This is Susanna

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina. Photo: personal archive

“Keho on Dacha” – a research art project on site-specific performance and community-based art-making by contemporary artists in the North of Finland and Russia – continues to joyfully introduce itself. (Welcome to scroll down for the Russian version)

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina. Photo: Ivan Malkin

Please, meet Susanna Voiushina, a dance artist and performer based in Arkhangelsk, Russia. Here is what Susanna says about the “Keho on Dacha” project and herself:

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina. Photo: Ivan Malkin

– Sometimes it feels I was born on the stage. My parents performed in the folk ensemble, and I was always around. I have danced my whole life, having gone through all the stages from kindergarten dance club to the largest choreographic ensemble in Arkhangelsk Pioneer Palace and further – to receiving a master’s degree on contemporary dance at Vaganova Ballet Academy in Saint Petersburg.

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina during the masters’ degree studying in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Photo: personal archive

The more I travel and learn diverse human stories, the more I realize: anything is possible. This has changed my attitude to small towns: I no longer see them as a province you have to flee, but rather as a challenge to create a micricosm, find and prove yourself within it and inspire others. And that is how unity is built.

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina. Photo: Dmitry Melnikov

The word changes the world. The dance changes you. It lets you live through your aggression and let it go, express disagreements and opinions in general – all in a healthy manner. Dance is, among other things, psychotherapy. Body language is more voluminous than the one of words, containing something that cannot be relayed in them. 

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina. Photo: personal archive

What confuses me most about dacha’s life is the small tiny size of a house and land around as well as super closeness with other neighbours. How it actually affects our bodies and minds? How it nourishes our creativity since we need to give this small dacha a lot of functions: little house, sauna, storage house, green houses, gardens, some trees and flowers, playground for kids, barbecue place and sometimes even a garage?.. I can tell that people do feel joyful there and build some strong community network. That’s what I’d like to explore during our project. And the best thing is us doing it simultaneously with our colleagues in Finland. That we can compare our community garden experiences. Are they that different or actually have a lot of similarities and cross-border connections?

Dacha-scape in Arkhangelsk. Photo by dance artist Susanna Voiushina.

“Дача – это тело” – это исследовательский артпроект, который делают художники и артисты на севере России и Финляндии.

С большим удовольствием мы продолжаем рассказывать вам о нашем проекте и команде. (Какие-то наши посты будут написаны на русском, какие-то на английском и/ или финском, потому что это международный проект, но мы будем стараться писать на нескольких языках сразу).

Мы верим в теорию малых дел и силу искусства – такую, например, при которой дача выступает как сцена, а местное сообщество – как соучастники творческого процесса.

Итак, знакомьтесь, это Сусанна Воюшина. Вот что она рассказывает о себе, своих отношениях с искусством танца и участии в проекте “Дача – это тело”.

Артист танца Сусанна Воюшина. Фото: личный архив

– Иногда мне кажется, что я родилась на сцене — мои родители пели и танцевали в фольклорном ансамбле, а я была при них. Я танцевала всю жизнь, пройдя все этапы от кружка в детском саду и крупнейшего в Архангельске хореографического ансамбля во дворце пионеров до магистратуры по современному танцу в Академии русского балета в Санкт-Петербурге. 

Чем больше я путешествую и узнаю истории разных людей, тем больше я понимаю: возможно все. Это поменяло мое отношение к малым городам: это не какая-то там провинция, из которой надо свалить, а возможность создать микровселенную и реализоваться в ней, вдохновив и других людей. Так создается единство.

Ткачество – традиция в семье танцора Сусанны Воюшиной. Фото: Маша Бирюкова

Слово меняет мир, танец меняет тебя. Он экологично позволяет прожить и отпустить агрессию и несогласие, выразить свои мысли. Танец — это в том числе и психотерапия. Язык тела объемнее, в нем есть то, что не поддается ретрансляции в слова. 

