Performative Sessions

UTU = University of Turku
ÅAU = Åbo Akademi University

WEDNESDAY, 18 AUGUST, 14:00–15:00

“Sun, the Electric Fire of all Life” – The Sun and Fire in the Culture of Esotericism

In this session, members of the “Seekers of the New” research project, which has mapped the cultural history of Finnish esotericism, will join forces with artists and writers. In recent years, more attention has been paid to the important role that esotericism has played particularly in the history of art and culture since the nineteenth century. The session investigates this connection by focusing on the central esoteric notion of the sun and the theme of fire that is closely connected to it. The significance of these themes in esoteric spirituality will be explored in a multidisciplinary and multi-artistic manner through music, literature and the visual arts, as well as through research connected to these topics. The programme includes music, recitation, a visual presentation and a panel discussion. The session will conclude with an introduction to eurythmy – a performance that makes music and speech visible in artistic form, developed by Rudolf Steiner, Marie Steiner and dance student Lory Maier-Smits.

Information on the artworks, quotes and music performed in this session (pdf)

INTRODUCTION: Maarit Leskelä-Kärki (Senior Lecturer, Cultural History, UTU)

PANEL DISCUSSION: Marja Lahelma, chair (PhD, Title of Docent in Art History, University of Helsinki), Nina Kokkinen (Post-doctoral Researcher, Study of Religion, UTU), Tiina Mahlamäki (Senior Lecturer, Study of Cultures, UTU), Susanna Välimäki (musicologist, Associate Professor of Art Research, University of Helsinki), Jasmine Westerlund (literary artist, Researcher at UTU)

GUITAR: Patrik Kleemola (Artistic Director of Turku Guitar Festival, Lecturer at Turku Conservatory and Music Institute)

EURYTHMY: Pirkko Tolmunen (eurythmy therapist, Doctoral Student at ÅAU)

Marja Lahelma, Nina Kokkinen, Tiina Mahlamäki, Susanna Välimäki, Jasmine Westerlund, Patrik Kleemola, Pirkko Tolmunen

WEDNESDAY, 18 AUGUST, 15:15–16:15

Sparking Trams, Silenced Rails: A Journey through European Tramscapes

The session will lead the audience on a journey into the landscapes of European urban transport. Trams have been an essential part of material and cultural landscapes of many European towns and cities in the past. Often, the old trams are still present somewhere, alongside plans for future trams and tramscapes. While they have been an essential mode of public transport in some cities, in others they have had a more supporting role among other vehicles. From early on, trams have been icons of modernity and urban mobility, depicted in films and literature and other urban imagery. They have raised powerful positive and negative emotions. They have been longed for, missed, admired, contested and waited for. For some, they are a symbol of nostalgia and the past, for others they are a symbol of more sustainable future transport. 

How people have lived and experienced tram rides has often been overrun by engineering-oriented discourses, urban competitiveness and branding or questions of sustainability that leave out the cultural and experimental side. Public transport, however, also offers intense sensory and affective experiences, that stay in our memories for decades. This session will present sights and sounds from the tramways past and present of London, Turku, and Tallinn, explore how Berlin trams travel the world up to Ust-Kamenogorsk in Kazakhstan, plus give a taste of tramways that never were.


SPEAKERS: Jason Finch (Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, ÅAU), Aleksandra Ianchenko (artist, PhD student at Tallinn University and ÅAU), Silja Laine (Post-doctoral Researcher, English Language and Litearature, ÅAU), Tonio Weicker (Post-doctoral Researcher, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography)

Research project “Public Transport as Public Space in European Cities: Narrating, Experiencing, Contesting” (PUTSPACE)

THURSDAY, 19 AUGUST, 10:00–11:00

The Use of Fire

An engineer meets with two potters to discuss their views on fire. What do they have in common and what differs in their approach and understanding of this phenomenon? The potters make use of the heat of the fire to transform the clay into ceramics, and they use the flames of the fire to improve the appearance of their products. The engineer uses the energy released by the fire to heat our buildings or to make objects move and supplies our society with electricity. Do they know about the flip sides of fire and its connection to climate change? How do they justify their use of fire in this aspect?

