7 Oct 2016


Text by Tessa Aarniosuo

Willoh S. Weiland and J R Brennan: The death of an object

Willoh S. Weiland and James Brennan are currently staying at the studios of HIAP in Suomenlinna, working on a site specific performative event for ANTI Contemporary Art Festival, in Kuopio. This commission is part of the International Prize for Live Art by the festival and the Saastamoinen Foundation. When Willoh was reflecting on this opportunity, she started thinking about her relationship with Finland, which comes through her early Nokia phone. She thought about the idea of obsolete technology as an artefact of our time. “The story of Nokia is a contemporary extinction story,” she tells me.

Willoh has worked a lot with technology, creating interactive pieces. The idea for the festival project started developing around intimate relationships with objects, which are terribly important for a while, yet so easy to discard. Her performative event will take the form of a funeral for obsolete technology at the Technopolis park in Kuopio, on the 28th of October. The funeral will be a contemplation of what would be, if we gave objects the same value as a human being. “Each discarded object,” Willoh explains, “represents value more than what we give it – human labour and resources, for example.”

The performative event involves erecting a huge stone screen around which the ceremony will take place, for one night on the 28th of October. Willoh will be projecting a film onto the screen. She has been working on the film with local people aged 11–82, representing different decades and will, in a sense, be making a portrait of Kuopio based on those people.

In creating the projected film, Willoh will create a portrait of the participants with a piece of technology they choose, one they have an intimate relationship with. This film will then be projected onto the stone screen during the performance. The screen itself is made of granite and putting up the stone has proven to be quite a challenge. Willoh is interested in the contrast between a permanent gesture (the stone screen) and the transient relationship with technical objects.

Willoh’s collaborator, James Brennan, will be working with three different choirs creating the music for the event. James says it has been a dream of his to combine traditional choirs with death metal music. The ideas for his composition came from Willoh’s thoughts of death of the artefacts. James has, however, taken the idea a bit further, to encompass not only death but also blindness and inability to see the truth in life. The starting point for the composition was the old Nokia ringtone which he will be deconstructing across different voices. He describes the composition as “reflective mourning.” All funerals are for the living, of course.

The three choirs participating are a church choir, a choir of young girls and a choir that James himself put together, composing several death metal singers. Each of these groups will be singing different parts of the composition. They will be singing different voices: those of the dead, those of the living and those of the thunder god or god of doom – incidentally sung by the choir of young girls. “The scariest of the groups,” Willoh jokes. James and his choirs focus on the performance on the 28th of October, but will also record the composition professionally. Also, the video that Willoh will be filming of the event is an important outcome, creating a digital artefact of the event.

Both Willoh and James have been thinking about the relationship between film and performance while also thinking about filming as a performative action. The performance will be set up as a film shoot, as opposed to life events during which filming is performed discreetly.

An artefact can be digital, permanent, temporary or even musical, and Willoh and James’s festival project sets to explore all of these possibilities.

Read more on Willoh and James: http://aphids.net

Read more on ANTI festival: http://www.antifestival.com/2016/eng/