The aim of my research trip to Tampere is to engage with the public and find out how to twin it with the city of Manchester. This research has been supported by PANDA the performing arts network, a-n and my family. My initial research can be found on my previous artist talking blog Manse Project 15 . As with all creative ideas this project has developed from an individual performance to a much larger idea of city twinning. Unfortunately, I did not get Arts Council funding for this part of my project but will still be departing for two weeks on the 1st of August. My plan for the residency is to give an Artist Talk, perform a research pitch in public at OFF festival and go see the fringe events at the International Theatre Festival.
So the emailing begins trying to re-connect with contacts in Finland and finding the right people to talk to in Manchester. I have had some amazing contacts from Julie Ward NW Labour MEP who has helped network me with Geoffrey Brown who is involved with The Europe for Citizens programme. I will be meeting him this week to discuss my city twinning ambition and artist residency exchange. I still have two Re:View meetings left, however I have changed my mind about who to see. Inevitably as the project has developed this has made me look closer to home and I feel Alison Kershaw, artist and independent curator would be an excellent person to talk to. Since being back I can’t stop thinking about how there are so few residency opportunities here in Manchester and the limited accommodation for parents with children. There are many arts opportunities for graduates but few for mid-career artists. At this stage a residency exchange between the two cities would be very exciting for creatives on both sides. I would want a broad range of artistic practices such as a writer, arts educator, visual artist, curator, performer. This is a project with a long term view to nurture relationships between artists, place and future practice. Although I was only away for two weeks I feel it has changed me and my outlook on what I want to do next. As an artist with a young baby two weeks felt like a good chunk of time to go, see and start something new. The hard work and planning starts now.
Listed below are the comments written by the passing public in Tampere and artists at the residency studios of how to twin the cities together. What I found was that ‘Art’ wasn’t much of a priority in the general publics daily lives favoring more sports activity, eating and drinking. The artist made ‘Arty’ suggestions although one in particular read the other comments and incorporated that into a more creative idea. For example ‘food & beer’, ‘music’ could be used through a ‘live feed between pubs’. My particular favourite was ‘secret portal in a magic pub’ that again may have been read by the artist and negotiated into a real, possible execution with the ‘live feed’ concept.
One lady thought about using Instagram to take photographs of places to visit in the city that was not the obvious touristy choice. Football is very important in Finland and in Tampere I found out that the women’s league is very good and that they struggle for challenging opposition. Drama is not taught in schools and one teacher remarked that this is a problem making children very shy and reserved. The historical references were briefly mentioned once which was surprising as I had spoken about this to every person I met. Most people would not have engaged with the banner without me talking to them and getting them interested in the big idea. This has got me thinking about the quote: “There is no such thing as art. There are only artists” written by Gombrich from the book The Story of Art….
Create new drink strawberry and tea blend
In Tampere they could learn to make Eccles cakes and in Manchester they could learn to make black sausage
Food & Beer
Marketing Tampere as ‘Manchester or Finland’
Man U Vs FC Ilves
Student, artist, professional’s exchange
Secret portal in a magic pub
Exchange theatre and applied drama studies
Good beer in both cities
Get drunk play football
Instagram favourite places from both cities
Exchange for schools
In Tampere we eat a lot of chicken wings
Love is the answer what is the question?
Connect histories, similarity of industry
Girls Football tournament, Viva La Ilves!
Ice hockey game
Artist football league
Making bunting together from Tampere to Manchester
Live feed between two pubs one in Tampere the other in Manchester
Post art to each artist ending in final exhibition
I just wanted to post the last few bits and pieces I saw during my research residency. I didn’t get to see as much of the festival as I wanted however on my travels I did see Les Dudes in the square that were two guys performing a mini circus act. The guy on the left isn’t as good as the guy on his right and they used this in the performance although I do feel they could have highlighted more the imbalance of skill between the two. I particularly loved how they used soft toys as acrobats in slow motion jumping on and off mini props. In the crowd were a group of young school children that were gripped by their act. From the main programme I was really pleased to have seen the documentary film Ash & Money directed by Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper, which showed how Estonian theatre NO99 created a new political party. I nearly missed the film as the location was so badly noted on the map with no signage at the venue of where to go. If you get a chance watch the movie trailer below. I admire their determination, commitment to each political character, event ambition and the overall advertising campaign. I rarely say this about theatre, but this is a brilliant and original piece of work.
