Silence Awareness Existence February residency at Arteles Creative Center, Finland

In February I will be joining the Silence Awareness Existence international group residency, at Arteles Creative Centre, Haukij√§rvi Finland This residency will enable me to research how our awareness of our sensory engagements with our surroundings are experienced in such an extreme and specific time and place. I plan to create new ephemeral installation work in response to the unique climate and landscape of Finland, working alongside a diverse range of participating international artists whose work also focuses on the themes of silence, awareness and existence.

The Silence Awareness Existence residency takes place in the extreme weather conditions of February, one of the darkest months of the Finnish winter, which is an essential factor of this unique group residency structured to deepen our thinking and practices responding to the sensory impact of time and place. The residency’s themes resonate in my creative process of quiet contemplation and tactile engagement with my surroundings. Working with the site, trace and ephemeral natural materials I will be researching circadian rhythms, how we experience time in relation to sunlight, and how these sensory influences - temperature, low light and muffled sound - can become embodied experiences in art practice.

In several of my recent projects, I've focused on the duration and movement of sunlight and shadows, permeating interior spaces to track a visual, natural awareness of the passage of time. The cold dark snowy winter of February in Finland will be a stark contrast to the hot bright summer Februaries in Sydney, and this will be key to my project. The lack of sunlight in the Finnish winter causes most creatures, even insects like honeybees, to hibernate. Beeswax as material and honeybees as metaphor, feature prominently in my work, and the agricultural farmland around Arteles will be essential to my research about honeybees in Finland. Honeybees communicate the position of the sun through their waggle dances telling other foraging bees flower locations; they are obsessive about sealing up cracks in their hives, and experts at storing honey for the colony’s survival in winter. Like honeybees in winter, humans spend most of their time indoors, sealing themselves into interior sanctuaries protected from harsh external elements.

Much of my work explores how humans are inextricably part of nature; we are fragile and vulnerable, despite our ceaseless efforts to separate and contain nature and natural cycles. I am interested in experiencing this human containment as it manifests in a Finnish winter, when the necessity of keeping nature outdoors becomes truly essential for survival. To some extent the outside environment will always permeate our interior spaces, as sunlight and ice on windows, and draughts through cracks in the walls and around doorways. These uncontainable natural elements will influence how I experience and document my physical and mental adjustments to Finnish winter sensory experiences, which dramatically contrast Sydney’s February summer climate.

I’m looking forward to meeting the other nine international artists on this residency who all work with the themes of silence, awareness and existence in their practices. We'll be  sharing our experiences of the time and place of Arteles in winter, and discussing how it informs our practices. This will be my first overseas residency, my first visit to Finland and first experience of a northern Scandinavian winter!

Ian Potter Cultural Trust recent grants -

Thank you to Ian Potter Cultural Trust for their supporting grant to take up this important  overseas professional development opportunity; to Arteles for their resident grant covering half the program fee; to the SCA Postgraduate Support Scheme for assisting with my field research at  Arteles, which will inform my PhD; and to Arts NSW's Artists' Grant Scheme, a devolved funding program administered by the National Association of the Visual Arts on behalf of the NSW Government

I'm going to post updates here on my studio blog while I'm in Finland, so you can read about my experiences and see my Silence Awareness Existence project as it develops. 

Research preparation - YouTube video of honeybees hibernating during winter in Finland (link). Interesting... however beekeepers wouldn't usually open a hive during winter as the honeybee colony will die if exposed to the cold for too long. During winter honeybees hibernate - they don't leave the hive. Instead they all huddle together in the naturally insulated centre of the hive, they survive by eating their stores of honey and vibrating their wings to keep warm.