Snapshot Finland

Performance and Philosophy – Finland

Working toward the goal of enhancing the working aspect of our group, I queried a particular sub-group within PPWG in order to develop a snapshot of Performance Philosophy in a specific part of the world. Arbitrarily, I decided to start with Finland. I sent an email to all members with an email address ending in .FI in which I asked the following questions:

Would you be willing to help me create the first snapshot for our newsletter by writing down your answer to this question: What is Performance Philosophy? You answer could be conveyed through words or images. You can work in teams (if you know one another) or you could respond individually. You can cite your own research or offer reflections about a performance you've seen recently or a book you've read.

Below are the responses I received. It is my hope that we can explore the geographical diversity of our group through monthly snapshots, and that such an exploration will help us build a vocabulary to talk about Performance and Philosophy, both within our working group and within the larger professional organization.

Esa Kirkkopelto
Dear Will,

Thank you very much for this gesture. Before it we did not know that we were We, i.e. Finnish Performance Philosophy team. Now, my life looks different.

As you can notice: when you present questions to philosophers you rarely get quick answers.

I´ve already been Thinking of mine for a while. Maybe others react even later.


This answer came out last week-end, and more It think about it more I am convinced:

Performance Philosophy is a means for getting performance practice and philosophy in a direct contact, without intermediary disciplines or interpretative authorities, like Performance Studies or Theatre Studies. This means a lot for our current research culture. It means that the phenomenon / concept / event / practice of performance becomes anew a matter of wondering and questioning, since that is what philosophy supposedly is. It means that from the very start we accept that these practices, practitioners and their products THINK and that thinking has philosophical aspects that deserve to be explained, clarified, developed further. Thereby, practices are not only mirrored in different theoretical discourses but the mirror is turned towards theories themselves. Right to think, courage to think in terms of performance. This is an emancipatory act.

Pauliina Hulkko

Hi Will,
Just one personal point of view (together with an image) to add to Esa's formulation:
For me as a performance maker and artistic researcher Performance Philosophy also aims at examining, testing, even creating philosophy in action. How does philosophy perform? How could it be performed? In this way PP conveys thinking into doing, thereby working both practically and theoretically.

The attached image (from left to right: Masi Eskolin, Jukka Ruotsalainen, Veli Lehtovaara; the photo taken by Pirje Mykkänen) is an example of how this could work. It is a photo from a production of mine called "Riitta - nainen talossa" (Riitta - woman-in-the-house; an adaptation of/a reference to Alexandre Dumas's La dame aux camélias). This performance took place in 2008 at Kiasma Theatre, Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki).

There were seven men performing the main character, all of them in wheel chairs (one of them actually paralyzed and thus basically living in his chair). The thing about this performance and Performance Philosophy: One of the main sources of the performance was an excerpt from Luce Irigaray called "The Caress" (Key Writings. London & New York: Continuum. 2004, 21). This excerpt which was recited and repeated in the course of the performance could also be seen as the ethical/philosophical basis of its entire rehearsal process. The exercises, tasks and actions which I introduced to the performers were motivated by this text - and more widely by my theatrical adaptation of Irigarayan/Levinasian philosophy of the other. (Even if I don't like to articulate it this way, we could, however, argue that this is a way of embodying or incarnating philosophy in performance, i.e. performing philosophy).

All best,

P.S. "The caress is an enchantment directed at you in a way which is irreducible to the common, to the general, to the relative neutralization required by collective life. It is an awakening of you to yourself, and also to me. It is a call to be us, between us.

The caress is also praise. It is a homage of the evening, of the feast, of the spring to what I have perceived, sensed and experienced of you during the day, the week, the winter, during daily life woven with the grey of ordinary requirements, of urban transit, of the submission of sensible rhythms to the instruments of labour and to the rules of citizenship.

The caress is an invitation to rest, to relax, to perceive, to think and to be in a different way: one which is more quiet, more contemplative, less utilitarian.

The caress is a gift of safety, a call to return to yourself through the possible rediscovery of your virginity, here and now, thanks to me and us: your virginity understood not as a simply physical or phantasmic thing which is lost or preserved, violable or inviolable, and thus always beyond, never present but still and yet future."

Liisa Byckling
I received from her an article titled, “Näyttelijän tie Moskovasta Hollywoodiin.” Since I do not read Finnish, I cannot tell you what it says. If you’d like to read it, please email me and I will send you a copy. Liisa directed all Non-Finns to the following website where there exists an English-language article on Michael Chekhov by Byckling and numerous other articles that may be of interest to our Group’s membership: []

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