How can dance change the world? The theme of activism was discussed in the Kiertoliike event
This year, the Kiertoliike event for dance makers was organised online. The event gathered people working in the field of dance to discuss activism during the climate crisis.
The Kiertoliike event was organised in the beginning of October. The participants discussed ways for promoting good by means of art. How can dance field participate in creating a more sustainable future?
Experts of the event answered this question during their keynote speeches. They urged people working in the field of dance to channel their worries about the climate crisis into action.
Activism seeks changes
“The central role of art in the world of climate crisis is to speak the language of emotions,” says the author, journalist and activist Suvi Auvinen during her opening speech at the Kiertoliike event.
According to Auvinen, art can help people to process the frightening and distressing thoughts caused by the climate crisis. For artists, it is often necessary to take a stand on climate change because to some extent, art always reflects the surrounding world.
“Art acts as the conscience of society. It is now more urgently necessary than ever before”.
The selection of a theme for art can always be regarded as a political question. Auvinen points out, however, that political does not automatically mean activism. The creators of art activism must have the intention of stimulating discussion, creating action and activating people.
“Activism must seek to change something outside of ourselves: the surrounding society, the industry, the viewer”.
In addition to Auvinen, the activists of the Mustarinda Association Pauliina Leikas and Tiina Arjukka Hirvonen also took the floor at the event. They spoke about the activities of the Mustarinda Association that was established in 2010 and that is rooted at the Mustarinda house at the edge of the Paljakka nature reserve in Hyrynsalmi. The association is a practical example of sustainable activity during the climate crisis.
In addition to residency activities, education, events, exhibitions, workshops and nature conservation lie at the centre of the association’s activity. The goal of the association is to promote the ecological rebuilding of society, the diversity of culture and nature, and the connection between art and science.
Room for diversity and different voices
The third speech at Kiertoliike provided tools for artists that want to change the world by means of activism.
The founder of the Climate Church project Laura Marleena Halonen discussed activism and artivism together with Sámi rights advocate and environmental activist Jenni Laiti and the dance artist, activist and chairperson of Fem-R Ajak Majok. The core themes of the discussion were decolonisation, intersectionality, anti-racism and climate justice.
“To me, activism means taking action together. It’s about getting along with all kinds of people and giving room for everyone,” Laiti explains.
Both Laiti and Majok agree that diversity and intersectionality should be considered in art projects. They also point out that by doing so, people must be prepared to notice problems that previously went unnoticed.
“There are many problems that people cannot understand if they do not live in certain intersections,” Majok says.
According to Majok, art is able to address people in such a way that is not necessarily possible by means of politics, civil disobedience or organisational activities. Majok hopes to see more artistic work that provides people with comfort, hope and positive emotions. She also highlights the importance of cooperation.
“I try to keep the African proverb in mind: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Immense power lies in a community”.
Even though the climate crisis is very serious, both Laiti and Majok encourage people to enjoy activism and celebrate the moments of success.
“I highly appreciate the moments in activism where the action happens. That’s when I feel the most alive. It connects me to life and the universe. It feels great to be in that moment and defend something bigger than myself or us,” Laiti says.
She wants to lower the threshold for taking part in activism.
“In the beginning, all that is required is gathering with a group of people and talking about matters that are important to them”.
Socratic method inspiring the artists of Kiertoliike
This spring, the exceptional situation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic set a new challenge for the artists of Kiertoliike. A team of artists worked together for one week by utilising virtual platforms.
The team built a participatory statement based on themes related to climate change and activism. During the online event, the artists further explained one of their central methods for working, the Socratic method of walking based on dialogue and reciprocity. They invited all people working in the field of dance to develop a respectful conversation culture.
In 2020, the artists taking part in Kiertoliike were Mathilda Kauppinen (Regional Dance Centre of Eastern Finland), Terhi Kuokkanen (Regional Dance Center of Finnish Lakeland), Maria Nurmela (Regional Dance Centre of Western Finland), Kati Raatikainen (Regional Dance Centre of Ostrobothnia), Tuija Touhunen (Central Finland Regional Dance Center), Sari Palmgren (Zodiak / Regional Dance Center Helsinki) and Anna Riski (Regional Dance Centre of Northern Finland).
“Because I work in a peripheral industry where the field is small, I find it especially valuable to be a part of such a rich platform for exchanging thoughts,” Mathilda Kauppila says.
Kiertoliike is an annual professional dance forum that gathers people working in the field of dance to discuss current themes of the field. The event of the year 2020 was organised by Tanssin talo and Routa Company / Regional Dance Centre of Northern Finland in cooperation with other regional dance centres.