Year of the Snake – Swinging


The outcomes of the Year of the Snake can now be viewed in my solo show at Muu gallery 3–25 May 2014 and in the group exhibition Vesikuvia [Water images] organised by Harakka ry 30 May – 19 June 2014. A taste of what is to come you can have from a miniature video Year of the Snake –Swinging (mini).
 
What do we see in the image? The movement of the swing catches attention and the swinger, someone like us, will perhaps awake our interest. The assemblage of a swing, a tree, a scarf and a swinger can be looked at as an homage to the swing, a small machine that enables a piece of wood and two plastic ropes tied to the branch of a tree to enable movement. What about the tree? A small aspen provided the setting and support for a swing, and showed in its foliage the shifting seasons and weather, without receiving credit for this enforced contribution. This type of hierarchical and utilitarian approach is illustrative of our relationship to vegetation. It also shows, however, in a very literal sense, our complete dependence on plants.
 
During the year of the snake, beginning with the Chinese New Year on February 10 in 2013, I fastened a small blue swing into an aspen that grows on the western shore of Harakka Island, next to the remains of the stone base of an old sauna. More or less once a week, I videoed myself swinging, wearing a light blue scarf, while keeping the position of the camera on a tripod and the framing of the image as constant as possible. On the same occasions I also sat next to the stub of another aspen that once grew nearby ¬– it used to be possible to fasten a hammock between them – looking out at sea with my back to the camera. And in another image I sat on a small pile of rocks looking at the expanding Helsinki harbour on the opposite shore. Thus I tried to produce “souvenirs” of what the landscape looked like during this year on the northern shore of the Finnish Bay.
 
“Year of the Snake Swinging” is the last part in a series of twelve one-year projects performed for the camera on the same island, exploring the question how to perform landscape today. The series, which I began in 2002, is based on the Chinese calendar and its cycle of twelve years, with each year named after a specific animal. This way of working is based on the traditions of performance art, video art and environmental art, moving in the borderland between them. Each year I have chosen a new perspective on the landscape, a new aspect of the environment and a new kind of relationship between my body and the place.
 
This year I focused on the movement of a small swing, a manmade element added to the landscape. Although a swing can be an impressive sculptural element, as in the works of Monica Sand, for instance, this swing is on a child’s scale. The aspen on the shore is small of stature as well. It carried without problems, however, the weight of all visitors. I experimented with sharing the experience of swinging and changing the performer in the image, by inviting colleagues from the island as well as temporary visitors to swing for a while. These performances I documented on video and in a tri-lingual blog, adding a still image from each performance, either of the visitor or of myself, to each blog note. Sharing an activity like swinging, I chose in order to end the series, with its focus on showing the passing of time, on a more light-hearted note. I took the swing with me on my travels, too, and tied it to trees growing on various shores.