As we sat in silence, my mouth, gums and larynx began to sprout. I couldn’t stop myself from swallowing. As we sat in silence, my body began to moisten itself, to raise saliva, its own atoms. I wanted to tell you that suspension is the most important skill I know. Anything, breath, saliva, silence.

The snow is divided by new snow every day. In the morning it rains on the ashes spread at the base of the currant bushes, and in the evening it turns into snow.

How can you practice silence that you don’t know?

To thread the needle,

We had met in 2019 in Frankfurt and had started to plan a collaboration after having seen each other’s work. We started doing research for this in TUO TUO in July 2022. This week we will open our exhibition Links and Loops at the K17 – Space for Art and Ecology. The opening will be on Saturday 9th December at 2 pm–5 pm. At 4 pm, there will be an opening performance that will make use of darkness.
(Below is a brief conversation between the artists.) 

What has stayed with me from our TUO TUO residency days are conversations about the bind between damage and care. That summer in Joutsa you were interested in puncturing things and sewing with a thread through unyielding surfaces.

Opposites are inseparable, producing one another, negotiating with one another. Mycelium networks underneath the ground produce the tree and make the tree thrive. Supporting structures are buried, invisible, necessary. This brings to mind I often try to find uses for the Finnish word “säie.” Its literal meaning is thread or fibre. I think that’s where the name “Links and Loops” comes from, the fibrous connections which sustain life cycles.

In the summer of 2023, I started to think about the fallen matter on the ground, and how it was everywhere. That summer I was also experiencing inner turmoil, and I felt like dispersed leaves and seeds were everywhere I went, dancing their way into small cracks and piles, accumulating. It was both an ode to light things and an ode to decaying things. I wanted to begin to think about a supporting structure, a big shelter over the entire space, that would hold up the weight of fallen leaves. They would form a “readable surface” for the visitor.  Now that’s what will be present in K17 - Space for Art and Ecology.

I have started to think about what I’m most interested in my practice, at the moment, and I would characterize it as anxious peacefulness or ecstatic melancholy. It’s like an alchemistic situation or a push-and-pull dynamic. That’s what I wanted to work with in K17 and with the work “Suspending.”

I committed to a kind of healing activity as the first thing in November when I started to work in K17.

I began to collect leaves from the nearby maple and oak trees. I wanted to have the canvas hold them up as if suspending the decay in the air, turning the growth upside down, in a sense. I also think that what you are working with, the subtle bursting and bubbling of clay dissolving into water is the fluid counterpoint to what my work is communicating. It produces a dynamism to the (seemingly) static tension of my work.

I remember our long walks in the forests that surround TUO TUO and being equally concerned about and fascinated by the many fallen trees leaving hollows and cracks on the ground but also revealing the networks that nurture and hold things together.

Inspired by your thoughts about grids and how you were using a needle and a thread to bind separate pages of text together, I built my own curved needles that would allow me to stitch, bridge and fill the holes in the ground with connecting lines of thick woollen thread.

We talked about gestures of mending as a counterforce to the damage we encounter in our surroundings.

I wanted to ask you, you work with the concept and materiality of decay and rot quite often, and you made me get drawn into that. What does this look like to you now, in your sound work “Wetscapeland”?

With “Wetscapeland” I rip these seams asking what can grow from hollows, cracks and seemingly dead matter. It’s a durational sound installation that animates and fertilises remnants of unfired clay sculptures that I made for a large-scale site-specific installation in 2021. As the material dissolves in water and is being prepared for reuse, a subtle yet multilayered sound(land)scape with a wide range of frequencies and rhythms emerges.

It’s a work I made in early 2022 but when you first sent me pictures from your visit at K17, it became clear to me how well it would link our research during the residency at TUO TUO with our exhibition at K17. The building being an unrenovated old greenhouse showing signs of decay while providing a fruitful ground for artistic creation, reflects what you call a “push-and-pull dynamic” very well.

I am writing these words while collecting bits and pieces - things, sounds, images and pieces of clay - for my travels to Helsinki and then to Sipoo. I am excited to enter the space, take a deep breath and start putting our pieces together.

Milka Luhtaniemi is a poet and multidisciplinary artist. She graduated from the Theatre Academy from Dramaturgy in 2020. Her debut book of poetry Kirnu (‘Churn’) came out in 2021 and was published by Gummerus and her second book Tauoton (‘Unceasing’) will come out in early 2024. Her performative installations have been performed in Mad House in 2020 (Tyyntyminen) and Titanik-gallery in 2021 (Buoyancy). She has shown installations in Contemporary Art Centre Muu, Oksasenkatu 11 Gallery, B-galleria and Forum Box. Milka is interested in her poetics to examine the sensory explorations of a moving body within a splitting time, space and matter.

Mara Kirchberg is a transdisciplinary artist in the fields of sculpture, installation and performance currently based in Tallinn (EST). She studied Choreography and Performance at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies, Giessen (GER) and is currently in her last year of the MA Contemporary Art at the Estonian Academy of Arts where she received the Young Sculptor Award this year. Her work combines the goos and guts of living bodies with the artificiality of industrial machines, reflecting on the fragility of life and the robustness of its environment.