“In the Nordics, but also elsewhere in the world, we talk about weather all the time”

A written conversation between Reality Research Center & Ferske Scener & Western Norway Research Institute and Kerstin Schroth.

Can you tell about your idea behind the piece and the different meanings of the weather conditions in each city the talk show has been and is presented?

In one sense the idea is simple: Weather is something all humans relate to in a personal, physical and emotional way. It affects us every day, one way or another. It is something that is easy to talk about, even with strangers. It is so easily accessible that it has become a cliché, meaning uncommitted small talk. When we talk about the weather, we also talk about the conditions that we are putting our bodies into, as well as many other things.

We are looking for something specific about each place where we make this performance. In Hammerfest, the small oil city – in the very north of Norway, it was snowing heavily while we were there in the midst of April. Everyone was talking about the snow and the winter coming back. The show emerged through our own embodied encounter with the snow while we were dancing on the mountain covered with emergency thermal blankets. In the performance the audience could taste the snow, be disturbed by snow balls put on their skin and was guided through text messages while walking in the snow. The local community was also involved through their expertise and practical skills people of Hammerfest have in choosing the right footwear to any type of weather and surfaces: Snowy, icy, rainy…

In Sogndal, a rural community on the Westcoast of Norway, the week of the show turned out to have the most beautiful autumn weather. All the gardens and farms were full of ripe apples. The whole place smelled of apples, and we made this an important part of the show. The apples became a highly visible part of scenography, and were also used as content, as the mythical idea of the forbidden fruit of knowledge.

Even though half of our working group lives in Helsinki, we can still not say what will be the main material in our performance as we are the midst of the creative process. We want to work with the specific element that is unique to just this place and the time of the performance. The performance is highly time and site specific and as we all know, there have happened a lot of changes these last months, and we have to be true to these changes as well. However, what we think we know about the weather in November in Helsinki is that it will be raining a lot – and we are not afraid to dive deep into the water.

The piece is a collaboration between several organizations, could you speak about the collaborative process of creating the different versions of the piece?

Formally we are three organizations that collaborate: The artistic organizations Ferske Scener of Tromsø, Norway, and Reality Research Center of Helsinki. The third partner is the Western Norway Research Institute, located in Sogndal, Norway. And, like always, we are first of all a working group of different people collaborating and who have different connections to each other, also beyond our organizations. The collaboration is a meeting and entanglement between Finland and Norway. Between people that have just met and people that have worked together for 30 years, embodied practices, talked and showed, humor and serious concerns.

The whole project is also a meeting between art and science, trying to find a way where both are equally evident in the final result. In art-science collaborations, what often happens is that either the science becomes the background and inspiration of the art, with the art “in power”, or the opposite, that artistic expressions are used to illustrate the science, or “explain” it to the public. Neither of these positions interests us. We want it to be a collaboration between different methods and ways of seeing the world. We strive to find a common way of working where each of our practices and knowledge are given space, but also challenged. We want it to be a collaboration between different methods and ways of seeing the world.

Every time we meet, digitally or in the same room, we go a little further. And the times we have succeeded the most, has been when we develop together, in the making. When we put our feet into the snow, make a dance video together with the apples or eat the coal while we are reading the performance text. In each place we have in a sense started from point zero and we have let the situated elements, weather conditions and performance context lead our making. This time, in Helsinki, we were very much challenged by the situation of the pandemic and the fact that we had to cancel several working periods on site. We decided to use this as an entry to artistically research how we can be distant and at the same time work with physical material, embodiment, community and weather. So, the way we work is also taking a stand towards the possibilities to make an embodied performances at this time, dominated by covid-19.

This has lead us to new ways of working together and collaborating. We are very much looking forward to share our experiences about this process when we have walked the path.

What do we talk about, when we talk about the weather?

In the Nordics, but also elsewhere in the world, we talk about weather all the time — but a conversation about the weather is hardly ever only about the weather — it is a way to converse also about all the small and big questions in life.

  • We talk about weather all the time
  • We talk with strangers
  • We talk about the temperature in the water.
  • We talk about being afraid
  • We talk about what clothes to wear
  • We talk about our need to create contact with others and not to be left alone
  • We talk about or feelings, the feeling of low pressure or sun in the face
  • We talk about climate changes
  • We talk about something we share

The weather is in relation to your own experience. We are talking about the condition we are putting ourselves into. The condition of what we are in relation to.

Interview conducted in July/August-September 2020.

Talking in the Rain – An Entertaining Show about the Weather was presented as part of Moving in November: Traces in November 2020

Photo: Kerstin Schroth