the exercise of l(eav)iving our own bubbles while identifying ourselves as islands.
But are we?

I present this text by reflecting on the experience of being on an island for a week, during our annual summer event, this time, a summer retreat that happened from 14-20 August 2023.

We are Trojan Horse, I am one of them, and my name is Andre. The Trojan Horse is an autonomous educational platform (1) based in Helsinki. We organise and facilitate summer schools (2), live-action role-plays, workshops, and reading circles in the landscapes of architecture, design and art.

Li(ea)ving on our own island.

It is the third day of co-living, we are located in the Hanko archipelago, on the island of Bengstar. We are sitting around a shed on the pier next to our campsite and we are doing a “swimming team”. Swimming team is a workshop on writing practice facilitated by artist and writer Marianna Maruyama. I am writing and living in my own bubble, this writing act is quite self-conscious. I am being in my own universe, with my own thoughts. The first thing I ask myself is why does the self keep aching? I whisper to myself. Perhaps it might just be this turbulence, the hardship of contemporary times. I think about the image of a vessel during a storm in the open sea, have you seen any of those memes? I erase my thoughts… Let's switch back to the island and the question that I start to reflect on is: What if the being is an island (?).

13, I just noticed I’m surrounded by 12 people in a small room, wishing I could just feel what it means. I hold myself (not only in thoughts). I feel the sorrow, the sadness, why can’t I concentrate on the joy, on this very moment? I woke up and the lower eyelid of my right eye was stinging, “it is swollen” said Carolina. She’s an emergency doctor and I knew I had to ask her about this, and hear her opinion. The feeling of being inadequate arises, it’s recurrent. I look “ugly” again. This time, I will take it as it is. Time. A thing. A process I can’t avoid, and that in this specific setting and conditions, it’s something I can’t do much about. Perhaps it’s a good thing I have no mirrors available, I thought. Perhaps it’s an exercise of being present and a challenge to myself. Another one, I nod. One, again.

The sorrow now switches to wishes, wishing this text was a “productive” text. I am right now in this painful transition of having lost you, wishing you were “safe love”. Wishing I was safe, wishing love, and love.

…I started to think the idea of being an island is a soft lie.

An island by definition is a portion of soil, land, surrounded by water… But what if we take into consideration that an island cannot be defined without the water that surrounds it?

We got a canoe yesterday, we were 6, the six of us rowing towards a common destination. It wasn’t without confusion on how to start, how to proceed, and which directions to take when we are six. We aimed to be in that unison sailing state, but it was clearly a failed start – rowing in different directions. This made me realize how we are constantly investing ourselves in reasoning, like the ambiguity, “I” = (equals) “WE”?

So I thought maybe this experiment could lead to some answers. We managed after some deliberation and choice, to find   the best (or available and even possible way) to do that as a group, all together. We were rowing looking to the front side, pulling the pad backwards, so when left rows, the boat goes right (the thrust pushing the boat on one side inclines the boat to the opposite one). When the front calls left, we row our left arms, the boat becomes a body, and our bodies are vessels working together to move a larger vessel.

What if we could apply the same (abstract) logic to ourselves and our little “infinite universes”(?) The continuation of this train of thought starts to be a bit clearer. What if the perspective, my perspective, your perspective, our perspective, their perspective shifts? It perhaps could be that the answer lies (lies!?!) in common ground, the communal. The commune.  

In my practice, I focus on how I can support and facilitate community building. I’m passionate about intergenerational knowledge exchange, what we can take and what we can change from a personal perspective of constant evolutive thinking. (A personal thought.) I’m an only child, and to me, encounters are not only extremely relevant, but they are crucial. With Trojan Horse, we aim to create flexible yet steady structures that support critical discourses over a longer time span while remaining open for shapeshifting, and changes. Trojan Horse encourages our community to do more experimental projects, whatever shape they might take. Trojan Horse is currently organised by a group of eight people in collaboration with its participants. The content of the events is a result of collective effort shared between the facilitators, participants, and everyone whose work supports our gatherings. As with any collective or experimental endeavour, Trojan Horse still requires time, thought and effort to develop. Its identity is hybrid and under constant formation.

Back to rowing.

I called us to contour the shoreline of a neighbourhood island. Its meadows and rocks and birds and plane pictures were idyllic to me. I felt a strong pull to be surrounding the landscape of the island. The view from a distance became closer and closer and closer as we approached. Almost naturally, we stopped at the sand shore, close enough to see that the bottom was a palm’s distance away, and the water was crystal clear. Some of us took their snacks, peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I looked at the bottom, the soil that surrounds the shoreline, and I was instantly pulled by a small event below my hands – happening in plain sight.

A shrimp was pulling a shell while a fish attempted to eat some musk from under a stone with quick bites. Meanwhile, a small crab was hiding on the edge of another small stone, was it fear? What an ecosystem! To see all that life happening so close reminded me to look back and admire the other life happening just behind me, my islander companions.

Perhaps being on an island gave us enough distance to reset. Giving space to isolation isolated us from the everyday power structures and struggles. Opening up space for transformative collectivism. Acts of bonding, caring, sharing, and nurturing became the natural “modus operandi'' we had on the island. Perhaps being an island is less about the definition of solitude and more about the connections we can make with our surrounding ecosystem. Perhaps being an island echoes the dynamic between inside, outside, and within.

1. We appropriate the word school as a mutually comprehensible term we use to communicate our inclination in learning and unlearning processes. We are not particularly attached to this terminology and we are hoping to come up with other words that can describe our practices in more organic and inclusive manners. Overall we wish to demystify the idea of the school, abolish the normalized structures and encourage people to join the discussion, regardless of their positions.

2. Each summer we aspire for a safer space for discussion, structured around a temporary communal routine away from the city. We spend several days living together and we form friendships. Our learning sequences depend on asking questions, facilitating peer-to-peer education, introducing and testing various research methodologies, caring for each other and forming support structures that cross national and professional boundaries. Trojan Horse rigorously explores the joys and the freedom of informal learning. These experimentation zones vary, depending on the interests, the knowledge and the urgencies of the participants.

Andre Vicentini (he/they) is a multidisciplinary designer & creative, and a dancer. Deeply interested in connection and connectedness, community, contemporary dance, and atmospheres. Andre is part of the collective, and summer school called Trojan Horse, an autonomous educational platform (1) based in Helsinki. Trojan Horse organises summer schools (2), live-actionlive action role-plays, workshops and reading circles in the landscapes of architecture, design and art.

Trojan Horse is a part of the TUO TUO 2022-2024 Pollinator initiative supported by Kone Foundation.