В дачной жизни меня больше всего смущает, какие все-таки малюсенькие эти дачные домики и участок земли вокруг них – и насколько близко друг к другу они расположены. Как это влияет на наше тело и разум? Как это способствует нашей изобретательности – ведь мы наделяем дачу множеством функций: маленький, но все же дом; баня; сарай; теплицы; клумбы; саженцы, цветы; площадка для детей, мангал, да и гараж порой?..

Я чувствую, что люди с радостью создают это пространство и выстраивают прочные связи внутри дачного сообщества. Мне хотелось бы исследовать этот процесс в нашем проекте. Потрясающе, что мы можем делать это одновременно с нашими коллегами в Финляндии и сопоставлять наш опыт. Так ли уж он различен – или во многом одинаков, объединяя нас вопреки существующим границам?

This is John

Visual artist, DJ and interactive systems designer John Collingswood. Photo: Kulttuurivoimala – Culture Power Station ry

Keho on Dacha – a research art project on site-specific performance and community-based art-making by contemporary artists in the North of Finland and Russia – continues to joyfully introduce itself, as promised.

Please, meet John Collingswood, a visual artist, DJ, interactive systems designer and Oulu-based dance/tech company “TaikaBox” cofounder.

John Collingswood testing an interactive projection in TaikaBox’ studio on Pikisaari, Oulu. Photo: Elena (Lölä) Florina Vlasenko

Here is what John says about the “Keho on Dacha” project and about himself:

John Collingswood and dance artist and choreographer Tanja Råman during the Barents Dance Network session in April, 2021. Screenshot of the zoom session

– My aim for this research project is to find ways to encourage cultural cross-pollination between the two sites. I’d like to take artwork produced in Kalinushki and transplant that into the forests and gardens of Varjakka, and, in return, send the seeds of artwork created in Varjakka over to Arkhangelsk to be used as inspiration for the artists over there to germinate. Crafting and grafting.

John Collingswood during a set within TaikaBox workshop. Photo: Elena (Lölä) Florina Vlasenko

I create art out of hybrid systems, combining humans and computers into something that’s more post-digital.

I grew up in a cultural tundra in the Midlands of England, and have travelled far and wide in search of new ways of being creative, for a while settling in Cardiff where I constantly expanded my knowledge by collaborating with myriad performers.

Now I’m in Northern Finland, and permanently astounded by the proximity to nature and the elements. My work has recently been focused on finding ways to involve the audience in dance work, and now my aim is to bring in some of the outside world as well.

John Collingswood setting up a screen in the studio on the island of Pikisaari, Oulu. Photo: Elena (Lölä) Florina Vlasenko

Stay tuned for the features about other beautiful parts of “Keho on Dacha” team!

And here is the Russian text.

John Collingswood and dance artist Henna Räsänen in TaikaBox studio in Summer 2020 connecting to studios in Norway, Russia and Sweden. Photo: Elena (Lölä) Florina Vlasenko

Мы очень рады рассказывать вам о нашем проекте и о команде. (Какие-то наши посты будут написаны на русском, какие-то на английском и финском, потому что это международный проект, но мы будем стараться писать на нескольких языках сразу).

“Дача – это тело” – это исследовательский проект, который делают художники и артисты на севере России и Финляндии.

Мы стараемся выступать не столько на сцене, сколько в пространстве местного сообщества, – даче, к примеру, – а еще мечтаем, чтобы предметы современного искусства создавались внутри этого сообщества – так, чтобы местные жители становились соучастниками этого творческого процесса.

Мы верим в теорию малых дел и силу искусства.

Еще мы думаем, что сила эта (и теория) могут в долгосрочной перспективе привнести радость, солидарность, инициативность и помочь чувствовать себя немного лучше в контексте очень сложной и невеселой жизни, которая может вдруг показаться вовсе неплохой, если добавить туда танец, технологии, осмысленные беседы и кино.

Мы продолжаем представлять нашу команду.

