Month: June 2020

ABOAGORA: Water – Workshops, concerts and performances

In 19–21 August, the audience of ABOAGORA: Water will be treated with fascinating workshops and performances. There will be music, archaeobiology, poetry, marine biology, fine arts, folklore – and many more unexpected encounters and open-minded crossing over of different levels!


WORKSHOP I: Seili, Island of Life. Archaebiology, Biodiversity, History and Art 

WEDNESDAY, 19 AUGUST, 14:00 – 15:30 

The workshop “Seili, Island of Life. Archaeobiology, biodiversity, history and art” at ABOAGORA 2020: Water examines the importance of water to culture and biodiversity, bringing together biologists, archaeologists, historians, archaeobotanists, and artists. On the island of Seili, water has been both a separating and a connecting element for people and nature, shaping culture and framing the biodiversity on the island.

The Biodiversity Unit at the University of Turku is studying the Island of Seili within a time span of 500 years: In Seili, the lives of inhabitants and island biota have been intertwined and developed in tight interaction, forming biodiversity hot-spots in the form on cultural habitats and landscapes.

Ilari E. Sääksjärvi is a Professor of Biodiversity Research and director of the Biodiversity Unit at the University of Turku. His background is in tropical biodiversity research and he has e.g. discovered hundreds and named about 200 new animal species from Amazonia. Mia Rönkä (Ph.D.) is a researcher, science journalist, writer, poet and free time photographer, interested in particular in the relationship and interaction between man and other nature. Mia Lempiäinen-Avci holds a Ph.D. in archaeobotany. Her research interests include cultivation history, plant genetics, and archaeology. Ph.D., cultural historian Heta Lähdesmäki defended her thesis on human-wolf relations in January 2020. Lähdesmäki is interested in environmental history, human-animal studies, critical plant studies and posthumanism.


WORKSHOP II: Waterways – A Concert and Talk on the Forgetting of Colonialism

WEDNESDAY, 19 AUGUST, 16:00 – 17:30

The element of water that sustains life, also sustained death and violence over centuries through the European colonial expansion, the Atlantic slave trade and through colonization. Seas carried people, weapons and cargo. 

In this concert and talk historian and mezzo-soprano Marika Kivinen explores the forgetting and ignorance of European colonialism within classical song repertoire. These themes can seem far removed from classical music, partly because their presence often goes unseen or unnoticed. But this ignorance is part of colonial culture. Cultural theorist Paul Gilroy reminds us that “knowledge of the empire’s actual history is unevenly distributed across the globe. Descendants of the victims of past injustice are often more familiar with the bloody annals of colonial government than British subjects, safely insulated at home from any exposure to the violent details of conquest and expropriation.”


Marika Kivinen performs Finnish, German and French classical songs together with pianist Jenna Ristilä, flutist Anna-Sofia Kallio and cellist Teemu Mastovaara.


WORKSHOP III: Veden väelle – For the Water Sprites

THURSDAY, 21 AUGUST, 13:00 – 14:30

This workshop will explore the essence of the water element, combining cultural research and artistic work. In a post-human vein, we have adopted the animist approach that all natural elements and objects have an agency or a spiritual essence. This workshop invites the participants to learn about the forms and roles of water sprites in various cultures, to understand their link to sustainable water use and to imagine their presence in our own surroundings too. The artistic part establishes communication with the water sprites and applies the alchemist method by distilling the essence of the seas. What does the spiritual essence of the water element consist of? The workshop will discuss water’s wildness and life-giving force, as well as all the entities that it embraces: diverse living organisms and multicolour plastic.

Kaarina Koski, PhD, is a folklorist and folk belief scholar whose research topics include vernacular discourses and traditions concerning death, the Lutheran church and graveyards, supernatural beings, uncanny experiences and nightmares, as well as contemporary folklore such as Internet memes. Fine artist Elsa Salonen experiments with a range of poetic materials to create works that unite mysticism to science. From specific natural materials – from meteorites to colours distilled from plants – she prepares her own pigments according to the various conceptual requirements of each individual work.


