5 Oct 2021




Wallflowers, Helsinki city Winter garden, photo Jan Ahlstedt.

My Skype call found performance art duo Linda Granfors and Aura Hakuri in Paris, where they spent two weeks working on a rather impressive six-storey façade installation as part of art collective Afterparty. The façade is that of 59 Rivoli, an art-squat-turned-gallery and major tourist attraction. The Afterparty collective was formed in 2018, when eight artists were invited to participate in an exhibition titled Suomi-Finland 100 years Afterparty that celebrated Finland’s 100th birthday of the previous year. This time the same artists wanted, instead of formal celebrations, to create a more casual, freer event. An afterparty for the Afterparty, that became an exhibition and, later, the installation Afterparty Goes Forest.

The Finnish saying “mennä metsään” meaning going into the forest, is used to describe something going wrong. The eight artists of the Afterparty saw this chaos and unpredictability as a positive possibility. They spent two weeks creating an exhibition of performances, video works, and the façade installation, which turned out wild and untamed in the most positive manner, thus proving their intuition correct.

The 59 Rivoli facade, The Afterparty collective, photo: Aura Hakuri.

Prior to this Parisian party, Linda and Aura spent three months in HIAP’s Suomenlinna studios, working on a performance and art project called Fredrika mise en lien. Between March and May 2021, they researched the life and work of Fredrika Runeberg, a prolific writer who was, however, surpassed in fame by her husband Johan Ludvig Runeberg in their time. They compared Fredrika’s texts to their own older writing, notes from the early stages of their career, and plans for work that was never completed. The research resulted in a series of works, thatwere included at Porvoo Triennial 2021: Color is a Common Thing. The series consisted of early ideas for performances and with each performance Fredrika’s reply in the form of some of her original writing.

Colour being the theme of the Porvoo Triennial, in Linda and Aura’s works colours referred to specific emotions and matched a set of Tarot cards, each colour having been assigned its own card, performance, and original Fredrika Runeberg writing. For the performances, Linda sewed 1850s style dresses that were inspired by the tapestries and wallpapers of the Runebergs’ home in Porvoo. In their big dresses, covered in big flowery patterns, Linda and Aura became wallflowers, matching the interior.

Wallflowers, J. L. Runebergin koti, Porvoo, photo Jan Ahlstedt.

Some of the “Fredrika” performances were presented to the audience during HIAP’s Open Studios event. The ideas were taped to the wall, and the participating audience were allowed to choose whichone Linda and Aura would perform. Some of the works were big hits with the visitors, while some were not picked at all. Linda and Aura talked fondly of their old notes, highlighting some performances; the one they talk about as “the pile” was a favourite of the performers themselves, while the audience preferred the one where everything was performed backwards. “The presence of an audience helps work out what works and what doesn’t,” the duo explains.

“The pile”, Notebook performances, Open Studios at Hiap Suomenlinna, 2021, photo Sheung Yiu.

The ideas for the performances dated back to 20 years ago already,when Linda and Aura first started performing art together as students. They both studied painting at the time, and they continue to work as painters separately from each other to this day. Their painting background shows in the performative work, and Linda and Aura feel that the ideas for both come from the same world.

The performance duo started as a side project, and Linda and Aura describe those early days as “being in a band,” having fun while making other, more serious work at the same time. These days the duo’s work has deepened in meaning and thought, and is no longer all fun and games, while at the same time keeping an element of joy and experimentation to it. While the nature of the collaboration has grown from a side project to a career, some topics and themes have stayed with them throughout the years. The different roles and spaces that women occupy and the female body, for example, are themes that find new meaning with age. In the early days, Linda and Aura did not feel the need to use the nude form, but as they get older and go through experiences such as pregnancy and giving birth, nudity has acquired new meanings and their relationship with their own body has changed. Times are different too, they feel, and are happy to notice that new generations are braver and more eager to break taboos.

At the moment, however, Linda and Aura are planning to break taboos by looking further into the life and times of Fredrika Runeberg. Although Fredrika never left Finland during her lifetime, she was extremely well-read, spoke several languages, and longed for travels to exotic places. She spoke, among others, French, so Linda and Aura are planning to take her or her spirit with them on residency to France in November, a project titled Fredrika en voyage. The pair, or shall I say the three women, will also host an event at The Window gallery in Paris, where Fredrika Runeberg will perform together with her contemporary George Sand. During the event, and also during visits to Jardin du Luxembourg and The House of George Sand in the village of Nohant, Linda and Aura will ponder upon the role of women, especially female writers, in France as well as Finland, in the past as well as today.





Photos provided by the artists.