Это Джон Коллингсвуд, художник, диджей и эксперт по дизайну интерактивных систем. Еще Джон со-основатель компании TaikaBox, которая совмещает хореографию, танец и технологии, создавая предметы искусства и представления для сцены, онлайн-аудитории и местных сообществ. Компания располагается в городе Оулу на севере Финляндии.

John Collingswood during DJ set. Photo: TaikaBox

Вот что Джон рассказывает о себе и о своем участии в проекте “Дача – это тело”:

– Моя цель в этом исследовании – найти способы стимулировать международное “опыление”, (раз уж мы говорим о дачах), между двумя этими северными пространствами. Я хотел бы, продолжая дачную метафору, пересадить произведения искусства из Калинушек в окрестностях Архангельска в леса и сады Варьякки в окрестностях Оулу. И наоборот, я хотеля бы посеять семена искусства, произведенного в Варьякке, и вдохновения, ему сопутствующего, в Архангельскую область, чтобы их взращивали местные художники. Такое вот метафорическое садоводчество.

Я работаю с так называемыми гибридными системами, которые совмещают в себе человеческое и компьютерное – результат этого совмещения принято описывать словами “постцифровое искусство”.

Я вырос в культурных дебрях Англии, затем путешествовал по миру в поисках новых творческих методов и на какое-то время осел в Кардиффе, где мне довелось перенимать опыт множества деятелей искусства.

Теперь я обитаю в Северной Финляндии и не устаю поражаться влиянию, которое на искусство оказывают близость природы и ее стихийности. В своей работе я всегда пытался вовлечь публику в мир танца, а сейчас стараюсь, в общем-то, привлечь к танцу внимание всего мира…

Keho On Dacha Team

Dance artists Susanna Voiushina and Dmitry Melnikov exploring the shapes and angles of dacha. Screenshot of a personal archive video

Keho on Dacha explores site-specific performance, community based art making, connection within hybrid live/ digital spaces to make an impact in the society through art, technology and innovative cultural activities.

Today we are starting a series of publications introducing our team – artists in the North of Finland and Russia.

Dance artist Susanna Voiushina, Arkhangelsk, Russia. Photo: Dmitry Melnikov

Susanna Voiushina is a dance artist from Arkhangelsk, Northern Russia. Together with dance artist Dmitry Melnikov, also from Arkhangelsk, she has been exploring the cultural code of dacha – Russian word for a Summer cottage house with a dramatic and sophisticated cultural and historical heritage – within the international dance project “Moving Barents – Out of Urgency”. Their research evolved into a number of beautiful concepts, many of those have inspired and informed “Keho on Dacha”.

Dance artist Dmitry Melnikov. Photo by Susanna Voiushina

Visual artist, DJ and interactive systems designer John Collingswood from the UK and dance artist and choreographer Tanja Råman from Finland are both based in Oulu, Northern Finland. For decades they have been developing and implementing new ways to perform, connecting art and tech within the dance/ tech company TaikaBox. Warjakka, their project about rediscovering the history of the village of Varjakka in the suburbs of Oulu, includes virtual galleries, community gardens, art residencies, archeological research, interviewing the members of community and making different kinds of community-based artwork.

Artists John Collingswood and Tanja Råman. Photo: personal archive

Elena Gutkina is a journalist and film-maker from Moscow, Russia, who has been bringing in impressionistic innovation to the genre of arthouse documentary.

She is spending the research period in Arkhangelsk collecting footage of the bodies moving and making sounds – and life changing impacts on the communities – while doing so.

Russian film-maker Elena Gutkina. Photo: Lölä Vlasenko

Oulu-based journalist and activist Elena Florina Vlasenko aka Lölä is passionate about exploring the freedom of expression and challenging its limits. Within “Keho on Dacha” she is documenting the team’s activities and sharing them in the social media. Having spent most of her professional life with texts, she is fascinated to find the right words to describe things that are usually left and felt between the lines. She tries to translate body language to words without damaging the spirit of abstraction or limiting the many meaningful messages it contains.

Journalist Elena Florina Vlasenko aka Lölä. Photo: personal archive

Each of the team members will be featured in further publications, so welcome to stay tuned. For now – here are all of us, very excited to be sharing this research experience with you.

