Category Archives: Year of the Horse remake

Re-creation and Repetition in March

My attempt at re-creating “Year of the Horse” (2002) on Harakka Island in 2014, albeit once a month rather than once a week, was almost stranded before it started due to unlucky circumstances. During my first session, in the first days och February, snow covered the island and most of the sea as well. The winter was exceptionally short this year, and the ice soon turned unreliable to walk on or impossible to row through. At mid March when the sea was finally open for boats, I was away travelling. In order to continue this “calendar” I finally made it to the island at the end of March. The jump between the first two images, however, is almost two months rather than one month. Now there was no more snow in sight, if you really looked for it you could find a few remains by the rocks on the northern shore. The first sound of birds filled the air and the sun felt warm, like spring.
Speaking of re-creations, I read Kirsten Pullen’s article “If Ya liked it Then You Shoulda Made a Video Beyoncé Knowles, Youtube and the public sphere of images” (in Performance Research vol. 16:2, 2011, 145-153) made available free online to celebrate the World Theatre Day. She is discussing the many professional and amateur recreations of Beyoncés “Single Ladies” on Youtube, viewed by millions, as well as the material that inspired the piece in the first place. She suggests that performance studies scholars should not only use youtube for examples in teaching, as consumers, but to participate as producers, too. I vaguely remember reluctantly participating in her “Psingle Ladies” at PSi # 16, from the back row, though, and that is not the version that has attracted the milloins. Obviously there are re-creations and re-creations.
Beyond re-creation there is the repetition. Repetition and variation are relevant for artistic research as well, as Mark Fleishman writes in his article “The Difference of Performance as Research” (in Theatre Research International vol.37. Iss.1. March 2012, 28-37). For Fleishman performance-as-research “is a process of creative evolution. It is not progressivist, building towards a finality; nor is it mechanistic in the sense that it knows what it is searching for before it begins searching. It begins with energy … that is then channelled, durationally, through repetition, in variable and indeterminable directions … It expresses itself through a repeated, though flexible and open-ended, process of ontogenesis.” (Fleshman 2012, 34) He suggests that repetition is a way of slowing down in order to see the differences, in order to feel and live the intervals between the stable points of action. Well yes, I completely agree. My work is all about repetition. It is as if repeating things is the only way to become aware what actually takes place. But what about this kind of obsessive returning to old works, old places, old strategies for performing landscape? What actually is the difference? Is there a difference that matters? – At the moment I do not know…

Recreating an image after twelve years

When I first took an interest in recording the changes taking place in the landscape by returning regularly to the same place and placing my video camera on a tripod in the same spot, attempting to keep the same framing and entering the image in the same position, I worked for a few weeks, sometimes twice a day. To focus on the seasonal changes rather than changes in light and weather, and thus more specifically on time, I decided to record one full year, approximately once a week. And I chose the easiest place possible, the stairs on the slope towards southwest just outside my studio on Harakka Island, off Helsinki. And to have some tension in the image, I chose two positions, one very close to the camera, hiding half of the view with my shoulder, and another further away in the landscape, sitting on a rounded boulder next to the path. This was actually an exaggeration of the two different versions in a work called Windrail II, where I explored the difference between guiding the viewers gaze into the landscape or posing as the central figure embedded in the landscape. In this exaggerated version the human figure is literally blocking the view.
This was way back in 2002, twelve years ago. To return to the same place after twelve years would certainly be more dramatic were I not walking on that same path almost on a weekly basis. To try to recreate a version of the first year, as a monthly calendar only, is actually I way of softening the shock of coming to the end of this project which has occupied me fairly regularly for these twelve years. It is also a way of closing the cycle, as it were. So today, in brilliant sunshine, I decided the moment was right for creating the February image. I remember the first image of the Year of the Horse, with the sun sending two dazzling swords to hit the snowy ground. By the time I stood in front of the camera the sky was cloudy and a soft pinkish hue was colouring the sky although there were several hours to go before sunset. Of course my camera was different, too, originally I used simple DV and a 4:3 image, while I now work with HD and a 9:16 image. The dark blue scarf was the same, and so was the rock I was sitting on. The only notable difference in the landscape is the small windmill, fastened with wires to the ground, and I deliberately framed the image to include a part of it, to show some change. I remember being very unhappy for the framing of the original image later in the year, since the rail of the wooden stairs is visible in a monitor, although the camera screen would not show it. So this time I was careful to leave the horizon lower, to be on the safe side.
The technique of showing an old photo and then a contemporary picture of the same place is often used. Today there were some images in Helsingin Sanomat, the main newspaper, to commemorate the bombing of Helsinki on February 6 in 1944. Next to the black and white image of a ruined house was a colour image of the contemporary view with a new building from the fifties or sixties in its place. Compared to these dramatic demonstrations of time, my documentation of changes in the landscape is modest indeed. Even the trees on the cliffs seem to have grown very little. They grow slowly in the wind on the dry cliffs, I guess.

Year of the Horse 2014

Year of the Horse 2014

Year of the Horse 2002

Year of the Horse 2002