WORKSHOP IV: The Sense(s) of Seili – Reflections from the Pre-Symposium

THURSDAY, 20 AUGUST, 15:00 – 16:30

In the spring 2020, ABOAGORA invited Art students and Doctoral researchers to investigate the shifting borders of water and land in the Pre-Symposium event in Turku Archipelago. This year, the Pre-Symposium is a research retreat directed by curator and researcher Taru Elfving (CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago), organized in collaboration with The Sea -research profile (ÅAU & TY) and the Archipelago Research Institute of Turku on the island of Seili, a 2-hour boat ride from Turku in the Archipelago Sea.

While the theme of ABOAGORA Symposium in 2020 is Water, the Pre-Symposium focuses on the significance of place in research and artistic practices. What are the different senses of place in the work of a researcher or an artist? What do we bring with us, take away and leave behind? How are our practices making their mark on the environment, and how does the environment affect our methodologies?

The island of Seili – or Själö in Swedish, name referring to seals and souls – may be approached as a microcosm of exclusion, enclosure and experimentation with its history of institutions, from a leprosy asylum and a women’s mental hospital to contemporary scientific research and nature conservation. Seili reminds us how an island is always connected through myriad flows – ecological, social, cultural and symbolic.

Taru Elfving is a curator and writer based in Helsinki. Her practice focuses on site-sensitive investigations at the intersections of ecological, feminist and decolonial thought. In this workshop, Elfving will introduce the idea of Pre-Symposium in conversation with the ABOAGORA Pre-Symposium participants (TBA).


CONCERT: Impressions of Water by The Water Project

THURSDAY, 20 AUGUST, 17:00 – 17:30

The Water Project is a trio consisting of Lubena Nova (vocals), Teemu Maastovaara (cello), and Ville Vihko (piano). The project was born out of Nova’s idea to make recordings of her poems, brought to life by the light and melancholic music of Ismo Savola. The poems are inspired by the Aura river, which runs through and adds to the beauty of Turku. As a tribute to the Aura river, the music project is one of a kind and thus of local significance.

Lubena Nova is a Bulgarian born singer, poet, and a vocal coach. She has performed with the Finnish National Opera Choir and at Savonlinna Opera Festivals, as well as published albums with her jazz band Fig Fable and art rock band July Blue. Teemu Mastovaara is a cellist and composer. He is a member of Ensemble for New Music Tallinn, and has collaborated with the Finnish doom metal band Swallow the Sun. Ville Vihko is a pianist, keyboardist and piano teacher. He has worked with a wide variety of bands, projects and ensembles in virtually any genre, including the professional big band Turku Jazz Orchestra.


The Art of Swimming 

THURSDAY, 20 AUGUST 19:30 – 

“Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to my performance. In order for it to work I will need you to imagine that I am Mercedes Gleitze: the first British woman to swim the English Channel. This I did in 1927 aged 26 and it took 15 hours and 15 minutes.” 

An intimate and compelling solo performance about long-distance swimming, celebrity, storytelling and time. A celebrated endurance swimmer in her day, Mercedes Gleitze set and broke many records, often years in advance of men in her field. Lynda Radley has found her in a faded photograph and been fascinated and frustrated ever since…

Originally conceived as a live theatre performance, this abridged digital version of The Art of Swimming has been created and filmed especially for the Symposium.   

The Art of Swimming, written and performed by Lynda Radley; Directed by Tom Creed; Music and sound by Michael John McCarthy; Edited by Maurice O’Brien.

Press quotes:

  • (Lynda Radley) manages to make a profound statement about the pressures that have faced women historically, before drawing this out into a bigger statement about humanity more generally speaking…that there is great joy to be found in the spontaneous and surreal facets of our living. **** WHATSONSTAGE on The Art of Swimming
  • Outstanding… Radley writes with style, humour and a flourish of poetic passion. ***** The Herald on The Art of Swimming
  • Haunting, and strangely eloquent **** The Scotsman on The Art of Swimming


WORKSHOP V: The Sea: A Living Lab

FRIDAY, 21 AUGUST, 13:00 – 14:30

The Sea provides us, humans, with a vast amount of goods and services, which nowadays often goes under the notion of ”Nature’s contribution to people”. These span from the food we fish and collect to other goods we harvest and hunt. It covers the fact that underwater and coastal environments, for example, provides stability against storms and circulate materials and nutrients. The sea provides a means for transportation and communication, and a place for cultural and spiritual activities. In order for us and nature to prosper, it is therefore of immense importance that we understand and appreciate what these contributions and relationships are in order to safeguard and govern our sea in a way that leads to the sustainable development of our society – but how do we do this? 

