The different meeting points of the 3 collaborating coordinators –Andrew Gryf Paterson (SCO/FI), Ulla Taipale/Capsula (FI/ES) & Signe Pucena/SERDE (LV)– were introduced at Pixelache Helsinki Festival in March 2010. On that occasion, there were seminar presentations by international artists and Finnish plant experts; curated workshops shared their particular knowledge about processing plant materials—fermentation, alcohol extraction and DNA manipulation; round-table discussion about foraging in the Finnish urban context; a Finnish community development and physical manifestation of the ‘Windowfarms’ project (US) in the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki.
During the summer, a midsummer expedition to rural towns Aizpute and Alsunga in Kurzeme, Western Latvia, was hosted by Interdisciplinary Art Group SERDE in June 2010, with a series of fieldwork excursions and ethnographic interviews for an international and interdisciplinary group of guests. Almost 40 persons took part in the different processes including the interviewees, ranging from local teenagers, to elder ladies of the communities. The main topics for the herbologies expedition included how to recognise, gather and use wild plants and flowers for teas, infusions, tinctures, sauna whisks, home-made herbal cosmetics, midsummer crowns, as well as the ‘pharmacy’ of plants found outside in nature.
In Autumn, the New York-based Windowfarm initiators visited to strengthen USA-FI collaboration and extend the community and public life of windowfarming in Helsinki and an exchange of practice took place between Finnish & Latvian Windowfarms initiators in Riga. A video-clip of the Windowfarms Finland Kiasma installation was published online [8 mins with finnish & english subtitles, 30.10.2010] sharing the growing & construction process, and featuring a sound-track of electronic dub music produced by Dreadlock Tales (FI) to encourage a new group of local windowfarmers.
From the summer onwards, SERDE led the publication of a new 112-page bi-lingual booklet in their series of ‘Exercise Book of Traditions’, sharing edited interview transcriptions, short articles and photos from the Kurzeme midsummer expedition ['Vācēju kultūra Viduskurzemē/Foraging in Central Kurzeme', print run of 1000, 31.10.2010]. Each participant & interviewee from the expedition was given a copy, and currently the booklet is being distributed in Latvia, and soon Finland at relevant gatherings and events, as well as in some specialist bookstores.
Following the participatory VivoArts workshop led by renowned bioartist Adam Zaretsky (US) during Pixelache Festival 2010, Zaretsky proposed that the workshop components be gifted to Kiasma collections. Following negotiations via Kiasma curator Leevi Haapala, the Kiasma collection board has accepted the donation, and this collective art piece, consisting of organic materials, statement, names of ‘new media’ made by participants, photo and video documentations, will be the first bioart piece in the Kiasma art collection.
Summary presentations of the programme took place in September at Kurpitsatalo’s Sadonkorjuujuhla (Harvest Festival) in Pispala-Tampere, Finland, and in Alsunga and Aizpute, Latvia, in
Invitations to present the project have emerged during the year 2010, including presentations and workshop ISEA2010 in Duisburg, Germany, fulfilled in August; and presentations & installation (Folk Pharmacy by SERDE) at Baltaa Nakts/White Nights festival in Riga, during Kultur Kontakt Nord’s open day on Suomenlinna, Helsinki, at Article Biennale for Electronic and Unstable Art in Stavanger, Norway, with a futher invitation to take part in Transnature Exhibition & Symposium in March 2011. The Brazilian electronic art festival Art.Mov has also been interested in finding collaboration possibilities with the project in the future.
The Latvian-based activities have been regularly covered by local press, while the Finnish-based activities have benefited by social media sharing of info and events. The Herbologies/Foraging Networks Facebook page has grown over the year (to be over 500 registered/associated) and the herbologies-foraging.net site, since launched gains more documentations and contents from the past activities.
Pleasingly, the project has been spread wide internationally by the highly-syndicated art-culture-tech blog ‘We Make Money Not Art’ (Regine Debatty), and also by the Japanese television 1TV, that visited SERDE in Latvia, broadcasting in December to a large general Japanese audience. An interview article for new media portal ‘Rhizome’ (initiated by Lisa Paldini) is pending for early 2011.
The programme have been received with interest beyond the Baltic shores, and we look forward to further activities, extending fieldwork to other locations in new collaborations.
Author: Andrew Gryf Paterson (SCO/FI) and Ulla Taipale (FI)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.