the paper. When I was at university I had a feeling of belonging –  the happiness of belonging was so great that I skipped along the corridors of sheer joy for many years. I was one of many, but I was one, together with many.

So in order for belonging to be effective the context have to be rather big and well organised. But the micro contexts like Oblivia is as important.

I would not say that society of today signals that I personally do not belong. But it signals untrustworthiness of  the structure. The constant changes, the insecurities of the welfare structures signals a breakdown of the belief that each citizen is as important and worthy. The next step is that some will be more important than others. Which also contains the notion, the suspicion and the threat that I might also become unworthy and useless one day. Hierarchies are returning big time and the measurement of success is in wealth. Not in a great soulor big heart or well versed and educated.

We have a mayor with a lot of power, who talks about the new Helsinki (sic) but does not mention art or culture in his vision (double sic), he is therefore already writing me out of my hometown. I will not belong here. There is all too little attention paid to this state of affairs. The more there is talk about INCLUSION and ACCESSIBILITY the less society is the garant for this and people like the mayor casts a fleeting thought that artists could at least take on that responsibility to create accessible and inclusive stuff, since they are here anyway. Do good. But doing good art, who talks about that? Because that is what we do best, we artists. But honestly, it is not about this. It is not about nice projects for belonging. The sense of belonging is much deeper rooted and it can be enhanced through work where you can develop, be appreciated, make a difference combined with affordable housing so you have a nice neighbourhood to live in and neighbours to greet.

Today´s society has no mission for the good of all, but we have more words and we are becoming much more articulated and therefore respectful. So belonging has a chance, because you belong when you are shown respect and when you show respect. In that sense our microcosm of the scene of performance and live art is not useless.  

They, meaning with them right wing and capitalists have done a very good job at miscrediting social democracy. But time is changing. We know the tactics and we can look behind the lies and the smokescreens. We can go back and look up what was written in the 1960’s, 1970’s and even 1980’s before Thatcher & Reagan wrought havoc with their insistent lies of no alternative. It is as if we only now start to recuperate from this onslaught on the welfare state, when it is nearly too late. Update the message for today and you get it in a nutshell. Good strong messages of belonging. Together. Security. The person first. The weakest link is the stronghold of society. Respect.

Besides lentil soup is quite tasty these days.

Confessions from the communal kitchen sink

Eat lentil soup, drink mint tea and dance. I had never managed to live in a collective, but it was a dream that I nurtured in my early twenties. It was an ideal, an anti-dote against being lost and lonely and an only child, who enjoyed big and noisy families.  My ultimate ideal was to live and work together, let it all melt together. For me the collective was the ideal, especially in the live together and work together version when I was young.

However, I was shy and I always felt uncomfortable in the collectives that I was visiting, hanging out in kitchens or in worn out arm chairs in shared living rooms. I did not know what to say to the co-inhabitants of my friends, and I was not that good at small talk. Instead I had a sinking feeling of being in the way and out-staying my welcome. Hell, I am only waiting for my friend I wanted to shout. Instead I was grinning until my cheek hurt and trying to become invisible at the same time.

But perhaps it was with some of the inhabitants in the collectives that with me, they only wanted their privacy, and to their privacy belonged the herd of the collective but not the friends that were always found crashing here and there.

At times I shared flats and therefore kitchen.  I can share bath-room, tv lounge, I can share most spaces in a house, but the kitchen. I always felt owner-ship towards the kitchen and it felt more private than my own room, where I mostly did not mind having people in and out. When sharing kitchen where I lived I felt my forced grin was turning into the false smile of suppressed annoyance of having somebody else around “my” kitchen, my food, my unwashed dishes, basically my space. There are so many small problems that you encounter in a shared kitchen. Talk, not talk. Be in the way, or somebody is in your way when you want to throw away some garbage. So many occasions for being laid bare. What I eat, how I eat, what I throw away, what I wear, how I cook, what I cook. All these thoughts: do I have to share my yummy miniscule bit of cheese with this guy? Do I have to talk, even if I do not have anything to say and – cringe – when I say something it is inane. Being by the herd is a very private moment for me. 

Once I lived on top of a collective. They shared downstairs and I lived more or less alone upstairs in a flat that was far too big for me. So I tried to rent out a  room, but then inevitably I had to share the  kitchen. Every morning  I got this knot of annoyance in my tummy, when somebody was in the kitchen.  I tried to avoid the meeting, I divided the space on shelves and the fridge in mine and yours, I stayed in the shower, I listened behind closed doors. I became freaking unpleasant. 

Once I hung up a drape between the kitchen door and my flatmates landing, so that I could be in peace. I was asked ironically: oh do you feel a draft? Yes I feel a draft from your presence. I wanted to shout. That flatmate did not stay long. 

No, I was not very good at sharing. Hell, I had shared my first orange only when I was fifteen, what could I know about sharing. And at the same time the bad conscience of being such an egoist only child. 

