Nature Untitled by Veli Lehtovaara, Eija-Liisa Ahtila & Jani Hietanen, REDI, 13.11.2022
The wooden crates spread across the shopping mall floor tell me I am in the right spot. I can smell the timber while we wait for arriving audience to settle around the loose contours of the stage.
Movement III of Nature Untitled is a journey into the multifaceted imagination of the primeval forest. Situated in the open space of the Redi shopping mall in Helsinki, the setup challenges conventional narratives of nature and natural as they meet the consumerist cultural milieu.
Upon arrival, one obtains access to audio text that freely supports the movement of six dancers, while at the same time invites wondering in the enchanting world of the Paljakka, an old-grown forest in Northeast Finland. The polyphonic sonic and verbal associations open a space of forest imagination contained by dancing bodies. Wonderous forest encounters and soft entanglements of more-than-human life unfold through the piece in changing shapes and pace. I evoke trees, mushrooms, mosses, birds, insects, light, moisture, and clearcut inbetween and around performers, audience and rushed, already winter-wrapped bodies of passers-by. In almost one hour of duration, the liminal zones of speculative forest habitats, (un)intentional spectators, stage and shopping center environment clash, touch upon each other and gradually blur. I witness beautiful moments of curiosity as groups of teenagers negotiate their relationship to what they happen to be seeing in their usual weekend stroll in the mall. They and many others become part of the performance space for a brief moment, or longer, slipping in and out, or hanging around its edges for a stretch of time. The embodied experience of the performance resonates on many levels with how one moves through the forest: senses are finding their way through the mash of surroundings and the sensuous richness they provide us with. One can follow a path, but also get lost among the trees. One can purposefully head into the forest, or just happen to find oneself in it. Nevertheless, the levels of presence, attention and body responsiveness, or response-ability, belong to complex webs of relationships, taking place in the hybrid body of the forest. The magic of the forest happens through the experience of people who have come together.
Movement III is the continuation of the working group’s research on choreography as a relational practice. As a part of the Nature Untitled project, it follows up on the performative of dancing the space, as a practice of collective making space-with. With a reference to Lehtovaara’s piece, Ikimetsä/Clearcut from 2021, the space of the shopping mall enters a triptych-dialogue with stage and silo from the previous two movements, deepening a complex set of references to the body, energy, consumption, etc. It is, once more, a collective act of revisiting, rewriting and re-composing the embodied relationship to nature and its multifaceted cultural meanings and narratives. The forest in Movement III is at the same time a space of imagination and memory, a “concrete” natural site, and a micro-local sensation in the body.
Nature Untitled takes place as a continuous exploration of the unknown and unknowing through the body: a practice of relating to what one cannot see and moving with what one can not grasp. It is also an ongoing rehearsal of creating relationships with oneself and others through this unknowing. Negotiating the perception, bodily affordance and response in shared spaces of becoming with. Learning new skills, practice and intuition when the learned and habitual ways of appearing as restricting, or cease to accommodate what is emerging. Accepting the unfamiliar and regulating the state of the passage to meet it in the body. Taking in and releasing the different impulses that happen in between the moving bodies, sensing and articulating the multifaced play of diverse natures.
Also, the language. Throughout the project, the inquiry is carried out toward what is left beyond spoken, represented in the linguistic system of knowing, or captured in words. What are the abilities of the body-mind to articulate connection, consciousness and situatedness in place by means other than language as we know it? Nature Untitledmakes space for un-learning, or learning to see, hear or move differently, to intervene in generational, historical or local, in order to invite new encounters through traces of ones that were already made.
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.