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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!

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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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 (www.abo.fi/sea), a joint collaboration with University of Turku under “Sea and Maritime Studies”.

Posted on: June 29, 2020, by : admin