In the city of Tampere I was told that there is an ongoing battle for public space between the council and the public, particularly artists. Placed on the fronts of these telephone cable boxes are commissioned artists work. The boxes are everywhere and do not only display artwork in specific areas of beauty they can also be found on an empty street corner. I do feel we could use our public spaces more creatively to display artwork in Manchester. At the residency house I used half of it to hang out the washing, and I took this photograph. I like it I don’t know why, maybe as it visually sums up part of the domesticated experience of being an artist mother. Being located in a park made for a lovely setting for a family with a lake nearby to swim in. We somehow managed to get my work started and have family time that was equally important to have throughout the residency.
We are now back in Manchester and I am beginning to reflect on my banner research, future ideas, beginnings of conversations and the contacts I have made. Thinking about what the next step will be…
During my last few days here I have met some of the studio artists and visited the Sara Hildén Art Museum. The museum felt a little like The Whitworth in Manchester, although it is located next to the Särkänniemi Adventure Park. Mrs Sara Hildén (1905-1993) was a business woman in Tampere who was married to the painter Erik Enroth. Sara supported her husband until there divorce on the agreement that she owned the work. In the museum was a fascinating film about the story of her life and how she had acquired one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in Finland. She donated all her works to the city and in 1979 the museum was opened to the public. The unusual location of the museum next to an adventure park she specifically wanted which I think was a very forward thinking move. Impressively the collection totals around 5000 works. Currently on show is the summer exhibition which consists of European modernism and early pre-war masters and further into the show new contemporary acquisitions. I particularly liked Jussi Niva, Foldaway (Circuit), 2014 oil on panel, painting. On the first floor prints were presented low, within angled white boxed frames that was an alternative solution to hanging work in a room with little wall space. Outdoors in the surrounding grounds are sculptures which the museum provide an A4 sheet with a map, illustrations and names of the artists on. I do feel outdoor work can be forgotten about so this information was helpful and encouraged you to go and see them. Overall a really enjoyable visit, what an amazing woman Mrs Sara Hildén was.
When I watched the film at the museum I noticed that one of the studio artists was in it called Timo Vuorikoski who was part of the Finnish modern art scene. After my talk on Monday he wanted to use my studio to hang some large scale drawings as there were some visitors coming the next day from China wanting to buy his work. I visited his studio and I particularly liked his small drawings of wooden structures that are used to launch boats. As a collection they reminded me of the beginnings of an alphabet. Ritvamarja Rantala just moved into the studio this week after having a city centre space. She is training to teach SEN students, art therapy and continue her practice. I found her personal art therapy drawings looser and more expressive. Ritvamarja is very skilled in painting and print making which she uses in her educational work. I am always impressed with skilled artists as my strength is more the creative process which is not always obvious to the eye. This afternoon we went upstairs to visit Varpu Rautaniemi and her family who reside here. She is an artist and currently having an art break while she raises her three children. I really wanted to see her work and she showed me two video pieces filmed on super 8. The image I have shown is of an ice skater and the second film is of a burnt, abandoned home both backdropped by the winter snow. As a new mum talking with another artist mum felt important as sometimes people can disregard your profession just because you are a mother.
I gave an artist talk in my studio with a little performative twist by changing my title t-shirts during each section. For example I started wearing my ‘Artist’ t, followed by ‘Tour Guide’ when talking about Manchester as a city of renewal. I briefly spoke about PAPER gallery and changed again into my ‘Curator’ t, finally ending as an ‘Official Researcher’. I was a little nervous about doing this especially with a small group, although people laughed about it. It wasn’t a gimmick and I felt really strongly that beneath the well designed presentation you got to see the real me. The only glitch I had was that the WI FI suddenly stopped working which meant that I could not show any videos of my performances. I have sat through performance artists talks before with no video finding it boring listening to long endless descriptions. However actually doing it during the talk really said more about what I do. I wanted to leave some time at the end for questions, especially in case there were things I said that did not translate.
I was asked why my work was changing since having a baby. I really want to be ambitious in my thinking and develop more sustainable relationships within the arts. This is not only something I want for me but also for my son. I don’t want to be inhibited by others or by money in my ideas. This may be naive but I have to dream big, I’m an artist and a mother what else am I supposed to do? Money is also an issue in Finland with artists having to pay to exhibit in galleries. Another artist mentioned that they had tried to make a partnership with Manchester gallery for a touring exhibition, however it never happened due to finance. The exhibition ended up in Germany instead. I got a sense from all the artists that international exchange was much wanted, however funding was the main concern. There are many residencies here, however we have very little in Manchester.