© Tani Simberg – Baltic Circle
For several years, this small international festival has been experimenting with new curatorial practices in a fierce and open way. The festival distinguishes itself by introducing co-curating, by politicising curatorship, and by rethinking the international. Baltic Circle hereby positions itself as a forerunner and is an ideal ground to visit with students who are themselves operating in the field of “expanding curation”.
Three students, their tutor (Lara Staal, independent curator and publicist) and artistic director of DAS Theatre Barbara Van Lindt visited the festival and proposed some moments of exchange. In January we invited artistic director of the Festival Satu Herrala to visit us, and engage in a conversation where we reflected upon our visit (and already anticipated a next visit, in the autumn of 2018…)
Here are some accounts from our students:
“The curation of the Baltic Circle festival gave me a beautiful insight in what it means to see curation as a practice of care in the widest sense of the word. Intimacy and transparency are key words that come to my mind when reflecting on how I experienced the festival – from the first leafing through the program booklet – carefully put together, giving us insight in the dramaturgy and urgency of the festival, to the conversations and the club nights. I feel very inspired by the vivid sense of genuine engagement expressed by Satu Herrala. The First Nations program touched me deeply. It laid bare how social justice and ecological justice need to be thought together, and what a long way we still have to go. I was shocked to learn about the situation of the Sámi communities. Many histories and stories remain hidden and untold. It is clear that art can play a huge role in bringing these voices front and centre, not by ‘talking about’, but by actually making spaces for listening. The contrast between the First Nations program and Sharp Lenses, Soft Senses, estranged me at first. But looking back now I am intrigued by how well this interplay worked. With a focus on intimacy (MDLSX), sensitivity, pleasure (Sleeping Beauty) or actively getting put into someone else’s position (Think much, cry much), it provided a hint at how to deal with the issues of separation and exclusion that keep haunting our societies.” Ingrid Vranken
“From the rich program of Baltic Circle festival what remains with me the most is the collaboration between Baltic Circle curator Satu Herrala and the Sámi artist and curator Paulina Feodoroff. This collaboration welcomed elements which I find crucial in the act of curating: pushing the limit of the function of an art festival by bringing relevant and sensitive issues, which can be considered on the edge of art. In this case it was by discussing the issue of indigenous rights in Finland, positioning it to similar issues in the rest of the worId. Moreover, not only inviting Sámi artists to perform but by co-curating the festival with a Sámi curator and giving a proper space to the community within the festival. I appreciate that the festival was not afraid to face these questions, even when it brings them and its audience to a sometimes uncomfortable place, a place we do not yet know, a place we have to constantly re-negotiate, where the power structures are being re-discussed. As a French, European white person, it provided me a place where I have to listen and learn. A place where as an audience, as an artist, as a curator I am led to question my practice and its limit. Asking myself what can art do in relation to social and political topics. Is it enough to simply talk about it? Can both spaces interact and encounter to give strength to each other? Can art, through its fictional potential and through a possible radical imagination add to such deep and painful topics? This festival was therefore a place which goes beyond the time of the festival, a place in which I find myself carrying a certain responsibility which keeps me thinking until now.“ Alice Pons
“The Baltic Circle program offered many forms and constellations of theatre and engagement for audiences. It was a smorgasbord of performance, text based theatre, club nights, experimental seances and discursive events. The discussion we enabled and hosted between Ingrid, Alice, Lara, Barbara and myself and the two curators Satu Herrala and Pauliina Feodoroff illuminated many of the complexities in working with issues of a highly important and sensitive nature to individuals, cultures and societies. The Village Council meeting we attended which was co-curated by Satu and Pauliina, was for me an interesting format, as a person from Aotearoa, otherwise known as New Zealand, where the indigenous peoples are known as Maori or tangata whenua. It made clear that incorporation of indigenous knowledges is slowly becoming more present. However, it is a very delicate thing and depends upon the people who have power. The Village Council meeting served as an interesting way to bring together knowledge and methodologies from indigenous peoples into a broader society.“ Isobel Dryburgh
Blog post of January 2019: In 2018, the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s programme focused on Transition. In 2019, our theme is RE/definitions.
For some years now, I have tried to live my life with this principle in mind: because everything around us is constantly in transition, almost anything can become a reality. By this I mean our fears as well as opportunities, both the positive and negative ways of thinking about the future of our world. Personally, I would like to believe that we are capable of moving towards a better tomorrow, even if reality as filtered through our daily newsfeed often seems to contradict this.
Blog post of December 2018: How did you wake up this morning? Maybe to an alarm on your cell phone? What was your first thought? For many of us it’s “Can I sleep for another half hour?”. And, what was your last thought of the evening? Maybe you thought about whether you could watch just one more episode on your streaming service or whether it was really time for you to go to sleep. In fact, it is likely that these were the first and last risk management decisions of your day. Each of one us makes hundreds of risk management decisions whether we are at home, in our free time, or at work. Do you know the kinds of risks you are taking while navigating the digital world in our everyday life?
Blog post of June 2018: What if the future of music came from the Far North? There is no doubt that Nordic and Finnish musicians play an important role in the international music scene. Every category has a Nordic touch : vocal and instrumental music, metal, traditional and contemporary music, and jazz. Unlike here in the South, there are no fixed boundaries between musical languages in the North. Every musical genre finds its place between tradition and modernity, fusing into a fertile synergy without losing its own character. This is one of the cultural strengths of the Nordic countries.
Blog post of April 2018: Less than two months ago I moved from Tokyo to Brussels, straight into the heart of Europe and the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s great programming for 2018! We have our excellent previous Director Aleksi Malmberg to thank for carrying out the preparations for the start of the year, as well as our amazing team, with whom I now have the privilege of adding new initiatives and ideas to the programme.
Blog post of February 2018: “Okay, so there’s nothing here on the Sami people”, I noticed at the end of an introductory tour of the House of European History. I was visiting the relatively new House of European History at the beginning of February as part of a group of twenty odd individuals involved in the Remembering 1918 programme. Each one of us had the task that day of leading our own public tours of the House of European History. After the introductory tour, we were given a few hours to prepare to offer our own views on the museum’s exhibition which deals with European history.
Blog post of January 2018: “Last autumn, my colleague Timo Wright and I sat down for a cup of coffee in Helsinki’s city centre. Our gallery, Unknown Cargo, had not seen any major activities for about year now and we were both itching to start a new project. Timo had been toying with the idea of running some kind of residency programme for a while and brought it up again. The idea appealed to me immediately and that meeting became the beginning of Artist Residency Swap, or ARS. ‘ARS’ was used at first only as a working title, but we grew to like it so much that it became the final project name.”