“How is a theatre audience formed?” is the underlining question of your performance Audience Body. What is your definition of “an audience body” in comparison to the terms “audience” and “spectator” and how they are commonly used and questioned nowadays?

Ok, here comes a short history of my terminology! Back in the day, I started with the term “spectator” as a default option. I think this was the main convention in the field in which I began to work in the early 2000s. Then, with my colleague Julius Elo, we realized that it didn’t really fit our work and coined our own term, “spectator-experiencer”, to allow a wider spectrum of reception while lingering with the conventional term at the same time. Later on, we moved on to “participant”, as our works started to allow more agency to them.

However, when I entered academia and started to work on a doctorate, I opted for the word “audience”, or in Finnish “yleisö”. This was due to its wide usage and, in comparison to “spectator”, its collective nature. The term is simultaneously singular and plural: a single being and a group of individuals. I also fancy the history of the Finnish term, it was invented in the 19th century by Wolmari Kilpinen, the same guy who also coined the Finnish words for an object, person, relationship, circle, religion, science, and art. So you see how new these concepts are in our tradition.

To connect the audience with the body was inspired by the consequences of the pandemic. As theaters were closed, two things became obvious. Firstly, there is something special about bodies gathering in the same place at the same time. When that did not take place, something was lost. Secondly, performing arts is not limited to that – there seem to be infinite possibilities on how to perform across space and time. So I thought that the different modalities of receiving art are related to the qualities of bodily collectivity; thus the title of the work.

What is your relation to time regarding this performance?

Now, when I am writing this, it is the 8th of August. I am in Covid, my solitary body in an Airbnb flat near the city of Tampere. Superimposed on top of this moment is the moment you, Kerstin, are reading this email after your vacation, in early September. And on top of that is the moment when an audience member has the program in their hand in the foyer of Zodiak in November. It is all here; I can feel it. And at the same time, it is not.

In this performance, I superimpose the modality of time of finished artworks (books, paintings, etc.) and the modality of time of live events (theatre, performance art, dance, etc.). Its time is both in and out of the hands of the audience. And both in and out of mine. I’ve been creative regarding the time when making this and I invite the audience to be as well.

If you could wish for something from us, as your audience in relation to viewing Audience Body, what would it be?

It is comforting to answer it now after you have attended. You would know by now that the work is full of my assumptions of how you will receive it and my attempts to persuade you (or more accurately the collective body) to experience something I have imagined. So I am not sure if I should add something. As a minimum, I have hoped for a donation of time and attention – and as an inevitable consequence an affective contribution. For you to feel something. To think something. To surrender in some way.

Photo: Petri Summanen