Wetlands, rivers, ejaculation and protoplasm – fluids are flowing in this year’s Baltic Circle programme

Illustration: Katri Astala & Pauliina Nykänen

The 18th edition of the international theatre festival Baltic Circle will be organised in Helsinki and Väätäiskylä, central Finland between 19 and 27 November 2021. The programme includes four premieres, Finnish and international guest performances, as well as a field trip to the rewilding site Oravasuo.

“The climate crisis demands reorganization in every field. For an international theatre festival, this means the implementation of more sustainable production modalities, strengthening the community, and active work towards the dismantling of inequality. These points are visible in the programme in actions both on and off stage that aim to strengthen a feeling of belonging in both social and ecological circulations”, Baltic Circle’s artistic director Hanna Parry says.

The core of the programme is caring for people and for the land. Attention is directed towards industrial land usage and the importance of defending and restoring land. Industrial investments are examined both close up and from a distance: Wild Trippers takes the audience on a rewilding trip to central Finland, to the Oravasuo bog which was saved from being purposed for peat extraction. MATA and Killer Forest exemplify the impacts of the investments of Finnish forest industry giants Stora Enso and UPM on local indigenous communities and small-scale farmers in South America. Altamira 2042 is a performance about the Amazon tributary Xingu and the life in the region now threatened by the third-largest hydropower plant in the world and the Belo Monte dam complex.

The festival explores pleasure and breathes new air into restrictive norms, with an aim towards creating a more inclusive stage culture. The work Deep Time Trans celebrates queer evolution by travelling through time billions of years into the past and primordial waters. Ejaculation Falls sees pleasure as a source of strength, and seeks to realign collective views on sex and sexuality. UNDERTONE is a tribute to the subculture of electronic music and the ballroom tradition, and Black Mercedes is a spoken score to the televised funeral of Princess Diana in 1997. Both works navigate spaces in between a club and a performance by creating plentiful audiovisual experiences that visitors can immerse themselves in for hours. The intimate performances Fionde and Nurture suggest new gestures of caregiving.      

The festival programme chronologically:

Chiara Bersani: Fionde

Fionde is the first performance in the Samara Editions – performances by post series. A performance and an adventure, it arrives to you as a postal package and is something to experience alone or together, when the night falls.

The work conceived by the Italian performance artist Chiara Bersani is born in a time marked by altered formats of community, and parties and rituals that have fallen silent. The word “fionde” means “catapult”, and the work serves to open up connections by transporting its spectators via a humming noise towards a new time and novel ways of experiencing. The performance can be taken in at once or over several encounters –– there is no right or wrong way. The participant gets to dictate the rhythm and the duration

It is brought to Helsinki by Baltic Circle and the Moving in November festival.

Essi Rossi and working group: Ejaculation Falls

The festival’s opening show is Ejaculation Falls. It invites the audience to consider sexual diversity. Ejaculation can transmit something about sexuality and sex that is out of sight, or that seems to have no public platform. A dialogue of multiple experiences unravels on the stage and leads the audience towards the other side of norms and collective viewpoints.

Working group: Essi Rossi, Sarah Kivi, Milla Martikainen, Liisa Pesonen, Michelle Orenius, Karoliina Vuohtoniemi and six performers invited in through an open call: Asta, Eugenie, Heli, Lintu, Sari and Stella.

Vuosttaš álbmogat -klubba: Ailu Valle & DJ Uyarakq

The opening night of the festival is a club night called Vuosttaš álbmogat klubba, first formed at Baltic Circle in 2017 to highlight contemporary indigenous music. The night features the Sámi rap artist Ailu Valle together with the Greenlander DJ Uyarakq.

Ailu Valle is a rap artist performing in Northern Sámi, Finnish and English, whose music opens up and layers political, ecological and rhythmic landscapes. Aqqalu Berthelsen, also known by the artist name Uyarakq, is a self-taught music producer, composer and DJ born in Nuuk, Greenland. Berthelsen, who has a background in metal music, is currently working in the hip hop and rap scene of Arctic indigenous peoples in the Arctic region of North America and Europe.

Wild Trippers

An overnight trip to the festival’s rewilding site on the border of Central Finland and Southern Ostrobothnia. The trip is the first contact with next year’s community-driven rewilding work, which will be carried out in cooperation with the Snowchange Cooperative.

