Starting point: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain is a two weeks durational performance series for the city of Pori which consists of ten different 12 hours durational solo performances and the daily documentation will grow and been shown in the Generator Gallery, Pori in May 2010.

The focus of interest in the performance series are the moments of encounter between the performance artist and the audiencce - this moment is a moment of direct communication in the present moment of lived experience, while it is taking place – not how it is later described in a different manner. “So much can happen in one moment that only lasts a few seconds. A micro-analysis, so to speak, that at the same time directs attention to a dimension of reality that proceeds on the assumption that the world changes while one is observing it. “ (Theurich, April 2009)

To understand this short moment of encounter and with help of different artistic methods this moment of communication will be created. “In order to leave the communication gaps behind us, or tries to diminish these gaps, we have to create more open spaces for encounter.“ (Theurich, March 2010)

During the first week, the focus will be on the creation of different poetic live pictures which will set up in the city centre of Pori and in the second week strangers will be invited on the street to do something with the artist together or just for her.

The duration is an important part of the communication process with the residents of Pori, to slow down the everyday life habit of perception from the pedestrians to undermine the experiences of everyday city life. “For a new dimension of deep encounter, this change of energy in the public space is essential.” (Theurich, March 2010)

My expectations before the start of the production in Pori are very high - maybe to high, but time will answer this. I hope that I can get more knowledge and a deeper understanding of the moment of encountering. I will take a look at the duration and discover, for my continuing performative work, if the duration is still an important part of the communication process. I want to slow down the every day life habit of perception from the pedestrians to undermine the experiences of every day city life.

All performances during the exhibition “Live Art Generator” are dealing with the same research questions and I hope to get some answers or at least some directions how to deal with the following questions after the project:

How does the perception of reality change while at the same time one is observing or direct involved in a performative encounter?

How can we diminish communication gaps?

How does durational performance in public space influence the perception from the pedestrians and the experiences of every day city life?

How to create a performance space for deep encounter?

Day#1: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

I am walking bidirectional for 12 hours between the central railway station and the campus, where the gallery space for the upcoming exhibition is situated.

Photo: Julia Stein

As an arriving passenger I try to understand the heartbeat of the city and to find my own rhythm inside this new surrounding conditions. This ongoing movement should help me to embody the different rhythms of the city during 7am and 7pm as well as my own different rhythms of energy during the day. And while I am wearing a blue between-seasons coat, a blue dress, blue tights and a blue and pink mixed coloured silk neckerchief, I try to establish a recognition value for the pedestrians and this picture should help me to force the pedestrians to create their own persuasion about me. I choose to observe the city not in a hidden way rather in a little bit more exposed artificial way, because in my opinion the micro-analysis - that at the same time directs attention to a dimension of reality that proceeds on the assumption that the world changes while one is observing it, is faster to realize than in the hidden form of observation.
At 7am the city is very empty, at 7:45am the students are in a hurry to get on time to their lectures, but the pupils are much more relaxed on their way to school. At 8:30am the city is empty again. At 9:30am the city starts to get more crowdy with a lot of relaxed people who have time to shop for the rest of the day, to meet others in the coffee-houses beside the pedestrian zones, or just mingle around for a chat. I realize that my wish to slow down the every day life habit of perception from the pedestrians to undermine the experiences of every day city life is not really needed for Pori - this city is one of the slowest cities I have ever visited. At 11:30am the people start to wonder what I am doing and they recognize me again and again. At 2:30pm I encounter different types of eye-contacts, at 3:30pm I realize that the first people are on the way back home from work, at 5pm I got different face-expressions even from bus-drivers and car drivers on the road. At the same time the training staff from the university is now in a hurry to get the train back home. The city is empty again at 6:00 pm.
This project is based on and against my own biological rhythm at the same time. Personally I would not work before 10am, but for the creation of an open space for encountering, I have to use the timing of the city and not my own. After three hours I feel tiered and I realize that it is much more harder for me at this moment to stay inside and outside at the same time with my conscious sensory awareness or so to speak my tension towards the pedestrians. After 45 minutes it feels much more lighter and the concentration comes back. This project is based at the right time in the right city for me. The exposed observation, with just a few changes in my own behaviour feels very right for the size of a city like Pori. This form might not work in bigger places. Inside the 9th hour of duration the same low point of concentration than in the morning comes back. The last two hours were again very happily for me and I could open up again for different moments of short-time encounters. I realised that at the end of the day two independent ladies were focusing on me and start to open the mouth as if they want to ask or say something, but both retract immediately.
In this moment I am totally insecure of how to couch all the small and very different encounters of the day - is it actually possible to find words and if I try to explain it, isn't it just my view - the pedestrians might have complete different lived experiences in and from this moment of encountering. Is it even necessary to know exactly what everyone's thoughts are about?

