Instant reflections is a series of notes and remarks by Nina Vurdelja about Moving in November festival 2022. These texts will be published throughout the festival.

Nature Untitled – Movement I by Veli Lehtovaara, Eija-Liisa Ahtila & Jani Hietanen, 30.10.2022, Oil Silo 468

(Cool-warm contemplation on post-fossil futures)

“Short days and a sudden need for warmer headwear always get me by surprise”, I am thinking as I embark on the shuttle bus that brings us to the opening performance of this year’s Moving in November festival.  Arriving just enough before the start to greet familiar faces and grab a blanket to keep warm in the chill almost-November evening.

Dance piece “Nature Untitled: Movement I” by choreographer Veli Lehtovaara, visual artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila and sound designer Jani Hietanen takes place in Silo 468 at Kruunuvuorenranta suburbs in Helsinki. This repurposed oil tank, a remain of a fossil culture and history of the neighborhood, sets tuning-in to the piece on multiple levels. The group performance has been developed from Veli Lehtovaara’s solo piece “Katkelma/Passage 468”, premiered in the same space in 2019.

In general terms, the performance deals with complexities of (post)-fossil society, through corporeal exploration of energy, consumption, exhaustion. It is the first in the series of performances within “Nature: Untitled” project, a triptych-piece premiered this autumn at Moving in November.

The video installation of the forest on the walls of the tank suggests contemplative presence of merging materialities and scales of life. Moving blanket-wrapped appearances, alone or in smaller groups, spread around the edges of the silo in semi-darkness between the entrance and the parallel gates opening to the sea, and flickering city lights in distance.  Six dancers enter the central space.

Human and nonhuman movement, both physical and virtual, subtly encounter each other, exploring states of creation, flow, radiance, circulation, destruction.  Juxtaposed video and embodied images evoke, breaking linear patters of mimesis, fire flames, freezing water, burning woods, glowing chalk, et cetera. Hybrid immersion on site-specific steel stage reaches towards beyond-human embodiment: at instances, one could feel the cold wind entering the space from the sea, or the warm smoke approaching from the stove installed on the stage. The overall performativity of materials and objects (four large plastic rolls) accompanying human movement carry an association to oil-based cultural entanglements and the original purpose of the location. Costumes of performers, mainly black, with wool or plastic pieces, bring a delicate touch to already established dramaturgies of energy accumulation and loss.

Over half an hour, the choreographed space holds an ongoing transformation from inner to outer corporeal spaces, or natures. Powerful vibrations in-between bodies keep on building up and spreading to the point where one could imagine dance taking in the sea outside the tank in all its vastness.

Movement is at times complemented by abstract vocal expression of dancers, that not only give powerful sounding effects due to reverb, but also emphasize the breath. Breath carries the passage of energy from inside-out, breath works as presence, a connecting tissue in-between bodies.

After the performance, the warm soup awaits us in front of the Silo. The smooth texture recovers the body temperature, the pleasant taste excites gut bacteria, the shared meal brings joy. The soup, and blankets, feel almost as a ritual of a kind: and act of togetherness, connection, recognition.

This is how we parted last November, this is how we meet again.

– Nina

Nina Vurdelja

Nina Vurdelja is a performance researcher and cultural worker of international background, based in Tampere. Her interests reside around more-than-human sensuous encounters and ecologies of being together. She has been doing Ph.D. studies at Tampere University, dwelling in meeting spaces between culture, art, and philosophy.

Photo: Nina Vurdelja