A Story About Finding Something Old and Making Something New

Musician Tom Fraser found an old record in a box of junk once owned by his Great Aunt Mirry. It was a one-off acetate made in a record booth in the 50’s and showcased his Great Aunt’s piano playing and composition. He dug deeper and found out more about the life of Mirry and started building on the recording with a team of collaborators.

mirrymusic.com

Dacha, the Horizontal Vertical

A collage picturing the city- and rural scape in Arkhangelsk by dance artist Susanna Voiushina

“Keho on Dacha” concept was born while most of our team have been working on a project called “Moving Barents – Out of Urgency“, an international dance project responding to climate change and the crisis state of the world.

Six dance artists from four countries – Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia – were exploring the planet’s dramatic contexts through improvisation in dance and digital art.

The Russian dance artists’ Susanna Voiushina’s and Dmitry Melnikov’s research was informed by dachas, their physicality, aesthetics and conflicts between the natural and the urban, between the isolation and unity. The emotional and artistic discoveries they shared were fascinating, and in the end evolved into further research which was one of the things that brought us to working within “Keho on Dacha”.

Now, in the beginning of our research, we are happy to share the memories of those first sprouts of inspiration. These photos were taken by Susanna Voiushina and Dmitry Melnikov in Arkhangelsk, Russia.

Dacha site in Arkhangelsk. Photo by Susanna Voiushina

Here is what Susanna says about how these sites made them rethink the relationship between the horizontal and the vertical, the urban and the rural:

Many of us (especially at the time of Covid) were trying to escape from big cities
and move to the countryside. We are willing to live closer to nature, feeling it makes us healthier and happier. We prefer to stay in our own house with some small garden instead of city apartments.

Cityscape in Arkhangelsk. Photo by Susanna Voiushina

But it turns to be a very special cultural experience when we look at this aspect
in Russia: DACHA as a cultural code of a person.

Dacha site in Arkhangelsk. Photo by Susanna Voiushina

Can you imagine Soviet nine-story building inverted from vertical to horizontal?
Basically this is the way how we see Dacha villages. Why we decide to live so close to each other in a country that has the largest territory in the world?
How can nature manifest itself there?

Dance artists Susanna Voiushina and Dmitry Melnikov exploring the shapes and angles of dacha. Screenshot of a personal archive video

Varjakka: Remembering the Forgotten

Varjakka Sawmill    copyright: © Kansallisarkisto/Uleå oy:n pääkonttorin I arkisto

Keho on Dacha – the research project by contemporary artists in the North of Finland and Russia – is gladly introducing its team and the sites we explore.

Please, welcome to Varjakka, a village in the suburbs of Oulu, Northern Finland, the one with a dramatic past and an inspiring present.

Keho on Dacha initiators – artists and TaikaBox dance/ tech company cofounders John Collingswood and Tanja Råman – have been having ongoing projects to initiate cultural activities in the area and use the arts as a new engine to revitalise the village. One of them is called Warjakka after the old name for the village. It includes artist residency programmes, archeological research, community gardens, workshops and courses, an augmented reality heritage app, collecting stories from members of the community and making films and other artwork. Here is what Tanja and John tell about the site:

Visual artist John Collingswood (second form the left) and dance artist Tanja Råman (first from the right) in the community gardens in Varjakka (photo: personal archive of John Collingswood and Tanja Råman)

“The village of Varjakka sits in the forests on the edge of the Bay of Bothnia, just outside Oulu, Finland. The quiet village consists of a few hundred households, a school and a bar, a harbour and a ghost island – but dip into the past and you uncover a vibrant history, with Warjakka Island home to a sawmill industry that employed over 700 people during the start of the 20th century. In 1929 the sawmill closed down and the island was gradually abandoned, leaving a few buildings and traces of the community that once lived and worked there”.

Breaking the limits, whether it is distance or time, is one of our favourite things in “Keho on Dacha” policy and philosophy.