Day#2: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

While I was constantly moving within the city yesterday, I am sitting today between 7am and 7pm on a small taboret in the streets and let the movement of Pori pass me by.

Photo: Julia Stein

While I am changing places I do not have an aim to reach, so I am just walking without a target. When I see an interesting place, I just sit down. Till the last moment I try to avoid to be on the same streets than yesterday. I am sitting in front of the Museum of Modern Art, on the board-walk from the river Kokemäenjoki, under an eaves from a shopping centre, in small parks, at different street corners, between and on different parking spaces, in front of different houses on pedestrian ways where the sun is shining and in front of shop windows as long as the shops are empty right now, on the old cemetery of Pori 'Vanha Hautausmaa' and in front of the water tower. At the end of the day I am sitting again in the pedestrian zone, across from the ice cream parlour, which looks like the heart of Pori for me in this moment. During the day I encountered mostly women on different levels. More direct than yesterday they start talking about me and my action, their facial expression reveal a bigger lack of understanding than yesterday, but some women also smile at me. The encounter with men are less than yesterday. At the end an old woman comes to me and ask: “Are you a monument?” We start talking for approximately 10 minutes.

Already in the morning I perceive that there are workers in the city who put up flags on the flagpoles. So I decide that this is the right time to create my picture about communication gaps between different cultures today. This picture is set up for 3 hours (between 1pm and 3pm) as a statement in front of two culturally-rooted sites (each 1:30 hour). I do not believe that it is possible to understand a foreign culture entirely, if you are not born in this culture. Out of my mouth comes a tape which was recorded 1973 with traditional Finish music. Afterwards I followed the already mentioned action.

Photos: Pia Euro

An interlude: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

If activation is the foundation of all inner stimulation development, how can durational performance art in public places influence the state of excitation and tension from the pedestrians? How can durational performance art heighten the alertness from the recipient, without being just weird or alien to the nature of the witnesses?

The marketing research proved already that pictures activate us principally much stronger than words and that three different techniques of activation are existent. The authors Kroeber-Riel and Weinberg differentiates 3 causes for the activation:

- emotional effect of the stimulus (e.g. description of erotic in advertisement)
- cognitive effect of the stimulus (mental conflict, contradictions and surprises)
- physical effect of the stimulus (music, colour, odours, rain)

I want to create a poetic picture / an action on the street, where the pedestrians get the chance to see the situation from various perspectives. They should get the chance to realize the effect of the stimulus. If we know that to much stimulus will diminish the alertness how strong has to be the stimulus than?
Of course I like the idea of irritation which creates an emotion of interruption and destabilization of the recipient and I believe that this dissonance will activate the emotional and cognitive intensity of the mental processes, but how can we diminish the effect that the pedestrians think that the performer is just mental ill? Yesterday I realized that the starting point of a performance on the street does not allow even a small mistake. Place, time and tension for the action has to be chosen very carefully and must be done with the knowledge of a form given moment. I should say - like always in performance art, but at the same time even more in public spaces. The knowledge of the site where the performance is placed is even important and the differences between big cities, small cities, villages or places somewhere in the mountain have been calculated inside the action beforehand. I am wondering how international working performance artists and performance festivals who invites all these international artists deal with this problem. If I go there just to show my art which I have been done before in Tokyo, Hannover or Sendai the same way, where is the difference between performance art and e.g. painting which was sold at an art fair somewhere in the world?