SPEAKERS: Cornelius Colliander (potter, Åbolands Keramikers Gille), Kristina Mediucha (potter, Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum), Johan Werkelin (Senior Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry, ÅAU)

THURSDAY, 19 AUGUST, 12:30–13:45

Burning Questions

ABOAGORA hosts a Pre-symposium research retreat for Doctoral Candidates in the arts, humanities and sciences and MA Art Students at the Archipelago Centre Korpoström in the Turku archipelago on 16–17 August. The participants, led by curator and researcher Taru Elfving, gather around burning questions concerning the world on fire today and reflect on the impact of global warming on the Archipelago Sea Biosphere area, its marine ecosystem and cultural contexts. Through the prism offered by the site itself, a plurality of perspectives and multisensory approaches, they discuss a range of ecological and societal phenomena, such as heat waves, migrations, photosynthesis, metabolism, combustion and composting. The group also reflects on what fuels our journeys, research and conversations. How to draw together diverse knowledge, skills and wisdom needed to feed the flame of sustainable transformations? What kinds of narratives for alternative futures might arise out of the ashes of past fires? What might be the fires needed as signposts and beacons for a safe route?

Taru Elfving, Riikka Armanto, Sachin Kochrekar, Ulla Kommonen, Kirsikka Paakkinen, Camila Rosa Ribeiro, Laura M. Saari, Jenni Vauhkonen, Yoshimasa Yamada

SPEAKERS: Taru Elfving, chair (curator and researcher, CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago), Riikka Armanto (Doctoral Candidate in Futures Studies, UTU), Sachin Kochrekar (Doctoral Candidate in Chemistry, UTU), Ulla Kommonen (Doctoral Candidate in English, UTU), Kirsikka Paakkinen (director and screenwriter), Camila Rosa Ribeiro (Doctoral Candidate in Education, Tampere University), Laura M. Saari (Doctoral Candidate in History and Cultural Heritage, University of Helsinki), Jenni Vauhkonen (Doctoral Candidate in Art History, UTU), Yoshimasa Yamada (woodworker, architect and Doctoral Candidate in Built Environment, Tampere University)

THURSDAY, 19 AUGUST, 14:00–15:00

A Burning Heart – A Broken Heart

In Greek mythology the god Prometheus created humanity from clay and gave fire to human civilisation. As punishment for giving humans fire, Zeus sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment. Prometheus was tied to a rock, and an eagle was sent to eat his liver. The liver grew back overnight, only to be eaten again the next day, in a never-ending cycle. 

This myth reflects the regenerative potential of the liver, a potential unique to few organs and tissues in humans and a potential that the human heart has lost. A project within Åbo Akademi University aims at training the human heart to repair itself by activating the molecular architects of the heart through a bioelectrical molecular band-aid.

Image from To Notch up a broken heart

Cells are the smallest units of life and referred to as the building blocks of life. The human body is made up by many trillions of cells, all with their unique structure and function. All multicellular life requires coordinated actions by the cells. Such coordination is achieved through cellular communication.  The Notch signalling pathway is an evolutionary conserved mechanism for communication between cells. Notch is essential for all multicellular life and is an important architect of the cardiovascular system. The scientific project aims at utilising Notch as a therapeutic handle to regenerate a defected heart. The molecular band-aid will reactivate Notch to stimulate cardiac tissue repair. 

Antonia Ringbom (photo: Klaus Somerkoski), Cecilia Sahlgren

In this presentation, the scientific project is portraited through the eyes and mind of an animation artist. The audience will follow the discussion between the artist and the scientist on the project and their collaboration and witness the premiere of the animation To Notch up a broken heart. How does art ignite science and what can science add to the creative process of making art? The science takes the artist on a journey through the invisible nano- and microlevel of the human body, which is as incomprehensible and fantastic as the Universe. The goal of the journey is a cell therapy to regenerate a broken heart. To animate is to give life to ideas and non-living things. In a way, the artist and the scientist are united by a common theme, the quest to create life. “A Burning Heart – A Broken Heart” is the igniting spark from cell biology to a love story.

