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Kuopio Art and Dance

Last Wednesday I drove to Kuopio, a city in Eastern Finland. In so many ways it felt nostalgic to see Kuopio again - so many different layers of my memories are connected to Kuopio. Like, in the summers of my teenage years we often went sailing together with my dad, starting from a river-mouth near our countryside home, sailing for a day and half we could reach the city of Kuopio, and stop there to eat and to refill supplies. Also, about the first half of the years of UnReal World development Sami lived in Kuopio, oh many were the times I visited him, sometimes just to relax, but often to do art and coding together. Well well, but nostalgia wasn't the purpose of my trip to Kuopio, now I went there to attend the opening of an art exhibition. Or, to be precise, it was a dual exhibition; "Pimento" by Katarina Karppinen and "Töitä Perkele!" by Jussi-Pee Hämäläinen. Katarina is Sami's partner, they've been living together for many years. So, her art exhibition opening felt like a reason enough to drive to Kuopio.

The gallery was located on the upstairs of an old wooden storage house next to the guest harbour. It was nice to see a good number of people coming to see the opening. The atmosphere was enchanted by Mika Jaakkola playing live music. Jussi-Pee's part of the exhibition combined sculpture, installations and paintings, playing with grotesque humour, with some sense of fury and protest. Some of his works felt almost like assaulting the eyes of watcher, there was such an intensity you couldn't ignore. Katarina's part was more meditative; the whole room was almost dark, there were three frames installed onto walls, and video projectors were used to display the pictures. One frame had a looping video, the other two had a series of photographs. Actually, I think you can see her part of the exhibition online on her webpage (depending on your internet connection, the page might take a short while to load).

Many of Katarina's photos have interiors or landscapes with ghost-like human figures. I had seen some of the pictures earlier on her computer monitor, but they were even more impressive when projected on the wall in a dark room. ("Pimento" means something like 'a dark place'). Instead of assaulting your retinas, Katarina's photos offered more like a subtle invitation to take a closer look, to pause to think and to feel. I especially liked the one with the railway station platform - I've always liked trains and railways, and in my adult life a railway station has been such a symbol of departures and arrivals; meeting and parting, going out for an adventure, coming back home, and once I experienced a minor train crash - I was sitting on the rear seat row in the the last wagon, waiting for the train to leave, when a train engine accidentally driving on a wrong track hit the back of the last wagon. Luckily enough the engine was on slow speed, had it been a bit faster and I'd guess it would've made me like those ghost-like light-figures you see on Katarina's photos. I mean, for me the power of Katarina's pictures lies in the way how they don't rub a ready-made message onto your face, but they invite you to listen to your own associations, they carry you towards your own feelings, fears and hopes when facing the signs and memories of the finiteness of human life.

The place was not just that gallery alone, but the whole complex included a restaurant, an another art gallery, and another storage house converted to a venue for concerts etc. We ate at the restaurant, and I went to see what they have in the another gallery room. There were paintings and drawings of Slava Radov, titled "Magic of Dance"; pictures of people dancing classical partner dances (tango, I'd guess). All the passion, the romantic anticipation, the joy and celebration and vitality was there, made visible by Slava's brush.

Later on in the evening another kind of magic of dance took place, as Tuukka and Sami started to play a DJ set. Many of the exhibition opening guests came to dance, and some random people turned up as well. Piece by piece Tuukka convinced the people that tonight it doesn't matter how your dancing looks like, as it is all about how it feels. A healthy dose of craziness was unleashed, as people just let go and danced wildly to all the silly, funny, beautiful and energetic pieces. It was only about fifteen people dancing, which created a nice tribal sense of togetherness, and the communication and interplay between DJs and dancers flowed effortlessly.

At 11 pm the dance party was over, and we spent a while hanging around and chatting in the white night.

Singer-songwriter Mika Jaakkola plays lap steel guitar
Singer-songwriter Mika Jaakkola plays lap steel guitar
Pimento by Katarina Karppinen
Pimento by Katarina Karppinen
DJs at work
DJs at work
30 minutes to midnight
30 minutes to midnight
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