Baltic Circle programme published – November invites the unknown, divine and communality

On a dark red background with bright red text "Baltic Circle International Theater Festival 17.-25.11.2023. There is also a tattered looking text in the same bright red on the top edge. You can't really distinguish what it says from the text. Above everything is a large inkblot-looking light blue symbol.

Illustration: Katri Astala & Iisa Pappi

The International Theatre Festival Baltic Circle will take place in Helsinki for the 20th time from 17 to 25 November 2023. This year's rich programme will feature 10 premieres, international guest performances, late-night lectures, workshops, performative concerts, and a public debate by the Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The 2023 festival delves into subconscious themes related to transformation; topics such as awareness, horror, and renewal are strongly present in the programme. What kind of security shimmers in rituals that exist between reality and magic, where the lines between the sacred and delusion blur? The festival will feature witches and ancient magicians, crip body-minds, and a chorus lamenting collective grief. Beneath the surface, there is simmering anger at injustice.

The festival opens with a public discussion and workshop by the Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission, harnessing art institutions to work towards reconciliation. Current discussions will also be heard in the Late Night Lectures series, which highlights questions of ecological grief from the perspective of queer death studies.

During the opening weekend, international performance concerts will shake the crystal chandeliers of Vallila Stage: Raoni Muzho Saleh‘s (AFG/NL) ritualistic performance unleashes a transmoan, a gut-wrenching, human-realigning lament that intertwines with composer Abel Kroon‘s techno beats. Kroon’s music continues at the evening’s festival club, where the dance floor will be taken over by Ancient Magicians, Esa Kirkkopelto, Elina Pirinen, Leila Kourki, Veli Lehtovaara, Leena Nordberg, and Katri Tikka, with their corporeal spells. On Sunday, the feminist black metal band and performance group Witch Club Satan makes a unique appearance with their new work, Bloodmother, exploring the clash between mothers and daughters, metal music and opera, and the magical powers of music. This group, known for performances at Roskilde and Norberg festivals and acclaimed in the Norwegian music and theatre scene, will be seen for the first time in Finland with a performance presented only once in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Oslo.

Church traditions are turned into a new kind of faith in the work of THE CHURCH of 4 Floors of Whores: Part III, created by the 4 Floors of Whores and director Lara Tacke. The performance, which has also been developed with Roman Catholic monks, explores where modern humans find holiness and ecstasy. The theme spread into the festival’s closing club, where the performative experimental music band Solen Skinner, influenced by earthly sediments, celestial bodies, and cosmic scales, will perform.

The energies and paths of community and alternative realities are also addressed in Emmi Venna‘s new work, “This world that we imagine in this room, might be used to gain access to other rooms, other worlds, previously unimaginable,” and in Remi Vesala‘s curated showcase “wordly portals,” which combines moving pictures and live music. Memories and repetitions embedded in objects take centre in Sonja Jokiniemi and Emma Fält‘s workshop-style performance, Wear and Tear.

Nature is important to the festival, and it is evident in this year’s program as well. Camille Auer‘s work Ruff Knowledge examines ruffs, gender, and sexual diversity in nature. rampa productions’ disability-political performance showcases a rampa landscape; a gentle and spongy hummock. Landscape and communication with other species are also addressed in the event Sound drawings, where audio works Valtapuisto and Eläinharha – Eläimet eivät puhu will be listened to under the guidance of the Sokeain kuunnelmaraati (in Eng. Blind Audio Drama Jury). Music composed for cranes and cows will also be heard in the opening concert by the composer-musician duo Eilien and Pink-187.

Festival program in chronological order: 

Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission – Discussion and Workshop for Art Institutions 

The public discussion introduces the truth and reconciliation commissioners and their mandate, and asks how the truth affects Finland’s identity and historiography. What are the new narratives that reconciliation requires, and what is the responsibility of art institutions in spreading them?

Remi Vesala: showroom – worldly portals 

showroom is a metamorphic event concept, where different ways of watching and listening together are experimented with. The edition titled worldly portals is an evening consisting of a curated screening of moving-image works, short films and a live music performance by Niña Sombra

Music for birds and others: Eilien & Pink-187 

On the opening night of the festival, we immerse ourselves in music inspired by other animal species. Eilien has composed music for cows and cranes, as well as composed music with the help of a programmed imaginary thrush bird. The goddess of ambient music Pink-187 plays songs from her archives that are inspired by songs of other animal species.

Raoni Muzho Saleh: TRANS(IN) MOAN(IN) 

TRANS(IN) MOAN(IN) is a ritualistic concert performance by choreographer Raoni/Muzho Saleh in collaboration with composer Abel Kroon and light and spatial designer Katinka Marac. Through this ritualistic concert the audience is invited to be made and unmade by the wayward sound of the transmoan —a unique blend of the raw emotion of analog moans and the driving force of techno beats. 