SPEAKERS: Antonia Ringbom (visual artist, film director, animator), Cecilia Sahlgren (Professor in Cell Biology, ÅAU; Professor in Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology)

THURSDAY, 19 AUGUST, 18:00–20:30


This will be a staged reading of Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen, a fictional account of an actual event during World War II, in which two physicists exchange heated words and profound ideas. One man, Werner Heisenberg, seeks to harness the power of the atom for Germany’s forces. The other scientist, Niels Bohr, is devastated that his native Denmark has been occupied by the Third Reich.

The reading includes a brief intermission, and there will be a discussion with the audience afterwards.

Glossary (pdf)

PERFORMERS: Richard McElvain (award-winning actor/director/playwright, Fulbright Fellow 2018, UTU), M. Lynda Robinson (award-winning actor, playwright and Teacher of Theatre), Kimi Kärki (Research Fellow, Cultural History & International Institute for Popular Culture IIPC, UTU)

Richard McElvain, M. Lynda Robinson, Kimi Kärki (photo: Maarit Leskelä-Kärki)

FRIDAY, 20 AUGUST, 12:30–13:45

Photo Exhibition: Love Crossing Boundaries & Panel Discussion: The Fire of Love and Hate

Organised in collaboration with Hub Turku

This session takes place outdoors on Luostarin välikatu (see map), where the photo exhibition is situated. First, ABOAGORA participants have 30 minutes (from 12:30 to 13:00) to tour the exhibition. The panel discussion will follow at 13:00, taking place outdoors next to the exhibition.

Photo Exhibition: Love Crossing Boundaries

Through art we wanted to thematise different patterns of oppression and stigmatisation that are exercised within and over ethnic boundaries. We wanted to investigate patterns that manifest themselves at different stages of life, perhaps significantly when knots of love, marriage, relationships and companionships are tied in ways that go against the expectations and norms of their respective communities.

Follow the journey of seven different couples as their stories unfold to reveal the challenges they’ve met  as well as the support they’ve received from both their own community and that of their partner of choice.

Panel Discussion: The Fire of Love and Hate

In this panel, we will go deeper into the topic of oppressive structures, masculinity and nationalism. Nana Blomqvist discusses with Hannaneh Mahmoudian and Tuija Saresma about our contemporary society and its radicalised and normalised expressions of patriarchal structures.

ARTISTS: Rewan Kakil & Saara Aina

PANEL DISCUSSION: Nana Blomqvist, chair (Project Manager, “Boundary Transgressing Dialogue Culture”, Hub Turku), Hannaneh Mahmoudian (Project Worker, specialised in honour related conflicts and violence, Auralan Setlementti ry/Sopu Varsinais-Suomi), Tuija Saresma (Senior Researcher, Research Centre for Contemporary Culture, University of Jyväskylä)

Rewan Kakil, Saara Aina, Nana Blomqvist (photos: Rewan Kakil), Hannaneh Mahmoudian (photo: Mehrad Mahmoudian), Tuija Saresma (photo: Sami Saresma)

FRIDAY, 20 AUGUST, 14:00–15:00

The Conflagration of Turku, 1827: Histories of Emotion and Destruction

Organised in collaboration with the City of Turku

Hannu Salmi (photo: Hanna Oksanen/UTU), Panu Savolainen

The catastrophe known as the Great Fire of Turku was the largest conflagration in the history of the Nordic countries. Three quarters of the city were destroyed in the devastating fire that started on 4 September 1827, at 9 o’clock in the evening. The fire raged through the night, in some parts of the city until 6 September. The soil was hot for weeks and the minds of the citizens were disturbed by the tragedy. This session discusses the emotional responses to the fire, its cultural ramifications as well as the volume and consequences of the catastrophe.

