Life is not a story with Minna-Kaisa Kallinen

Helsinki based resident Minna-Kaisa Kallinen currently inhabits our studio with her performance work Mountain that constitutes the third and final part of her trilogy Life is not a story. This is the story of the three (non) stories.

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– The idea for this trilogy, called Life is not a story, began to develop in my mind in the autumn 2016. I had just walked out from a movie theater where I saw a documentary film about Nick Cave. He said in that film that he doesn’t believe in the narrative anymore. He said that life is not a story. When I got back home I started to write down the things which arose from his words. Within a few days the idea for the trilogy was formed. Even though these three parts form a trilogy, they are independent parts, connected by stories and their position in society.

The form (a text based performance) was there from the beginning, but the actual performances have been developing a lot from the first ideas and the sketches. In the beginning my idea was to create performances that wouldn’t have any kind of structure or storyline. The idea was to make them detached from a clear starting and ending point. Pretty soon I rejected the idea. It didn’t feel like the right way to process the whole thing, or it felt too obvious.

Around that time John Berger passed away and the social media was full of the things he had written, said and done. One video caught my eye. It was a conversation with Susan Sontag and they were talking about stories. In that video Berger said that all fiction is a fight against the absurd [life]. He said that dreams and stories are terrifying because, even in the absurd ones, everything has a meaning. The first part, A Rescue from the absurd, of my performance was mainly based on that idea and it happened partly inside a dream.

The second part, Apples and plastic bags, began to develop around news that I had read on the Internet. The news told a story of tens of big black plastic bags full of apples left to the woods. Some by-passer had found them while walking his dog there. The reporter said that this phenomenon was quite a widely spread thing, that these gardeners who were drowning with their apples were getting rid of them in ways which would not bare the daylight. There was also a picture from the spot where the apples were found. Somehow the pictures and the news really triggered me. The actual performance, like the first one, was happening on two levels: in a more personal one and a general one.

The ending part, which I am working with here at c.off, is called Mountain. It is dealing with goals and aims but mainly failure, fumble, error, frustration. We are thought from a very young age to seek something great and big and often with a good story. To whom or to what have these success stories been made? Are these stories actually a big part of the system we live in? In this piece I am asking what kind of society we would have if we would be thought to fumble, to fail better? All parts are based on my writing. The performances are audio visual, meaning they consist of videos but also sounds that I have made by myself or with Juuso Paaso with whom I form a duo called Maanalle.

I usually start from something small. It can be a visual thing or a verbal, like one sentence. Then the actual writing begins. After I have produced some written material, I start to visualize the performance. That can go on, and normally it actually goes pretty far from the first thoughts or visual ideas. Throughout the working period I collect lots of stuff, like sounds, music videos or text which somehow reflect my work.

Sometimes when I’m looking back at the early sketches it may seem like a whole different thing, but I try to be as open as possible to changes. I also try to work in a way that won’t tie myself too much to the initial idea, so the work has its freedom to move where it wants to go.

My plan is to get all the pieces of the performance ready here at c.off – that is text, videos and the order of them. The first week at c.off I have been working with the videos. I am not a dancer but I like to dance. I am also fascinated about the smooth movements dancers can do with their bodies. This autumn I signed into a few dance courses. My goal was to get more movement into my body. Of course the smoothness needs more time than a few months, so I “failed”, but here at c.off I have been dancing (not so smoothly) in the pace of pop songs and filming myself doing it. I will be using this material in the performance. On the last week I will be planning for the order of the pieces and make the first try-outs of the whole thing.

After this residency I will go back to Finland and I will have the performance at Third Space gallery, on the 7th of January 2018.

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Follow links for more info about Minna-Kaisas work and the upcoming performance at Third Space gallery.
Minna-Kaisa Kallinen website
Third Space gallery website
Facebook event for the performance and exhibition