"We met many inspiring artists, curators and academics during our visits to cultural spaces...we also made sure to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the landscape."
Catherine Baxendale, Executive Producer at Invisible Flock
Beginning ‘Maan Äänet’, a new project by Leeds-based arts studio Invisible Flock
Earlier this year, the award-winning interactive arts studio Invisible Flock decided to visit parts of the far north of Finland with a view to creating a new arts project. As part of their mission to make artworks that people from all over the world can experience, Invisible Flock aims to draw ideas directly from the surrounding environment. The result is art and art practices that have a long-lasting effect for society, that sit across multiple contexts and that bring creative thinking and unique ways of employing technology to education, design, the developing world, urban planning and healthcare.
Catherine Baxendale, Executive Producer at Invisible Flock, offered the British Council a special insight into their recent research trip to Finland and some background to what promises to be a highly original venture.
We spent a magical week in April 2019 collaborating with Curator Kaisa Kerätär, and exploring Lapland as winter begun the journey to spring.
The week was the first development trip for a new project titled Maan Äänet: a new artwork building multiple datasets from the Finnish landscape, and that mixes environmental data with technology to find ways of representing hidden elements of nature and our fragile relationship to it through a sensory installation.
We met many inspiring artists, curators and academics during our visits to cultural spaces such as Korundi Culture House in Roveniemi and the Oulu Museum of Art. We also made sure toimmerse ourselves in the beauty of the landscape.
Throughout the week we were drawn to the dramatic narrative of Lapland’s topography, collecting footage and sound recordings from above and below powerful bodies of water and attempting to connect to the very small and the very large-scale aspects of the environment.
Spending time in the forest, by the Raudanjoki, our imaginations were captured by the distinctive Luppo and Naava species of lichen and their unique ability to indicate non-polluted air, whilst being a reindeer’s favourite food and serving multiple roles in the forest ecosystem.
We were moved by an introduction to the Finnish word “metsänpeitto”, which translates as a state of mind during which a wanderer becomes invisible and merges with nature, and where time stops and the world goes quiet. This gave meaning to the awe that we felt in our closeness with the trees and the snow.
We spoke to a number of people about inhabitants’ personal relationships to the land and the rivers, and the deep trauma that is felt when a person’s environment and way of living is dramatically altered beyond their control. In Finland, this has been due to the towns and villages that were flattened during the Second World War or through the growth of the modern economy and the emergence of hydro power stations that significantly reduced and killed-off the fish populations of rivers that once fed communities. It has also been due to government sanctions placed on Sami land. There is no question that an ongoing human obsession with controlling nature, whether this is in Finland or elsewhere, significantly deepens the trauma that exists in us and is mirrored in the land we care for.
The trip has given weight to a term we have been drawn to creating a deeper understanding of for some time: “Solastalgia”, in other words, emotional or mental distress caused by environmental change to one’s home, and where this change specifically affects the individual, beyond their control or consensus.
We will hold this close as we continue to develop the project, spending a longer period of time at the Oulanka Research Station to gather data, develop a map of the physical landscape and collaborate with researchers who have been gathering data on the shifting climate over decades
The data that we collect, and the research undertaken, will be taken to Mynämäki in Southwest Finland to develop and build a ‘work in progress’ installation as part of a Saari Residency with the Kone Foundation during the summer.
Maan Äänet is generously supported by the Finnish Institute London and Arts Council England.