Oravasuo and its neighboring estate, Vanha Väätänen, which has been inhabited since 1565, provide a framework for current climate change discourse and action planning. The guides on the trip are nature photographer and author Eero Murtomäki, who has documented peatlands in Finland’s South Ostrobothnia region, lecturer Tero Mustonen who is one of the main editors of the sixth IPCC climate report of the UN, as well as M.Sc. (Geography) Kaisu Mustonen, who is specialised in the knowledge held by women about the development of environmental diversity. The discussion will be moderated by the Skolt Sámi theatre and film director, activist Pauliina Feodoroff.

Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha: Altamira 2042

Altamira 2042 addresses biodiversity loss, industrial land use and its effects on local indigenous peoples. The performance calls on us to pay attention to the wildly roaring river, the Xingu, whose banks, waves and depths are home to several indigenous peoples and thousands of species of plants and animals.

The performer, Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha from Brazil, conducts an orchestra of speakers, hard drives and projectors featuring words spoken by the indigenous peoples of Araweté and Juruna, arguments presented by Altamira’s city lawyer and journalists, the voices of ambient artists, rappers and artists, as well as the city, forest, animals, and the river Xingu itself.

Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha is an actor, director and researcher. For the past seven years, she has managed the initiative Riverbank Project: about rivers, buiúnas and fireflies on Brazilian rivers with the aim of making the impact of industrial land use visible.

DTT working group: Deep Time Trans

Deep Time Trans is a performance traveling through time to the non-binary nature of prehistory and the birth of life. The performers travel deep in the depths of time, looking backwards from the present moment to four billion years ago, to wonder at the pleasure-filled foundlings of evolution.

The members of the DTT working group have collaborated since 2019 and come from a mixed background in performance, visual arts, and live action role-play. Through play, LARP, touch, and discussions, the group asks how we can comprehend evolution in a way that would dismantle cis and heteronormativity, and not conform to a binary perception of gender.

Working group: Ana Teo Ala-Ruona, Camille Auer, Alvi Haapamäki, Satu Kankkonen, Pihla Lehtinen, Even Minn, Eeti Piiroinen, Olivia Pohjola, Riikka Thitz, Emil Santtu Uuttu

Niko Hallikainen: Black Mercedes

Black Mercedes is a new five-hour solo work by performance poet and author Niko Hallikainen. The performance is a verbal accompaniment to Princess Diana’s televised funeral from 1997, which serves as a portal to the unexplored ruins of the collective subconscious.

Black Mercedes addresses loss, heartaches, billionaires, emotional instability, psychic gardens, palaces, slums, hospitals, secret corridors, secret diaries, conspiracies, the European Union, tax havens, holiness, land and love.

Ingrid Fadnes & Fábio Nascimento: MATA & Killer Forest

MATA (2020) is a documentary film about the impacts of industrial land use: it is about climate change and the attempts of indigenous people and smallholder farmers to protect the land that has kept them alive.

One of the world’s largest rainforests once grew on the eastern coast of Brazil, in southern Bahia. In the past few decades, the landscape has changed drastically. Where rainforest once grew, there are now endless fields of eucalyptus trees, a foreign species that has taken over all other life around it.

MATA is the first jointly produced film by Fadnes and Nascimento. In addition to the film screening, the artist duo’s installation Killer Forest, which leads the audience deeper into a eucalyptus forest, will also be exhibited Baltic Circle festival.

Samuli Laine: Nurture

Nurture is a one-on-one performance in which performer Samuli Laine breastfeeds the spectator. The intimate gesture of care nourishes and allows the participant to feel cared for and supported for a moment.

The work deconstructs the gendering associated with breastfeeding and care and invites us to examine interactions between all living things: our existence is linked both to the myriad networks of human communities as well as to the biological processes that sustain our bodies and enable life on our planet in general.

UNDERTONE – A Proposal for Legal Loitering

The final night of the Baltic Circle Festival is a tribute to the electronic music subculture and the Ballroom tradition –– as well as the historical significance of these as creators of safer spaces.  UNDERTONE – A Proposal For Legal Loitering navigates the interface between the club and the performance, pulsating with hospitality, freedom, colour, and power.

The performative, ever-changing spatial and sound installation examines different forms of safety, the role of public spaces, the politics of surveillance culture, and the right to self-determination.

Working group: Alvaro Gomes, Antti Asplund, Caroline Suinner, Dennis Okoth, Ellen Virman, Eric Barco, Geoffrey Erista, Haliz Yosef, Jennifer Appleton, Joona Huotari, Laura Eklund Nhaga, Sunny Seppä and Tinttu Henttonen.

Illustration: Katri Astala & Pauliina Nykänen