Photo: Janne Mäkinen

A Statement from The Pathic Body and the Uncanny seminar

On 28th February 2019, Ida ho made the following statement at the The Pathic Body and the Uncanny in the Performing Arts and Research –seminar at the Theatre Academy.

On body, touch, ethics, and their relation to creating art

I am a part of Ida ho group which also includes Satu Mäkinen and Thomas Hamberg. We have worked on this Body and the other project for over a year. Working on them has raised tricky questions, which at the moment seem to be more important than sharing our artistic work, so here are some remarks about body, touch, ethics and their relation to art.

The question of the body is a serious one. When dealing with body and touch as part of artistic activity, this must be taken into account. Especially when it comes to group action, which is at heart of artistic work, you are also responsible for others. In relation to the body, special tact must be followed, the skill to preserve and respect the other’s otherness. This is done by a respectful understanding of the distance. One aim of art is to touch. The concept of touch is a complex one. To be touched is not always with the physical touch. Nor does physical contact always touch. Excessive and unresponsive contact can make one numb.

The body is temporal. Reactions to various physical experiences may only occur afterwards. Therefore, when doing various physical exercises, teaching them or producing them for the participants, this should be taken into account. We cannot stick to what is happening now, but we have to take into account afterwardsness of the body and of the responsibility that bring.

The body can be easily stimulated, it is more difficult to bear responsibility for the consequences of this action. In relation to the body, questions of ethics are central. When making and teaching art, one can tune the body to the extremes, deliberately seek the limits and to shake physical exertion; When working this way can make the surface porous. Man is wavering and not always up to date on what is happening in him. This is a serious matter. Power comes into the shape of a figure when someone in the position of a teacher, expert, or a counsellor and begins to exploit this porous being for his own purposes or is unaware of the causes and consequences of his own actions. Taking responsibility is rarely easy or pleasant. There is an ethical responsibility for everyone, but in relation to power it is especially big. It involves us. It feels in the body, bothering, disturbing and obliging to act.

To give an example of performing art, it is currently popular that sexuality and various techniques related to sexuality are incorporated into an artwork and the teaching of art. We feel that this is partly superficial and instrumental, without deeper understanding about the consequences. Sexuality is maybe the most intimate and sensitive area in us. As a part of such artistic activity, border crossings that harm a person's intimacy in the area of sexuality do not always come under the spell of words or even consciousness. When combining sexual experiences with art, it is more difficult for the participants to identify their own boundaries, especially when the art works as a safety net and intimate events are said to be a natural part of the activity. Superficial talk about boundaries and the ability of participants to say “no” can be harmful. Above all, it is the lack of understanding of the body. Apparent security words, safety buttons and feedback sessions do not solve the fundamental fact that the question of the body is serious. That means that you have to stay with difficult issues and taking all the experiences seriously, even if they conflict with your own artistic goals.

The field of art cultivates a kind of language that maintains the myth of the artist. This is done by institutions of art education such as the Art University, teachers, directors, etc. At the heart of the speeches is the artist and the artistic nature of the artist, which is different from everyday reality and not touched by its rules. At the heart of the myth is an artist who works like this: he boldly enters his discomfort zone, he tests his own limits and breaks them. This is how he develops into a better artist, a true artist. The right artist can appropriately push other authors of art towards their area of discomfort and towards their own borders.

This myth makes it possible for a person's physical and mental self-determination to be violated within the art community. Everyone in the art sector should think about what myths, traditions and ways of doing things should move forward and why? Silence pushes us and in us. But art is not untouched. There are fundamental rights that cannot be ignored. Art is not a place where these can be circumvented and people's experiences silenced.


Irene Kajo and Ida ho