VILLE HAIMALA: Q&A
05 November 2015
Lighthouse Artistic Director, Juha van ’t Zelfde talks to Finnish artist, and our current Studio Resident, Ville Haimala about living in "hippy” Brighton, his fascination with biohacking and robot factories, and his proposed exploration into “sensory tingling” during Progress in November, which he is curating and hosting.
Juha van ’t Zelfde: Welcome to Brighton, what’s your first impression of the city? How does it compare to Berlin, where you now live?
Ville Haimala: My first impression was actually made some years ago when I DJ’d here. Now that I’ve spent more time here I feel that I’m getting a more real feel of it. I must say I’m surprised how much I like it [smiles]. People are really nice and for its compact size it seems that there’s quite a lot on offer. Also it’s even more hippy than I imagined.
I guess Brighton shares some of the relaxedness with Berlin. Otherwise, I feel that it’s quite different. The general feel of Berlin now is quite rude somehow. The distance and interactions here also make me realize how insular and hyper specific the life in the Berlin art bubble is. There’s barely any interaction to the world outside of it, which is hard to realize when you’re in there. It’s kinda nice to also encounter people who are not working on some trivial research project waiting to be installed in a white cube. Funnily enough, that’s sort of what I’m doing here myself.
JZ: The distance from the, shall we call it, commodified art world is refreshing?
VH: Yeah it feels like a breath of fresh air.
Also it’s really interesting to work on something hyper specific here: it’s easier to see the relation of your work to the more "real world”.
I mean that the “real world” also exists in Berlin, but it’s easy to decide not to have almost any interaction with it.
I guess my realisation of Berlin is also that it feels, at the moment, like people doing art (my peers at least), even though their art might appear radical, or at least highly thought provoking, are not really after any other effect or change with it other than the effect on their bank balance.
The system maintaining this insanely privileged situation is really fragile and mainly built on personal connections. It can become socially really awkward because everyone has to pretend they are doing super well in order to maintain the illusion that their own work is equally relevant to the next guy’s work.
This is partly what Britta Thie’s web series Translantics is about.
I feel that the economic structure of the music world is a bit more healthy, or at least easier to understand. It’s moving towards the art structure though.
JZ: Can you tell me something about Translantics? And have you seen examples of the opposite happening: artists making radical work that has “real world” impact?
VH: It’s sort of a sitcom about the ridiculous social constructs and the personal struggle in that world. Carson Chan wrote a very good piece about it, We transfer: Mediating the Mediated Self, for the German art magazine TZK (Texte Zur Kunst).
JZ: Why did you decide to apply for the residency, and what do you plan on doing?
VH: I wanted to have a dedicated time to work on a project of my own and this just was too good of a fit to not apply.
“I’ve been really interested in biohacking,
especially enhancing hearing, for quite some time.”
I’ve been really interested in biohacking, especially enhancing hearing, for quite some time. And I’ve also been super into the format of audioplay, more narrative based audio pieces.
This morning I was kinda going back to the beginning of my proposal and looking into robot factories, the last human employee, etc. Seeing if I could still bring that into the project. I like this idea of this last guy being alone in this hall full of five axis industrial robots building some bootleg Teslas [a premium electric vehicle]. Him blasting music in the hall, having this huge space of his own. Almost a celebratory piece instead of the obvious cold and sad dystopian vision. Like Wall-E meets Oblivion meets Clerks [laughs]. I highly recommend watching robotised factory videos on YouTube.
JZ: What is it you like about these factories?
VH: I love how calm it is. So optimised. All the movements are so clean. I just read about this town in China, that is allegedly building the first unmanned factory. Although, even then there will still be some Homer Simpson style employees.
I wonder, would people get back to the Agora [a central spot in ancient Greek city-states] if robots did their work but they still got an income, as Guy Standing was talking about at The Long Progress Bar [Lighthouse’s festival of radical imagination]. Would the masses actually then be proactive? Or do you just fall into some Netflix binge?
JZ: Do you know New Babylon [an anti-capitalist city, perceived and designed in 1959-74 as a future potentiality by Dutch visual artist Constant Nieuwenhuys]?
VH: I don’t know New Babylon, promising name! [smiles]
JZ: Because that answers your question. tl;dr Constant thought people in a society in which robots would do the work and people would be free to roam and realise their potential, in some Huizinga utopia, would instead fight and kill each other. This fearful realisation is dread: the dizziness of freedom, the shadow of ecstasy and a kind of bad sublime. Or as Freud called it, a “readiness for danger.”
Do you have an idea of what form your final work will take, at the end of your residency?
VH: It’s gonna be an audioplay, or an audio piece with a narrative. However you wanna call it.
JZ: You’re curating our November Progress Bar. What can people expect?
VH: I don’t fully know myself [laughs]. Sensory tingling. I mean the only project I’m completely familiar with is Jenna’s [Sutela] video piece, When You Moved [a sci-fi video essay that explores the relationship between the body and its technologically mediated environment].
Claire [Tolans] is building something new for this [Progress Bar]. Mutated powerpoint. I briefed Bill [Kouligas] about the night’s other content and the loose theme and he’s putting music/sounds together based on that. So yeah, I guess it’s about tinkering our interface to the world, our body and the senses especially.
As this is not an exhibition but more of a free flowing event, I want to leave the outcome more open and retain room for certain spontaneity. All three artists are people whose work I’ve been really interested in and impressed with for years now, so I’m confident that having them in the same arena will create something really great.
For our November Progress Bar, Ville will be in discussion with music producer and founder of PAN music label Bill Kouligas and sound artist Claire Tolan about their work and how our senses act as an interface for the world, and the ways in which that interface can be expanded, modified and manipulated.
Also being screened is When You Moved (2014), a sci-fi video essay that explores the relationship between the body and its technologically mediated environment, by Finnish artist Jenna Sutela.
Find out more and get tickets for November’s Progress Bar.
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