Love Me in November Club: DJ let go & Ancient Magicians 

On Saturday evening, the Vallila Stage will be filled by Baltic Circle’s festival club Love Me in November. There will be magic and a music set by DJ let go. During the evening, the Ancient Magicians will also take over the dance floor with their performance Entrée.

Lost and Found productions: Witch Club Satan: Bloodmother 

Bloodmother is a feminist Norwegian black metal performance where theatre and music merge in a brutal, hopeful, and extreme way. Created by Lost and Found productions, the performance draws from the world of Witch Club Satan, a performance group. In the past year, the group has toured some of Scandinavia’s most exciting music festivals.

Sokeain kuunnelmaraati, Elis Hannikainen, Vappu Jalonen, Eero Pulkkinen, Mia Takula, and Ellen Virman: Sound Drawings 

In the event “Sound Drawings,” which deals with the dramaturgy of sound in society and radio dramas, the creators and listeners of radio dramas come together. The event focuses on the imagination produced by hearing and together, we listen to the works Valtapuisto and Eläinharha – Eläimet eivät puhu.

Emma Fält and Sonja Jokiniemi: Wear and Tear 

Wear and Tear collects an archive from items and objects that are important to people and have seen their best days, but are still kept. The use of those objects and their wearing and tearing material leave traces that have weight in our memories. What kind of mental heritage is loaded into our things, and what kind of intimate individual gestures and actions echo in them even when we are already gone?

Elis Hannikainen and Vappu Jalonen: Valtapuisto 

In the Outo olo art space, we listen together to the Valtapuisto, radio feature that examines human activities and desires in a national park, within the cycle of destruction and conservation. The work depicts fantasies related to parks: national, natural, and those related to oneself and one’s own body. The radio feature is produced by Yle, Radiogalleria.

Late Night Lectures: Raoni Muzho Saleh: Gathering in a Multi-vocal MOOOOAAAAAAANN Ensures Solidarity

Gathering in a Polyphonic MOOOOAAAAAAANN Safeguards Solidarity is a poetic contemplation that is the literary equivalent of Raoni’s ceremonial gatherings called “Mourning Sociality”. Throughout the speech Raoni contemplates on the power and significance of the moan as an expression of mourning and how this sound connects with the profound states of loss and suffering.

rampa productions: rampa landscape 

rampa landscape is a disability political performance by the rampa productions working group, and it is something other than traditional. In designing the audience experience for the performance, the group has paid attention to comprehensive accessibility and care. This unfinished performance opens up the landscape of  crip time, a reality of a gentle and spongy hummock. The working group includes Isa Hukka, Aku Meriläinen, Una Auri, Juti Saari, Vishnu Vardhani Rajan, and Sophia Mitiku.

Camille Auer: Ruff Knowledge 

Ruff Knowledge is a performance about ruffs and the diversity of sex and sexuality in nature. It asks, how do we know about birds? Can we know what it’s like to be a bird? Would that knowledge change our relationship with birds and the world? What happens in humans when observing birds? And what about in birds?? 

Emmi Venna: This world that we imagine in this room, might be used to gain access to other rooms, other worlds, previously unimaginable 

Emmi Venna’s solo performance is a collection of dances, sentences, and situations that unfold within the tension between one performer, an empty stage, and the audience.

4 Floors of Whores & Lara Tacke: THE CHURCH of 4 Floors of Whores: Part III

THE CHURCH of 4 Floors of Whores is a play with the sacred and the profane, a work pondering our place in the world. A sensual and sensitive container for purification, for reflection, for play, for social gathering, for rebirth, for flesh and above all, for life. 

Book launch: Practical Performance Magic

What if, when a performance is described as “nothing short of magical,” it is not just a metaphor? Maija Hirvanen and Eva Neklyaeva wrote a book together exploring the techniques involved in creating and curating contemporary performances through practical magic.

Moaning Choir’s open rehearsal: The Never Ending Moaning of a Polyphonic Choir

The never ending moaning of a polyphonic choir is a working title which marks the rehearsal of Raoni Muzho Saleh’s workshop for Baltic Circle 2023. The workshop moaning choir deals with the question “what happens to our feeling and sensing bodies when we are held in a collective and affective space of moaning?”

Late Night Lectures: Marietta Radomska: Queer/ing Imaginaries and Arts of Eco-Grief

Radomska’s talk, theoretically grounded in the transdisciplinary field of Queer Death Studies, explores crisis imaginaries linked to more-than-human death, dying and extinction (both material and figurative), as well as questions of eco-grief, which the former are inherently entwined with. 

Love Me in November Club: Solen Skinner 

Baltic Circle culminates in an evening full of spells, supernaturally good music, and rituals. During the evening, we will see a gig by Tuukka Haapakoski, Tari Doris, and Teo Ala-Ruona’s band Solen Skinner.

On a dark red background with bright red text "Baltic Circle International Theater Festival 17.-25.11.2023. There is also a tattered looking text in the same bright red on the top edge. You can't really distinguish what it says from the text. Above everything is a large inkblot-looking light blue symbol.

Illustration: Katri Astala & Iisa Pappi