New LAPS students Jay Mar Albaos, Petros Konnaris, Jenny Suhonen, Jolijn de Wolf, Antonín Brinda and Harriet von Froreich (doesn't appear in the picture).

LAPS brings together many kinds of artists

The Master’s degree programme Live Art and Performance Studies (LAPS, taught entirely in English) has welcomed six new students from different parts of the world this autumn – one from Asia, the rest from Europe.

What’s special about this Master’s programme is the combination of theory-based performance research with practical performance art.

The new students come from very different educational backgrounds, but what Jay Mar Albaos, Antonín Brinda and Harriet von Froreich have in common is an interest in the combining of theory and practice in performance art.

 

Jay Mar is from the Philippines, and abroad for the first time. Back home he completed a Bachelor’s degree in communication art, did traditional theatre and worked for the state.

Jay Mar wanted to go abroad to study performance art and found the LAPS programme by googling.

– I wanted to study performance art as a whole. I’m interested in critically analyzing art and pondering how a certain event or art form can create change and a sense of community.

Jay Mar appreciates that the LAPS programme is not fully theoretic but has a practical element to it. Studies include team work to some degree, but for the most part everyone is individually focusing on their own solo work.

– We all come from very different backgrounds. I’m interested in bringing forward the Asian view of performance. The body and the community are important starting points for me. The Western field of art seems really individualistic, while in Asia, art is very communal.

Jay Mar finds Finland to be a peaceful place that offers good preconditions for academic activities. According to him, it is easy to think and to get one’s voice heard here. Where studies are concerned, the main difference can be found in the Finnish attitude itself.

– People here don’t chat with strangers as much as in the Philippines. I’m a fairly people-friendly person myself, but slowly trying to adapt to Finnish culture…and the weather.

 

Antonín, who studied at The Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, came to Finland as an exchange student. Although his previous studies have been mostly practical, he has also studied theory.

– The Theatre Academy was on our university’s list of exchange schools. The LAPS programme was interesting to me for many reasons; also, I couldn’t have done my Master’s in Prague since that programme was cancelled.

Antonín says he is interested in gender, sexuality, eroticism, urban culture and ideology – as well as in combining all of these. He finds connections between, for example, ideology and sexuality.

– I want to work with the body, stretching its limits. It is also interesting to investigate the relationship between a body and another body. For instance, I’m looking for an assistant in a performance where I donate blood, in some manner that also has an erotic aspect to it.

Antonín thinks the LAPS studies have been well-organized and logical. Among other things, students have been taught how to create websites and to use themselves as material. Such skills go a long way towards preparing for working life, according to Antonín.

– The Theatre Academy is also extremely well equipped. There are a lot of props and things one can borrow. There is even a sauna. Otherwise the university system, such as passing courses, is surprisingly like the system in the Czech Republic.

Antonín has become familiar with Helsinki through his own Helsinki Urban Research project. Its purpose is to regulate his movements so that each week, he has a limited number of ways in which to get around.

 

Harriet, arriving in Helsinki from the German capital, has a varied educational background. She has studied e.g. literature, theatre research and philosophy at several universities. Besides creating her own performative works, she has worked as a research assistant at the university and as a dramaturge for several choreographers.

– I’ve been wanting to find more time for my own art projects. I wanted to go abroad and study performance art, and came across the LAPS programme. It seemed almost a perfect fit for me.

Harriet likes that everyone in the LAPS programme has some kind of starting level. New things are processed at a rapid rate, which is challenging but also motivating.

– So far we’ve had a new visiting lecturer every week. I’ve studied in places that admitted over a hundred people every year. Here there is just six of us, so the teaching is really progressive and individual.

According to Harriet, performance art can contain almost anything. That way it also has a lot of opportunities to resist and challenge different things, for instance concepts of beauty. In her work, which she presents under the name Harriet Rabe, Harriet wishes to process notions of weird matter, fragmented bodies and talking spaces.

– I don’t see myself as someone who creates finished pieces, I would prefer to create situations and review what kind of activity they give rise to.

Harriet states that in her home town of Berlin, the cultural offerings are so abundant that it can be difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time. The cultural life of Helsinki seems to her more concentrated, but still virile.

 

The interviewees have found the international atmosphere of the Master’s programme to be educational. They have learned to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, and also to distance themselves from their own views.

Although a majority of the students are European, there are interesting differences between the countries when it comes to, for example, rituals and ways of thinking, as well as theatre. What is self-evident in one place is not necessarily so in another.

The LAPS students participated in the New Performance Turku festival this year, watching performances and interviewing performance artists. Next year they will be presenting their own works at the festival.

The next upcoming event is free and is called Kesto. Durational performances by all new LAPS students are showcased during the event, which takes place November 11 – 12 (5pm –10pm) at Vapaan taiteen tila (Vilhonvuorenkuja 15-16).