I still do not know where all that manic illwill came from. I know that I encompass a very big  loneliness shield around me at times, and that I am not very good at articulating what I feel, need, or think. yet the dream of sharing and being together is very strong and has guided my whole professional life. I guess you are drawn to not what you are good at, but to what you want to discover, but an enigma that you want to unravel and that is for me togetherness. I know a lot about solitude.

I think that I copied my most despicable behaviour from my dad who needed lots of space, quiet and time for himself. Yet he was very bad at articulating his own feelings and needs. He kept them to himself until he exploded because of noise, presence or something else and yet another bomb crate was left. We dealt with the destruction by becoming very quiet and retire to sofas, living rooms, bedrooms, streets. His anger was so frightening, that we pretended nothing had happened as we picked up the shreds and felt ashamed. Although it was not we who should have been ashamed.

Still I nourished the dream of togetherness when I started out on the path to become an artist. The dream of merging life and work, life and art grew stronger and became an all encompassing enterprise to immerse myself into. Life as art. Life and art and work merging. As an only child a big need for togetherness, to be together. A substitute for the family? A need for the total engulfment of my being. No boundaries. Floating borders, no borders. No yous, no mes, no ownership. Well, this became not only one but several catastrophies, but that is another story.  The most incredible thing is however, that instead of never-ever again go collective, I started many years later pursuing my dream of the collective as a try out: would it be possible to work collectively I asked innocently in 2000 when Oblivia was founded and started with trials and errors moving towards collectivity with the most unlikely and perhaps therefore the best candidates for collective work: two soloists, another only child with a dream and determination and a solo pianist nerd. I myself is quite an unlikely collective worker, but today I cannot envision to work differently. And time has given me right, now collectives spring up and each and every corner and doing things together is just how you do things these days. It is wonderful. At least as long as art and life do not intertwine too much, and I do not need to share my kitchen on a regular basis. 

In Black Box

The black box setting has been the context where the work has been created during my time in Oblivia. I have heard about the early adventures in hangars and other alternative spaces to create performances in the group’s history but never participated in them. “There you get so much for free”, as Annika would put it. “Structures, compositions, atmospheres, everything is there already”. Black box, on the contrary, is an impersonal black hole that sucks in itself all the energy and lightness. But it is as well the perfect framing where you can concentrate on what is done, “the magical framing” I hear Annika’s words. 

When I stepped in Oblivia in 2009, I adopted the essential principle of the group: the work should be created on an empty stage without any set. An empty black box stage felt back then like a big challenge and I still find it not easy to relate my expression with light to. Light as an immaterial medium comes to existence only through the resonance with the material properties. Apart from the performers it is only the venue’s architectural parameters that give support to the light in an empty stage. 

I have learnt to see black box as an ideal space to get into dialogue with the act of performance, a space where the performative situation lingers in between the actual and the imaginary by nature. Since theatricality is the mere backdrop for Oblivia, the setting is often underlined and the awareness of the hierarchy between the stage and the audience is shown. An attempt to bring the stage “here and now” exists in order to reveal the persona of the performer and to allow the recognizability and humanity gain space. The notion of reality can be changed into a staged one in a glimpse of an eye.

Many of Oblivia’s pieces especially from the Entertainment Island and Museum of Postmodern Art series have dealt directly with the potential of imagination inside of the theatrical construction. The performers, the light and the sound as staged elements have been put together to construct temporal illusions in one moment and to dismantle them the second. The darkness of the black box enhances the impact of the light making every gesture meaningful. I have struggled to keep the lighting engaged with the mundane quality of an empty stage in an interesting way, not being too dramatic from the start.

Over the years the material appearance of light has become a distinctive element of Oblivia’s stage. Different kinds of spatial arrangements of lights have been giving visual structure for the empty stage. Almost in all of the designs I have brought light inside to the performance space instead of counting on lighting the stage only from the ceiling rig. Light sources placed visible on stage in abstract, often geometrical, sometimes asymmetrical constellations have occupied the stage together with the performers. This has also been a way to bring the light as a medium in focus, to shift the perception from immaterial to actual physical one and to acknowledge the essential expressive role of light. 

How to give a visual identity to the piece while working with no set? What are the aesthetics of this empty stage? How to create a space of transformation, where a shift to imaginary can appear? I face these questions in every new creation process with Oblivia. The black box stage does not directly give an answer but when the lights go off it offers a chance to start from zero.

Black Box

Why black box? Meri Ekola and Annika Tudeer talk about the essence of black box for Oblivia’s work. Recorded in Pact Zollverein, Essen, Germany in summer 2018.

September Flashback

What if Oblivia’s next performance would be created in a bouncy castle? These are some of the wonderful locations for the future we have scouted on our trips. Quite the opposite from where we usually picture our performances. After all these years there are times when one feels that some colour and softness is greatly needed to counterbalance the work in a black box!