After two months and 24 artists, it is time to return home. I'm sitting in a train between Tampere and Helskinki thinking about what just happened. It was a whirlwind of conversations, activities, meditation, walking, dreaming and eating. Of deep philosophical conversations and whimsy. Of Finnish movies and silent days.
Above is a picture of my studio, where the ideas were formed, art was created, dreams were hatched and creative conversations occurred. My studio was next to the meditation room which was a generous room with large windows and wooden floor. Every day, after walking the Teemu Circle we would gather in the meditation room to do what we called 'soul yoga', a 20 minute gentle ritual to awaken the body, followed by sitting meditation. In the evening we would all lie down and do yoga nidra before bed. It will be these group rituals that I will miss: the gathering together of beautiful sensitive artists to create something greater than our individual selves, thickening the space between us and moving us towards acceptance and self agency.
The program that grew out of my PhD research was demanding yet most times gentle enough, accommodating people's needs and at the same time not falling into too much comfort, for without risk creativity cannot flourish. We talked about challenging ideas and incorporated Group Norms into the fabric of the ensembles, focusing primarily on The Four Agreements (Ruiz) which include using impeccable language, always doing your best, not assuming anything and not taking things personally. The last two were the hardest for the ensembles to integrate, and that was not surprising. It is always hard to add the lens of acceptance of others and of self. We also embraced the concepts of 'showing up' (not just physically but also within) and 'yes and'.
Improvisational workshops hosted by members of each group happened weekly and they morphed depending on the needs of the group. We created a horizontal model of leadership in both residencies, all stepping in at times to take the lead. This made for fascinating experiences: we learned things about kitchen print making, drawing, lamenting, soul cards, painting, improv, dreaming, sound, movement and even had a ten minute soundscape. Each resident took responsibilty to enrich their particular group in some way. Everyone had a chance to perform their stories, or read their poems, share their processes and recipes! Some even took on the daunting task of cooking for the entire group.
There were set workshops too, where we worked in group creating collage, creative writing, poetry, and performance. The workshops built on each other, beginning with group, moving into dyads or triads, then back to solo presentations. One of my favourite workshops included creating our own personal myth, and incorporating it with one of our cultural myths. I was also very fond of the first workshop, the group collage, where to our continual surprise we saw depicted what we did not know we knew. On close examination of the group collage we were able to see into our future. The way we interacted in the group was evident from the first workshop. I found this fascinating: it made for good conversations.
The days were demanding (beginning at 8 in the morning and finishing at 9.30pm so for relaxation the residents had saunas together, sat around the campfire, went for nature walks, cooked together, rowed the boat, biked, walked and dreamed. Sometimes we would venture into Tampere, a beautiful small city 40 minutes away, and visit the art galleries (we saw a Kikki Smith exhibition during the first month which was sensational) or just get art supplies.
It's now time for me to return home, to reflect and grow the program. Bitter sweet. I am excited about seeing my family again, my friends and of course my dogs. I will miss the Teemu circle (see former post about how important that ritual was), the beauty, and of course my artists, including the Arteles Team.
A huge shoutout and thankyou to the Arteles Team who created magic for all of us: in my opinion you are one of the best residencies in Europe: the standard of accommodation is extraordinary here. It is simple, extremely clean and very well laid out with kitchens, lounge areas and studio spaces, photography studio and soon to be a designated library (renovations are happening in the June break). The bedrooms are generous so you have the choice of working either in your room or in the larger studio. Many residents choose to stay in the larger studio space, where most people had a large desk or two, overlooking the lake. As the months progressed the data grew and the walls were awash with artefacts, paintings, ideas and poetry. Very inspirational. Extremely memorable. A rich and unforgettable two months.
April residents having fun in Hazel's sacred space (created by her symbolic flags)