Our second premiere of September 2023 is FRACPTURING, by Mean Time Between Failures, which will premiere on Sep 29 at Zodiak Stage. We asked Dash Che and Suvi Tuominen, the artists behind the name a few questions about the work and its background.
- as you are mostly new artists when it comes to Zodiak’s programme and audiences, could you first briefly introduce the entire working group?
We are Mean Time Between Failures, a performance art and choreographic entity. For this performance we consist of four artists: Dash Che & Suvi Tuominen, who are responsible for the conceptual, dramaturgical and choreographic aspects of the work. Oula Rytkönen who is responsible for sound art, and Sini Henttu who is responsible for the media art of the work. All of us will also be performing during FRACPTURING performance.
Dash Che (they/them) is a queer Russian American dancer, performing, teaching and conceptual artist currently based in Finland. Dash has been working with the notion of a patriotic corporeality for the last year. They explore the questions of foreignness, desire to belong, ways of inclusion and exclusion through choreographing bodies and objects, working with ready-mades and installations, and facilitating workshops. Dash’s work lingers at the border of eerie, subtle, humorous, aggressive, risky, and abstract. Che has a strong background in DIY organizing and LGBTQ activism.
Suvi Tuominen (she/her) is an artist and archeologist. Her artistic thinking digs into layers of heritage studies, world relations and performance. In her works, Suvi attempts to construct complex understandings of reality aiming toward the subconscious. Her devices are dance, humor, wordy stimulation, hesitation, discursive engagement and use of trendy colors. Suvi works both as an independent artist, choreographer, dancer, performer and dance teacher.
Sini Henttu (she/her) works mainly with installation and video art. She perceives everything as material to work with, from her body hair to electronic messages. She is captivated by various tactile and non-tactile materials, and the resistance they produce. She actively surrenders part of her agency to her senses, especially touch, as she sees them as tools in her praxis. In her art, Henttu explores the intersection of the societal and the subjective from a neurodivergent perspective. Henttu holds a master’s degree in art from Aalto University, and has participated both in solo and group exhibitions, various events, and residencies. Now she is working on solo exhibitions for the year 2024 with the theme of alienation in the contemporary world.
Oula Rytkönen (they/them) is a sound designer and performance maker based in Helsinki. Their focus has lately been on installations and stage works that deal with different sociopolitical phenomenon such as recent shifts in the cultural meaning making of contemporary work life, transparency as social building element of trust and the changing agencies of the art world in the times of screen culture and attention economy. They also have a background in working with audio walks, social choreography and site sensitive performance. They view performance and sound as facilitation tools for playful and undecided renegotiation of the social and aesthetic realms.
- the performance is titled to Mean Time Between Failures. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Mean Time Between Failures was initiated in 2019, when Dash and Suvi met in the Live Art and Performance Studies program at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. It felt from the very beginning that we, Dash and Suvi, needed to have an ‘’external’’ name for our performance art collaboration. Something which is not based on either of our last names, or such. It stemmed from the simple realization that when we come together and work something happens where neither one of us is kind of gaining more agency, but rather, we work through some other logic. It feels sometimes that we operate in each other's brains, bringing in trouble, confusion, failures, hesitation and oftentimes direct responses or critique. This, obviously, requires quite deep trust and love. No need to censor, or to please one another. Also it is much less labor to work together like this.
For Zodiak we wished to stay with Mean Time Between Failures as the maker of the work which can be a porous entity inviting other bodies in. Especially because the way we have worked with Oula and Sini has resembled a lot the way in which we work as a duet. Therefore it felt right to keep our artistic name in the title of this collaborative work. Hopefully Mean Time Between Failures is also an interesting name for the audience, and hints on some kind of aesthetic realm the work will also operate from.
- what first interested you in this theme, the world controlled by screens and the effect this has on all of us?
We applied for Zodiak residency and for this production slot in the midst of Covid19. Clearly it had an influence on how we felt the presence of screen culture in our lives and also in art making.
In general it's interesting to take on a phenomenon which is in a way so ‘contemporary’ and play with different layers around it. Screens are omnipresent in our domestic and professional lives. Still, their presence stays somewhat unexamined except maybe for more activist and moralistic critiques of their influence on our human connections, bodies and condition.
We wanted to expose the material presence of the screens, literally its glassy surface and the world inside it, all of which has become such a familiar extension of our bodies and movements in the world. Also, the relationship to the screen is a very affectual and intimate one and we wanted to linger with this thought and bring it forward in this work.
- why did you decide to approach the theme in the form of a stage performance and contemporary dance?
As the Mean Time Between Failures entity, all of our works are one way or another entangled with the histories of conceptual art. Thus we want to make dance works that have a clear connection with contemporary phenomena and can observe, challenge, dissect, destabilize and create movement out of and with them.
There is something interesting in this attempt to collide aesthetics and senses of screen culture with a black box space. Some themes in our work encompass both of these spaces, meaning screen and black box, by bringing forth questions around gaze, documentation, audience - performer relation, etc.
The reason to approach the subject matter in a context meant for contemporary dance is pretty obvious for us. Contemporary dance is not outside the screen culture production machines, the aesthetics it produces and so forth. Screen culture operates at the very core of dance today: either on various platforms or during performance situations, when performances are shared virally. Screen for dance is a marketing tool, a promotion tool, a validation tool, a communication tool. Zodiak is the center for new dance, therefore we felt that this contemporary phenomenon has remained unexamined in this context.
We wanted to show that screen culture has visible impacts on dance as well. Like the way that dancing body and its performance is affected by the screen worlds and is nearly molded by the screen presence. This is the question we have been busy with in this work also.
- what kind of elements will the performance consist of?
There will be darkness, fluorescent light, iPhone light, layering and looping of moving and still images, pondering, raw sweaty dance, 360 degree jumping, vast projection surfaces with media content such as TikTok inspired dances and worlds. We have generated and composed music inspired by the viral trends. There will also be a mixture of physical and virtual presence of us, asking ‘’where and who is the performer and how is the relation of a body changing in a world dominated by screens and world making platforms inside screens?’’
FRACPTURING at Zodiak Stage between Sep 29 and Oct 14, 2023.