Artistic Dialogue in Urban Environment

In her artistic research (2014-2021), Mari Martin makes art in urban environments in collaboration with others, while reflecting on and testing the concept of dialogue.


The project examines the relationship between human and the urban environment from the perspective of performing arts. Doctor of Arts Mari Martin, who implements the project, creates conditions for performing and bodily participating here and now through the senses. In this project, such conditions have been created in urban environments, in collaboration with artists from different fields. The research has been funded at various stages by the University of the Arts Helsinki, the Swedish Cultural Foundation and the City of Helsinki.

The original starting point for the study was the need to work in an urban environment and at the same time ask how the idea of ​​dialogue fits into the urban environment and what kind of party to the dialogue it is. The need for research was related to concerns about the urban environment, which serves as a living environment for a larger number of people all the time. The urban environment needed a different approach alongside a measuring and calculating approach. As the research progressed, there was soon a need to find ecologically and ethically sustainable ways to live and act while thinking about the entire common planet.

Collaborative projects

  1. Collaborative work in Mustankivenpuisto, Helsinki Vuosaari 2014–2015, site-specific performance On the Rocks and an exhibition of Kiven taju (Sense of Stone) at the Vuotalo Gallery 2016. Working group: dancers Pirkko Ahjo and Erja Asikainen, Mari Martin.
  2. Membership of the Ajauksia artist group 2018–. The group specializes in carrying out sensory excursions in an urban environment. The group includes artists of various fields with the principles of democracy and collegiality. The group tests anonymity in its activities. The group participated in the Research Pavilion # 3 project 2018–2019, led by the University of the Arts Helsinki, which involved 50 artist-researchers from around the world. During the project: Ten sensory sexcursions of Ajauksia in Helsinki and Venice, participation in numerous planning meetings, taking working documentation on the project website, participation in the closing event and exhibition in the Exhibition Laboratory of the University of the Arts Helsinki in October-November 2019.
  3. Final project for 2021: Unnoticed – a joint installation and research project in collaboration with visual artist, postdoctoral researcher Marjatta Oja. Oja has an ongoing post doc research project Artist-Activist in  Post-Fossil Revolution, in which she explores the empowerment of the artist.


The questions raised in the research project have been related to the relationship between human and the environment. Work methods and practices related to sensing, perceiving and encountering have emerged as a means of creating a relationship between human and the urban environment. Instead of dialogue, activities and events have been seen as encounters and interactions. In artistic research, artistic practice and theory settle into interaction. It also shapes, clarifies and changes research questions as the work progresses. With regard to the future sub-project, the project asks at this stage:

1) How does the urban environment open up to those involved in the development of the work of art and what meanings do they give to their senses and experiences of the urban environment?

2) What kind of encounter and interaction does a co-installation committed to a specific environment enable?

The questions address the thoughts and experiences of those who participated in the development of the work.  Second, we want to explore how participants’ thoughts and experiences communicate in a work of art and how they challenge new reflections and new forms of participation. In addition, we want to look at the chosen form of work, the co-installation, in terms of encounter and interaction. The questions are used to explore what and who was encountered and what kind of thoughts and activities the encounters generated.


With the global pandemic, urban nature has become an important means of survival for people in many ways. The knowledge generated in the research project is now emerging in a situation where many people are creating a new kind of relationship with the urban environment. The research data is likely to affect much more than might have been expected at the beginning of the research project.

The different approaches that have emerged so far as a result of the study are holistic, bodily, sensory and encounter-based ways of working and acting. They involve and result in listening, silencing, slowing down, sensitization, and opening up.

Research helps to outline how people can create and deepen their relationship with the urban environment, how different ways the urban environment can be perceived, what kind of experiences urban environments provide and what significance it can all have. At the same time, the research provides information on the importance of paying attention to the urban environment, especially from an artistic perspective.

The study also addresses the issue of documentation. At the same time, it opens up a view of performing arts in particular and its special features. The key question is how a  live-artist-researcher can develop as an artist and researcher while constantly producing documentation that is something other than a situation in the here and now nature of the performance. The question is highlighted when the live-artist-researcher collaborates with artists and other authors from other fields: questions about documentation can be far apart.

At the same time, when considering documentation, another challenge is met: how can a live-artists make their knowledge known to colleagues in other fields, when there is nothing left of the area of ​​expertise, the live performance, that could be viewed or invoked. The project also considers how to understand live as well as live performance and event.

The resulting research data can be used by other artists and researchers, as well as politicians and decision-makers, to enable, for example, a better city life. The study also results in action instructions. They are practices, exercises, and tasks that have been found in practice over the years. Anyone can use them. Instructions can be found in the blog This also performance blog posts at


(Upcoming:) Martin, Mari 2020. Aina uudesti syntyvä hetkellinen yhteisö. In Lea Kantonen & Sari Karttunen (Ed.) Yhteisötaiteen etiikka (working title). University of the Arts Helsinki. (Research article.)

Martin, Mari 2020. Sensory Excursion as a Site of Encounter. In Mika Elo, Henk Slager and Tero Heikkinen (eds.) Ecologies of Practice. RUUKKU #14. Publication in artistic research. (Peer-reviewed research exposition.)  

Ajauksia artist group 2020. Sensory Experiences – A Perceiving, Encountering and Articulating Body in Urban Space. Edited by Mari Martin. CARPA 6 Conference publication on artistic research. University of the Arts Helsinki and Kiasma. (Research article.) The Artistic Research Performs and Transforms: Bridging Practices, Contexts, Traditions and Futures

Martin, Mari 2017. Dialogissa kaupunkiympäristön kanssa. In Annette Arlander, Laura Gröndahl & Marja Silde (Ed.) Tekijä – teos, esitys ja yhteiskunta. Teatterintutkimuksen seuran verkkojulkaisusarja Näyttämö ja tutkimus 6. (Peer-reviewed research article.)

Research Pavilion #3 -project

Participation in Research Pavilion exhibition:  Research Pavilion #3 Info Lab ja Universes in Universe website

Contact information for the project

Project name

Artistic Dialogue in Urban Environment




University of the Arts Helsinki, the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland & the City of Helsinki


Mari Martin and

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