In the interdisciplinary research profile The Sea at Åbo Akademi University* we believe that solutions for such challenges are found when all actors with an interest and link to the challenge come together. That is, we strive to work as a Living Lab.  A Living Lab can be described as an “interaction space” in which public agencies, universities, companies, users and other stakeholders collaborate to assess, validate and test solutions in a real-life-context. 

In the true spirit of a Living Lab, this session examines what the sea provides us humans by applying the four main activities characterising work in a Living Lab, namely we will:

  1. Co-create a common maritime Lego landscape as a basis for discussion, 
  2. Explore how we humans interact with the sea, 
  3. Experiment with scenarios of environmental and/or societal change, 
  4. Evaluate the topics discussed and the concept of working as a Living Lab.

*The Sea is a research profile at Åbo Akademi University (, a joint collaboration with University of Turku under “Sea and Maritime Studies”.

Meet the AGORA-speakers of ABOAGORA: Water!

Let us introduce the AGORA-sessions and amazing keynote-speakers of this year’s ABOAGORA!


“Sharkmania: A Cultural History”

Wednesday, 19 August, 18:00 – 19:30

Janet M. Davis, Professor of American Studies and History (University of Texas at Austin), will explore the historical roots of the relationship between humans and sharks through “Sharkmania”, a longstanding transnational American barometer of social upheaval, fear, and sometimes, veneration.

Human/shark entanglements are tied to war, empire building, colonialism, pop culture, and sea pollution. These encounters were connected to the whaling industry and its demise; the rise of beach vacation economies in old whaling centers; and the ascendency of physical culture and new codes of bodily display framed intersectionally by class, gender, and race.  Human/shark interactions have been technologically mediated over time—from the Age of Sail to the Age of Internet Sharks.


“The Eternal Circulation of Water. A Visual Journey into the Arctic Waters, Myths and Facts”

Thursday, 20 August, 10:00 – 11:30

The Finnish film producer, director, and writer Marko Röhr will take the audience on a visual journey into the Arctic Waters. 

Marko Röhr has a wide experience on international co-productions, drama series, and documentaries. His films have won awards in festivals around the world, e.g. in the USA, France, Germany, Japan, China, Spain, and Scandinavia. In 1997 Röhr was elected as a voting member in the European Film Academy. Röhr has directed numerous award-winning underwater and nature films, e.g. “Underwater Iceland” (1997) and “Tale of a Lake” (2016), the latter being the best-selling documentary in the Finnish cinemas.



“Historical Waterscapes: adaptive Strategies between Technology and Art”

Friday, 21 August, 10:00-11:30

Professor Carola Hein (Delft University of Technology) accompanied by the architect, educator and researcher Negar Sanaan Bensi (TU Delft) and the urban designer, teacher and researcher Jens Jorritsma, will explore the idiosyncratic historical water systems and infrastructures.

How has water has served and sustained societies throughout human history? People have actively shaped its course, form, and function for human settlement and the development of civilizations. Around water, they have created socioeconomic structures, policies, and cultures; a rich world of narratives, laws, and practices; and an extensive tangible network of infrastructure, buildings, and urban form. It’s a story of health, wealth and beauty. It is the story of often common knowledge with wondrous infrastructures and architectural objects which are not only functional, but also beautiful to behold. They are cultural objects, which can inform us about our relationship to ‘nature’. Such research and artistic investigation can invite policy makers and designers to work together to recognize and build on the traditional knowledge and skills that old structures embody.


“Stormy Waters: Secrets Inherited and the Creation of a Family. David Grossman in conversation with translator Natalie Lantz on his new novel”

Friday, 21 August, 15:00 – 16:30

The internationally awarded Israeli author David Grossman will discuss his new novel “Med mig leker livet” with the Swedish translator and doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible Natalie Lantz (Uppsala University).

