The role of art and nature

Anna-Mari Laulumaa

When we combine art and science, we presumably collide with the challenging questions about the concept of knowledge and language. Research is often called a creative process, but at the end of the day, it will be written in words. Any scientific thesis is written in words, and in the world of research, there are strict matters of form that should be followed when reporting. The Doctoral Thesis cannot be danced, at least not fully.

In the scientific process, the art can play many roles. It can be the object of research, when we study e.g. paintings from behind centuries or millenniums. Research on art seems to be as old as art itself. During the last few years, the role of art as a mere object of research has changed. The art has wanted to rise or it has been raised at the same level with research. At the frontiers, there is quite a tumult. Naturally, the issue has its problems. Is art or science going to lose its characteristics?

Will the result of combining art and science be something that is neither art, neither science anymore?

In art, we have also other kinds of knowing and expressing than just carefully outlined words. The body language, speechless messages, place and stage, and the meanings they imply. The reactions in the body of the spectator and the one who experiences. The unconscious layers of the mind. Chaotic, dreamlike sensations and thoughts, sentiments and experiences, all mixing together. There is not necessarily a one whole word in the flow of memories, emotions and ideas. Voices, smells or a melody can be bursting.

The role of art in the processes combining science and art is often subordinate to science. The scientific results can be ”colored” or ”popularized” by the means of art. The art has been seen as subordinate to science. Sometimes art is some kind of a small additional part in a greater scientific project. This tendency enters often into the project budgets: the share of art is small. During the centuries, the relationship between art and science has been varying. During the last couple of decades, they have come closer to each other and possibly warmed up a little.

On the path towards Hitonhauta. Photo: Agata Anttonen.

In “Pyhä paikka”, or “Holy place” project, our genuine intention was to look for balance or at least equality between art and science. The performance that will be constructed in August 2020 has as important role as the research. The performance must work as an independent piece of art, because it is a part of the program of Jyväskylän Kesä -summer festival. As an independent piece of art, it has to fulfil the criteria of good art in the same way as the research articles must fulfil the quality criteria of a scientific study.

The role of the performance is also to produce knowledge in many ways. The question is: what kinds of knowledge? The creative process itself is already a compilation of experience originating from various different sources and processing knowledge in a way that often is quite subconscious. The performers, who will join our group following their own routes, process their relationship to the nature as they prepare and act in the performance, and each member of the audience receives the performance in their own way.

One particular characteristic of a site-specific performance is its linkage to the surrounding community and society. The performance is not made under cover of the theatre building, but ”right there”. As a result, several fundamental demands upon setting the place follow. The first is to respect the history and culture of the existing site and related communities. This would come easier to mind if you were planning a performance at Macchu Picchu, but the same principle works fine for all site-specific performances. The artist is – hopefully – not riding to exploit the place with a colonial attitude, leaving behind an eternally destroyed culture or community. Secondly, in a site-specific performance the meaning of the place itself is greater than in a show built in a black box.

The place is dictating its conditions and the site is not just a passive scene, but also a living part of the performance. It is a character.

I remember sometimes saying about the Hitonhauta performance that nature is very powerfully present in this performance, by its difficult terrain and also the weather. Now we cannot choose the weather, and the terrain is what it is. This winter, the nature brought in one new, unwritten main character. The corona virus came to tell the story of the relationship between a human being and the nature in a way we could never have told it by ourselves.

I am writing this text in April 2020, and at this moment I hope that we can realize the performance in a small-scale in August. Corona became a part of our performance, yet I hope it will not play solo, and we people can nevertheless take part in it.

Nature inspires the art performance that will be conducted at Hitonhauta in August 2020. Photo: Agata Anttonen.