I’m interested in ways of questioning the border between popular culture and something classified as contemporary art, which doesn't mean rendering one's own work banal. People frequent video rental shops and watch television more than ever, instant experience is quite in. Dance is also about experiencing. But how to make it active, to prevent contemporary dance and physical theatre from being a bugbear, how to make people stop thinking that they wouldn’t understand it anyway. That is the mission, says Sanna Kekäläinen, a choreographer and dancer, when she tells about the Physical Art Theatre and Slow O to be premiered in Kiasma.
In my works, I have resorted to popular aesthetics in some sort of high-brow way, I haven’t tired to eliminate the border that much. The most important thing is to be able to create a connection with the audience. I'd like as many different people as possible to be able to read my works. We have all sorts of audiences from all age groups and, in my opinion, my works can succeed in communicating with almost everyone.. For example, Kiasma's audience is interested in contemporary art in different ways. And Slow O is contemporary art.
The Physical Art Theatre
The Physical Art Theatre is known for its dance art which fuses speech, powerful presence and dance in a way which leaves no-one cold. Even the name of the theatre stirs the imagination. I've wanted to be explicit in expressing what I’m doing. Dance is often too narrowly understood. I have also wanted to elicit emotions and conceptions about theatre. Our aim in the Physical Art Theatre is to employ the human being as a holistic performer. These works are about physical art.
Like all theatres, we also have a board of directors who approve the programme, plus an artistic director who suggests programme content. Author Kari Hukkila has suggested some of the topics for our performances during these 5 years of operation. They are new interpretations built around literary motifs. Most of the ideas, however, come from me. The first thing is to process the subject. Two of the subjects are Hukkila’s, namely Querelle – variations and Death in Venice. He suggested these and then we thought about them ourselves for a couple of years before we actually started work.
Dramaturgy of dance
If the starting point for a work is literary, the situation is clear because the dramatic structure has to be decided in advance, usually by me. In Querelle, the dramatic structure is, by and large, a result of co-operation with Hukkila, as this dance work involves an actor's presence all the time, whereas Venice is a dance work in which the motifs were selected from a story, and part of it consisted of Hukkila’s independent text, von Aschenbach’s monologue. In such cases you just have to know in advance what aesthetics of movements does, and how to process the motif. Usually after the aesthetic side is clear to me, we begin to make it concrete through rehearsals. This is where the dancer’s personality enters the picture. It is not until the dancers and actors are involved that we start to process the motif and consider what kind of form it will have. There are images and finished material. Structural issues and form, which come from the unconscious, are most essential. The overall artistic responsibility is entirely mine.
It is fascinating when a writer, a stage or costume designer, understands that together they are portraying someone's mental world. At the same time, they want to bring their own contribution to the work. It is co-operation at its best, despite the occasional debates. But I appreciate this, I like strong co-operation partners! I have a willingness to co-operate. In order to do this, I must have the feeling that I could also create the work on my own. What I mean is that I have really wanted people to bring something of their own to the work. We aim, and I aim, to communicate with the audience. That's the primary objective.
Slow O is a woman. The name is a fantasy name, or a dream-like, onomatopoeic utterance. I try to depict the slowness of change. I am exploring the vast difference between the reality of day and night. On the other hand, I also seek the significance of different ages for women: growing old, understanding – or misunderstanding oneself. The piece starts from the dream world. A woman has dreamt the same dream for a long time; there's always some event which never proceeds, which never comes true. An atmosphere of longing, languor and even humour prevails. But then again we’re not talking about a woman who has been through it all, but more of a woman who has become a child again. I don’t give a role to the woman – I try to express the variety of things a woman goes through in her life. Through dreams, the world can be viewed irrationally. The world in the impossibility of dreams, from the perspective the reality of day. If all our dreams came true, what would we do then?
For a long time, I have sought a form for myself. How would I, at this moment, at this stage as a creator, a living human being make it concrete, shape or set it? The work springs from my own dream world, my imagination and feelings, and from my experiences of being in the outer world. Then again, I also have to ponder how I could transmit my inner world and what kind of things could be done on stage. I’m Slow O. The work got an English name because dreams are like a foreign language: we move about in the dream world and try to make sense of the fantasy world, a bit like a Hollywood atmosphere. It's another reality which is alien to everyday reality where I exist as Sanna Kekäläinen. I chose English as a stylistic device. Despite being a foreign language, it's familiar and everyone knows at least some English.
Slow O is not a description of the language of movements, rather, it’s an attribute of a person. Change is very slow and very important, including personal changes in one’s life as well as the more profound changes in life. The leading idea is that a lot of things happen but so awfully slowly. Through people, we can approach the general principles of humanity. Has the human condition changed at all throughout history? We keep thinking where we stand now, what is the state of humankind, don’t we? We could ask whether the values and humans are, in principle, the same? People who lived a hundred or a thousand years ago probably dreamt in the same way and had similar aspirations. Things have different meanings, they have been attached to different values. But the existence related to hoping never changes. Hopes can be seen through a dream.