The novel explores the awful power of secrets and wounds passed from one generation to the next. The story revolves around three women, Vera, her daughter Nina and her granddaughter Gili. A bitter secret pits them against each other for decades, leading them finally to embark on an odyssey over stormy waters to Goli Otok, “The naked island” off the coast of Croatia. There, Vera had been imprisoned, enslaved and tortured for three years, having refused to betray her husband and denounce him as an enemy of the people.

David Grossman himself travelled to Croatia last year, and with him came ten translators. Now, the author is reunited with the Swedish translator Natalie Lantz, to discuss the novel and the translation journey.

Registration for ABOAGORA 2020: Water is now open!

The science and art event ABOAGORA adopting a new form in August!

ABOAGORA – Between Arts and Sciences is an annual symposium, bringing together various aspects of academia, the arts, and society. This year, ABOAGORA dives into the world of water! The Symposium will be held both at the Sibelius Museum as well as online on 19–21 August, 2020. Registration opens on 15 June.

This year, because of COVID-19, the tenth ABOAGORA Symposium at the Sibelius Museum on 19–21 August is going to adopt a new, hybrid form: parts of the programme at the museum will be conducted online.

 “The whole event will be live streamed and recorded so it is safe to follow the Symposium from your office, sofa, or even from the pier, surrounded by water,” describes Liisa Lalu, coordinator of ABOAGORA.

Between land and sea

ABOAGORA continues the five-year thematic plan “The Five Rings”, referring to The Book of Five Rings (五輪書, Go Rin no Sho) written by Japanese philosopher Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵, c. 1584–June 13, 1645). Musashi’s book about the art of swordmanship, kenjutsu, extends towards a philosophy of life. It is divided into five parts, each examining a different element of battle: Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, and the Void – elements also represented in various Eastern religions.

 “The aim of the conference series is to trigger new ideas about sciences, natural sciences, and the arts, through elemental thinking,” explains Kimi Kärki, member of the Aboagora team and Research Fellow at the International Institute for Popular Culture (IIPC).

Moving on from the concrete and heavy element of Earth, ABOAGORA 2020 wishes to examine the liquid element of Water. This year’s presentations will explore underwater ecosystems, human/shark entanglements, historical water systems and infrastructures as well as ancient sea sprites and mythologies – and much more.

Keynote speakers from around the globe, workshops and music

ABOAGORA consists of keynote lectures, workshops, and artistic interventions. The first keynote speaker of 2020 is Professor Janet M. Davis (University of Texas at Austin), who examines the relationship between humans and sharks under the title “Sharkmania: A Cultural History”The second keynote speaker, director and producer Marko Röhr, will take the the audience on a visual journey into the Arctic Waters. 

The final Symposium day will begin with Professor Carola Hein (Delft University of Technology) accompanied by the architect, educator, and researcher Negar Sanaan Bensi (TU Delf) and the urban designer, teacher, and researcher Jens Jorritsma, who will explore how water has served and sustained societies throughout human history. The Symposium culminates in a conversation between David Grossman, an internationally awarded Israeli author, and Natalie Lantz, a translator and doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible (Uppsala University), about Grossman’s new novel “Med mig leker livet” (אתי החיים משחק הרבה), “Life Plays with Me”.

During the workshops, the audience gets closer acquainted with the Aura river of Turku and the Baltic Sea as well as with the Island of Seili from an archaeobiological, historical, and artistic perspective. The audience will also be treated to water-inspired music and an abridged digital version of the piece “The Art of Swimming” by the playwright and dramaturg Lynda Radley, specially created for the Symposium. The piece narrates the life of Mercedes Gleitze, who was the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1927, at the age of only 26.

There will be no registration fee this year, but advance registration is mandatory. Please register at:

Registration runs until Friday, 14 August!

The programme for ABOAGORA Symposium can be found at

Aboagora is a joint effort by the Department of Cultural History at the University of Turku, Donner institute (Åbo Akademi Foundation), Åbo Akademi University and Arts Academy of Turku University of Applied Sciences. In 2020, ABOAGORA is supported by Kone Foundation and The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland.

Additional information: Project coordinator Liisa Lalu, / 050 570 4017