“Keho on Dacha” project explores site-specific performance and community-based art making and their social impact in Varjakka and Oulu, Northern Finland, and Kalinushki and Arkhangelsk, Northern Russia.

In this blog we are sharing the work in progress and things that inspire us in our research.

Could community-based arts create new ways to connect and heal?

We – a team of contemporary artists from the North of Finland and Russia – are welcoming you to follow our research project on the community-based art making and site-specific performance through dance, technology, text, film-making and media art.

“Keho on Dacha” has been funded by the Finnish-based KONE foundation as a long-term project to make an impact in society through art and science. It is run by dance artist and choreographer from Finland Tanja Råman, visual artist, DJ and interactive systems designer from the UK John Collingswood, journalist and activist Elena Vlasenko (all based in Oulu, Finland); dance artists Susanna Voiushina, Dmitry Melnikov and film maker Elena Gutkina from Russia (based in Arkhangelsk and Moscow).

Here is what the project’s leader Tanja Råman says about “Keho on Dacha”:

I was recently very fortunate to be awarded a significant grant from Kone Foundation to start a new three-year project next Summer. Kone Foundation supports brave new openings in artistic and scientific research. They emphasise the slow incubation of ideas that have potential for making a strong foundation for long-term impact in society. I have applied for this funding many times previously. This time when I wrote the proposal I had a feeling that – if I am ever going to be successful with Kone application – it is going to be now. The project felt right for this funding. And yes, gaining this grant also feels like an achievement in my writing skills.

The project is called ‘Keho on dacha’. The title is a mix of Finnish and Russian. ‘Keho’ is Finnish and means ‘the body’. Dacha is Russian and refers to an allotment of land with a small cottage. The body is seen as a metaphor for a dacha. The project is taking place in two locations simultaneously – in and amongst the community gardens in a small village called Varjakka, near Oulu in Northern Finland and in Kalinushki dacha village, near Arkhangelsk in Northern Russia. There are going to be two teams of artists working in this project. In Oulu, I will be working with video artist (and my long-term collaborator) John Collingswood and with Russian-origin journalist and activist Elena Florina Vlasenko. In Arkhangelsk, there will be two dance artists Susanna Voiushina and Dmitrii Melnikov, as well as Moscow-based film maker Elena Gutkina. The two teams will work in conjunction with each other but produce local activities. We are aiming to initiate social change through the arts. Our plan is to engage in site-specific performance, installation, video and film making, as well as writing in Finnish, Russian and English. We will be mixing gardening and dance, community activities with high arts, virtual with real connections.

Oulu and Arkangelsk are located in the same latitude and experience similar climate. They are friendship towns, both with industrial backgrounds. The Warjakka community gardens were created only a year ago inside the foundations of old sawmill workders’ homes. In early 20th century there was one of the biggest sawmills located on Varjakka island. It brought wealth and workers to the area. The collapse of the industry had devastating effects on the local community. Even now, the politicians don’t know what to do with it. Arkangelsk seems to be going through similar industrial collapse with mass unemployment and particularly young people moving away. Kalinushki dacha village – located just outside Arkangelsk – consists of small plots of land often fenced around and with a small house in the middle. Although modern dacha represent small green heavens for their owners they have a dark history deriving from slavery and have been shaped by the political and social changes of the Soviet Union and Russian Federation. Both locations in Varjakka and Arkangelsk have broken communities. Could community-based arts create a new kind of engine for these locations and find new ways for communities to connect and heal?

Warjakka community gardens are home for the historical augmented reality experience and virtual art gallery which are accessible with the Warjakka app – downloadable free from AppStore and Google Play. My aim is to bring Russian dacha to the virtual art gallery in Warjakka gardens and make performances that combine live activities with virtual installations. I am also hoping to livestream short performances from Varjakka to a greenhouse in Kalinushki dacha village. The aim of this exchange is to connect the local communities, provide fresh new perspectives on their daily lives and promote change through their connections. I am excited about the prospects of potentially re-choreographing the future of these communities.