Day#3: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

Still questioning how to activate Poris inhabitants and how can durational performance art in public places heighten the alertness from the recipient, without being just weird or alien to the nature of the witnesses, I go out at 8am with the aim to ask as much pedestrians, sales assistance and policemen as possible, if they remember the first street they lived in Pori. The second question is what is the most beautiful place in Pori and what is the worst place in Pori. I have a city map with me and three different colours of felt pens to marking the mentioned places. I expect to get a full map of good and bad places or even a situation where a lot of people like a special area in the town and a special area which they did not like. I will do performances there during the next days.
Four hours later I just have 2 times the same place for the most beautiful place in Pori, it is Yyteri one of the most famous beach in Finland at all, one other beautiful place and just one woman from the tourist office said that she did not like the paper factory. The beach and the factory are more than 20 kilometre away from the city. I do not count how many people could not answer my questions because of the language problem. I realised that I am a little bit spoiled in Helsinki, because most of the inhabitants speak English very well. I stopped this work after 4 hours and 23 minutes.
I think that I was not able today to change the project while the obstacles originated, because of the expectations which I had already in the beginning. There was a misguidance between imagination and expectation. And the second problem with one of the question was, a Finish friend told me later, that the Finish people do not like to say what they do not like, when they have to say it with their faces in front of someone. And here I am at the heart of one of my starting questions: How to diminish communication gaps, or even more how to diminish cultural communication gaps?

Day#4: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

And the next cultural shock just come up this morning. The students making carnival today in the streets of the city and getting drunk already during day time. Do I go inside the party crowd, do I want to work inside these context? To communicate with drunken Finish strangers are not what I personally understand with deep encounter. With a heavy heart I decide that I will do a performance for the most beautiful place in Pori, according to the two English speaking woman from yesterday morning.

I pick up my megaphone from the gallery and take a bus to Yyteri. The bus-trip takes 40 minutes and I exit in front of a hotel. I can not see the sea in this moment, but after a five minutes march through a small forest I enter one the most beautiful beach I ever saw. No one is there, just me and the sea. I sit down and sense the view of the sea. The sky and the ocean are one. I can not see a horizon because of the fog. I start singing for the ocean through my megaphone: “ I had a dream, a song to sing. To help me cope with anything.” I repeat this two lines again and again, for the next 1,5 hour, while I am getting steady louder and louder. I take two shopping bags full of sand with me back to town, after I finished the singing part. I put the sand, shaped as a small mountain, in the bottom drawer which stands open of an old desk inside the gallery. On the table top rests the unfolded city map from Pori.

While I was searching for a possible way to do a performance inside a public space, but not together with the drunken students, I thought that this day will not bring anything fruitful for my research, but at the end it appeared that this day was a very good lecture in becoming more flexible to the obstacles on my way. Was this action really needed for the research? I needed this action as a point – as an end and starting point. I think I can deal with obstacles more relaxed after this project.

Day#5: I'm pleased to meet you in the mountain

The party is still going on. I am waiting. In the morning I decide to do something, where the time is not given by me, rather the time is framed by something else - an action where I could not know how long the duration will be. In the afternoon I am sitting on a bench with a fully reared Metronome, I decide to take the slowest rhythm as possible – nearly not musical anymore. I am just sitting and watching for 1hour and 43 minutes till the metronom stoped. I am going away. No documentation was made of this action. I am in the position of waiting and still dealing with the topic of the influence of duration at perception and communication. For me the most honestly action, in the given situation.