20-year-old festival Baltic Circle examines the possibilities of performance art and theatre in exceptional times

Illustration: Katri Astala & Pauliina Nykänen

International theatre festival Baltic Circle celebrates its 20th anniversary during a year when gatherings and travel are restricted by a global pandemic. Such exceptional times have challenged the festival to seek and try out new ways of making and experiencing art. The festival, whose diverse programme was put together by over a hundred artists and professionals, commences on Friday, November 11th.

For almost two months, Baltic Circle’s home stage Q-teatteri has been home to an international hatchery where artists, researchers, activists, and students from six different European and South-American countries work on new ways of sharing. VeiculoSur 2020 focuses on the potential of digitality, questioning societal structures and social norms, and the impact that various transitions have on the body. During the festival, VeiculoSur’s work can be seen on Puoli-Q’s stage via a digital exhibition, a film screening, a music performance, a shared walk, and a discussion and performance that detail the themes of southern technology.

The video work forecasting movements was born out of a need to shake the established practices of Finnish stages. It features Ajak Majok, Amira Khalifa, Teo Ala-Ruona, David Muñoz Alcántara, Maryan Abdulkarim, Geoffrey Erista, Mario Lopes, and Miritza Lundberg. It is organised by curator and researcher Giovanna Esposito Yussif in collaboration with Hanna Parry, artistic director of Baltic Circle Festival. The cinematography by Christopher L. Thomas.

The basis of sound piece Pohjat / Grounds lies in Baltic Circle’s history spanning the last 20 years. Created by dramaturge Milka Luhtaniemi, critic Matti Tuomela and sound designer Tatu Nenonen, the work returns to the festival’s roots and provokes discussions on art and activism, the conditions, and rhythms of collective work, and the structures and accessibility of the art world. Baltic Circle’s former and current festival leaders take centre stage with various artists from the festival’s past.

In honour of its 20th anniversary, Baltic Circle has published a collection of texts called About Time and Love, which negotiates with the social and ecological landscapes of 2020. The texts are written by Terike Haapoja, Asiya Wadud, Ailu Valle, Kid Kokko, Kaino Wennerstrand, Daniel Blanga Gubbay, David Muñoz Alcántara and HNV-kollektiivi. Baltic Circle and Goethe-Institut Finnland have worked together to compile a Festival library, where festival-goers can – perhaps with a warm drink – immerse themselves in topical literature that examines society and art with feminist and anti-racist nuances.

The festival will be opened by Maija Hirvanen and Juha Valkeapää’s first collaborative work, Life as we know it. The festival programme includes several premieres: sound piece Listening to Sparks by Francesca Grilli, Post Corpse or kraa kraa by Tuire Tuomisto, Ghost in the Atom by Felicia Honkasalo, Akuliina Niemi and Masi Tiitta, Black Mercedes by Niko Hallikainen, and Nightschool, a work by Milla Martikainen, Maija Nurmio, Pauli Riikonen and Essi Rossi that lasts an entire night. During the festival’s last night, Lapinlahti’s shores will be lit up by a bonfire as rap artist Ailu Valle and DJ Uyarakq take the stage.

This year the festival centre will be held at the Lapinlahti hospital area, particularly the Venice building and its surroundings. The festival has several free events, some of which are also available online. Baltic Circle follows safer space guidelines and COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The programme and information on the festival as a whole are available on Baltic Circle’s homepage.

Baltic Circle is an international theatre festival that creates intensities in the city, takes stands on current questions and ignites dialogue. The festival offers its artists space to imagine and explore what theatre and performing arts could be, and to its audience, it offers an opportunity to experience the newest trends in performing arts. Q-teatteri acts as the main organiser of the festival, which was founded in 2000.

Baltic Circle’s tickets are now available at Tiketti and Q-teatteri. Tickets 0–15 €, donative tickets 50 €. It is possible to add a Wild five worth 5 € to all ticket types. All funds will be directed to Snowchange cooperative for nature conservation and restoration work.

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Johanna Salmela
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Kiia Beilinson
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Illustration: Katri Astala & Pauliina Nykänen