SPEAKERS: Hannu Salmi (Academy Professor, Cultural History and European and World History, UTU), Panu Savolainen (Assistant Professor, History of Architecture and Architectural Conservation, Aalto University)

FRIDAY, 20 AUGUST, 15:15–16:00

On Fire

Photo: Robert Konopka

On March 19, 2021, the volcano Fagradalsfjall erupted in the Southwest of Iceland close to the capital. The eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes and the population was already waiting for weeks. When the sky turned red that night, people in Reykjavík knew: now it happened. This special kind of fire will be explored in this lecture from a geological, cultural and creative perspective.

SPEAKER: Alessa Brossmer (artist and researcher)

FRIDAY, 20 AUGUST, 16:45–17:15


E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr (photo: Jaakko Penttinen)

E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr is a kosmische Musik group from Turku, Finland. Their music is a mixture of ‘Berlin School’ style of sequenced space travels, electro-acoustic improvisations and krautrock with melancholic and psychedelic moods. Their third studio album Non plus ultra (Svart Records, LP + digital) was released in 2020. In addition, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr has released three live albums, a split album and a mini album. The current lineup is: Pertti Grönholm (synthesizers, samplers, sequencers and percussion), Kimi Kärki (E-guitar, Ebow and effects) and Ismo Virta (Memotron, E-guitar and effects). 

For each Five Rings of ABOAGORA, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr produces and performs a composition exploring the theme of the year. Each work will feature a guest musician or musicians.  At ABOAGORA 2021 they will perform the third of five thematic annual compositions, Feuer, featuring Petri Kuljuntausta.

Petri Kuljuntausta is a sonic artist, composer and musician. In close collaboration with natural scientists, he has composed underwater music and made music out of whale calls and the sounds of the northern lights. Environmental sounds, live-electronics, improvisation and collaborations with media artists have influenced him as a composer.

Petri Kuljuntausta (photo: Riikka Lammi)

Kuljuntausta has performed or collaborated with Morton Subotnick, Atau Tanaka, Richard Lerman, David Rothenberg and Sami van Ingen, among others. He has made recordings for various labels in Australia, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Sweden, UK and the USA. The Star’s End and Inner Space radio shows selected Kuljuntausta’s Momentum as one of the most significant CD releases of the year. Kuljuntausta has published three books on Sound Art and Electronic Music. In 2005 he won The Finnish State Prize for Art from the Finnish government as a distinguished national artist.

Petri Kuljuntausta performs regularly. In his concerts he often uses soundscapes or environmental sounds as a source material and recycles and mashes these sounds live. He has created site-specific sound performances and performed with birds. Kuljuntausta started his career as a guitarist, and he is performing again with the instrument.

PERFORMERS: E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr (Pertti Grönholm, Kimi Kärki, Ismo Virta) & Petri Kuljuntausta

FRIDAY, 20 AUGUST, 19:00–19:45

Prologi – An independent preface to the production Romanttinen mieli (The Romantic Mind) 

By Multiarts Group Third Space (Kolmas Tila)


The performance is multilingual (mainly Finnish and Swedish) and takes place at the Turku Cathedral. Please note that tickets are sold separately at the Cathedral door from 18:00 onwards. Tickets are 10 € for ABOAGORA participants (with the Symposium name tag). This performance will not be livestreamed.

Olen asettanut sinut keskelle maailmaa, jotta voit sieltä helpommin katsella kaikkea, mitä maailmassa on.

(I have placed you in the middle of the world, so that from there you can more easily behold all that is in the world.)

Prologi is an independent part of Romanttinen mieli – Ett romantiskt sinne (The Romantic Mind), Third Space’s new production on polyphony and human consciousness. Prologi presents the Renaissance’s anthropocentric view of the world and the place of man in the entirety of life.

It is the year 1495. Before sunrise, on a Tuscan meadow, man encounters the Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola and the Knight built by Leonardo da Vinci.

Prologi premiers at the Turku Cathedral on August 20, 2021.

Romanttinen mieli – Ett romantiskt sinne premiers in Logomo, Turku on August 27, 2021.