Corpus Crisis, 2021. Photo Aleks Talve. "For the artists, the concept of 'utopia' represents a useful tool: it is an invitation to imagining new alternatives, an artistic and political instrument capable of opening up new and different futures", writes Pilvi Porkola in her article.

Performance and Solidarity

We are excited to announce the launch of Performance and Solidarity, a brand new collection of essays and other pieces published by Theatre Info Finland TINFO. 

Performance and Solidarity, the words of introduction from our guest editors, Heidi Backström and Maria Säkö


A situation room for theatre

In 2017, a new online service launched in Finland. Titled Tilannehuone, or Situation Room, it lists every reported accident in Finland. Freely available to the public, anyone can use it to check what incidents are ongoing at any given time, how severe they are and what response has been mounted by the emergency services. The website also offers alerts, issuing warnings to road users on reckless drivers and other hazards.
It was the Situation Room website that gave us the idea for the publication you are reading now. Though written from a distinctively Finnish vantage point, we hope that it will inspire free and open debate on the theatrical arts that is truly international in its scope and firmly committed to solidarity.
Let’s face it: today’s world is full of “situations”; disasters both great and small. People congregate towards them, to put out fires, to bring the wounded to hospital, to do their part. All of that informs the theatre we are making and experiencing right now.
A situation room is not a Pandora’s box from which the horrors of the world will pour forth in an unstoppable torrent. Rather, it is an attempt at making sense of the disasters facing us and at bringing people together in pursuit of solutions and the best ways to respond.
When the world burns, solutions need to be found quickly.
Kicking off Performance and Solidarity is a warm-up in the form of the “Brecht Game”. Created by dramaturge, writer and researcher Klaus Maunuksela, this gamified essay shows contemporary theatre makers with precarious careers fighting for a better life. We invite you turn to Brecht 2.0 for a work-out that will challenge your heart and your mind.
When the world burns, solutions need to be found quickly. This applies in theatre just as elsewhere. And yet what we also need is sustained effort for the future, for the years and decades to come. In her essay, performance artist Pilvi Porkola from the University of Turku’s “Political Imagination and Alternative Futures” project turns her attention to the concept of a political imagination and the role it might play in the context of performing arts projects. She explores a series of works that have engendered change through play, through the medium of corporeality and by seeing reality differently and by creating new spaces.
The COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine have shown us just how important it is to stand up in defence of our shared European values. Finland has long enjoyed a solid reputation as a country determined to do just that and committed to upholding the rule of law, but a clutch of recent performances have offered a more nuanced take: Moldovan theatre artist Nicoleta Esinencu’s Symphony of Progress that toured in Germany and Romania last year explored the inhumane treatment faced by immigrant workers in Finland, concluding with an emphatic “Fuck you, Finland!”. Also in 2022, Pauliina Feodoroff, a Skolt Sámi artist, showed her Matriarchy, a timely reminder that the rights of Finland’s native peoples continue not to be met, at the Venice Biennale, while earlier this spring Kaino Wennerstrand’s Fixit Finland ran in Poland, highlighting the democratic deficit that results from the EU’s unquestioning commitment to neoliberalism. Cross-border artworks like this always matter but they are particularly important at a time when democracy is in peril. What we need is honesty, not self-indulgent platitudes.
This publication looks at how European cultural institutions are working together to promote solidarity.
If we abandon our commitment to solidarity, equality, transparency and free speech, we will lose even if we win. This publication looks at how European cultural institutions are working together to promote solidarity in Berlin, Paris, Hamburg, Sofia and across the Baltic and Nordic countries. A distinctively Finnish yet thoroughly international insight into the topic is provided by Marita Muukkonen, founder of the Artists at Risk network.
The next voice you will hear belongs to Mikhail Durnenkov, playwright and Putin-critic, who fled his native Russia for Finland and has since been supported by Artists at Risk. In his short story he considers the similarities between the Soviet era and the present day and how totalitarianism spells peril for human beings and the natural world alike. Environmental issues are also the focus of our interview with Katariina Numminen, which explores the distinctive tools at a dramaturge’s disposal and how that they might be used to support politicians and others in delivering change. Numminen was the resident dramaturge on the Situation Room of the Future project tasked with creating a tool to support policy and decision-making on ecological reconstruction. An amalgamation of art and science, its objective is to deliver not quick political wins but more democratic ways of doing things. It is an antidote to the seductive allure of fake news.
But though we are preoccupied by and immersed in these enormous global themes, we should not forget about the audiences, the people who come to see and experience theatre. In her highly personal account, Heidi Backström asks whether it’s possible to find positive arguments in favour of nudity on stage. Ultimately, her essay becomes a deliberation on trust in theatre. 
We may be living in an age of crisis, but theatre is by no means defenceless in the face of it. Instead of evoking images of hope or despair, our wish is that this publication will prompt our readers to seek real, practical, tangible solutions and to live them into being.
The Situation Room website is an excellent example of the kind of innovation we take great pride in here in Finland. Other things we are proud of are our track record on freedom of speech and our commitment to transparency in politics. We hope that this publication will serve as a “situation room” for the reality theatre faces in 2023. 
Heidi Backström and Maria Säkö 
Guest Editors-in-Chief, Performance and Solidarity

Performance and Solidarity is available to read now! Click here to view.

Table of Contents:
A Situation Room for Theatre by Heidi Backström and Maria Säkö
The Brecht Game by Klaus Maunuksela
Step by Step Towards Utopia by Pilvi Porkola
Eriopis by E.L. Karhu (an extract of the play)
A Network of Sacred Places by Maria Säkö
Barentsburg by Mikhail Durnenkov
The Dramaturgy of Ecological Reconstruction, an interview with Katariina Numminen by Maria Säkö
The Transformative Power of the Naked Body on Stage by Heidi Backström

Liisa Muinonen-Martin (fin-en)
Noah Birksted-Breen (ru-en)


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