“Each piece resonates in another”

A written conversation between Sonja Jokiniemi and Kerstin Schroth

In your new group piece ÖH, you combine textile work and live performance. Could you tell about the starting point of your research for this piece?

I believe each piece resonates in another. Either by returning to some questions, creating kind of sequel, by continuing to develop further or looking at another aspect of a same thing. I have been working with this idea of multi-textural languages for quite some time. This work has taken different formats from stage works, drawings and community engaged practices. I have been exploring object human communication as associative meshwork, where categorizations and binaries of thinking momentarily blur. Where set of lingual propositions place themselves in relation to categorization. These multi-textural associative threads raise the fantastical, the unconscious, the intimate resistance.

In my last work Howl I worked with textile lacing in combination to my drawing works, making holes, ways to see through textile, making a meshwork that one could peak through. I found a teacher in a weaving studio called Filambule in Lausanne. Under her guidance for some months I was making bobbin lace. In Blab (2017) there were textile lumps and a suit made of latex. In Mound Bound, (2020) I worked with curtains. In textile there is something that connects to memory, to haptic sense, to a way of generating sensory experience. In ÖH, I wanted to create something soft, something fluffy without introducing the soft, the fluffy as a tool to soften out friction and contrasts.

This kind of rya rugs used are very traditional in Finland although a lot of contemporaries have been explored. It has been way to make blankets at first, then more decorative objects. I am busy with the connection of hand and matter; touching, making, changing, breaking. And making textile is a process of hand and thread, shaping its meaning on the way. And a blanket, immediately connects to intimacy.

I invited textile designer and artist Aino Ojala to implement my drawings into rya rugs. As Aino was making rugs in Helsinki, I simultaneously kept making smaller rug pieces by hand at home. This way, even in remote places, we connected in the act of binding.

What is your thinking regarding the notion of the body in your stage work in general and in relation to your drawings? 

In previous works drawings have had different roles but I always work with drawing, either as a way to think the performance work, create a parallel language or to respond to the embodied material. In ÖH I started making a catalogue of drawings, which I sent to the performance collaborators. I asked them to respond with a texture. This was a way for us to tune in to another way of talking with the visual material.

In terms of bodies, I believe I work as much with the bodies of objects, bodies of humans and bodies of drawings. That is my choreographic practice; that relationality and singularity at once. How does a human work with objects as tools, as playmates, as equal, as dominated, as extensions…There is no fixed school of theory in my work. I am interested in thinking with, speaking with, doing with and all the multiple affects that are created there. And that is where language comes in for me, in handling things, doing things with hands, sounding with an object, realizing small pieces of narrations, wanting to become a lump, or recognizing the lump in oneself, rocking with desire. Body of language as a multi-textural process.

I want to propose a kind of labor that works with repetition, exhaustion, physicality and meeting of materiality. Labor as something ordinary that I feel an urgency towards.

Thinking about the importance of the live encounter in performing arts, how do you see the role of performing arts in a crisis during which we were asked to be in a physical distance from each other?

I think we live in dark times. For me more scary than the virus is the human aspect of all this. Fear is a powerful tool. And I guess there is also something to be said in how these policies affect the psyche of people, sense of freedom, ability to practice their profession and be in contact with other people. In that sense I believe live performance plays a hugely important role in society. I believe that even with COVID, we need to explore physicality, touch, gaze, being in the same space. We need to explore all those questions live performance in different ways and styles is busy with. I think we must not forget the fact that we are living organisms, that cannot control all their fluids, gestures and need for connection with their species.

Interview conducted in July/August-September 2020.

ÖH premiered an was presented in the frame of Moving in November: Traces in November  between 10th and 14th, 2020

Photo: Katri Naukkarinen