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Eglė Budvytytė. Photo: Niels Stomps

Eglė Budvytytė’s performance at Kiasma Theatre 0

At 4pm on September 15, the autumn season of Helsinki’s Kiasma Theatre will begin with a performance of Orcas and Volcanoes – Incantation Karaoke by the Netherlands-based Lithuanian artist Eglė Budvytytė (1981). Located on the ground floor of the Kiasma contemporary art museum, the theatre’s programme is created to complement the exhibitions on view in the museum. Eglė Budvytytė’s performance is part of the currently ongoing exhibition There and Back Again: Contemporary Art from the Baltic Region (through March 24), which addresses what it means to live in a specific geographic location and how that influences a person’s identity as well as their mental and physical sense of belonging. On view are works by 26 artists representing the countries in the eastern Baltic Sea region – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, and Russia –presenting their ideas and interpretations about how much our origins inspire our value systems, and how stable/changeable our sense of belonging is in today’s very open physical and informational environment. Budvytytė’s performance is also a dedication to Lithuania’s centenary, and the first time that the artist is presenting her work in a traditional theatre space.

Jonna Strandberg, senior producer at Kiasma Theatre, tells ‘We had been following Eglė Budvytytė’s work for a few years, and now it just felt like the right moment to invite her in the context of Kiasma’s collection exhibition There and Back Again - Contemporary Art from the Baltic Region. Her work seems to be just perfect in the area we are working in – contemporary performances. Also, we are very excited to offer her the first opportunity to work in a theatre space, even if the space itself isn’t the most conventional theatre space due to its curved form and red walls.’

Budvytytė has a background in the visual arts, and has entered the field of performance art relatively recently. At the focus of her performances are feminism and associated themes, as well as globally relevant environmental issues. The work being presented at Kiasma Theatre is based on Budvytytė’s own texts which she has turned into songs. According to the artist, by focusing on the rhythm and more tactile forms of language, the songs of this work are almost like sculptures. Content-wise and through the paradigm of eco-feminism, the songs deal with the extinction of various earthly species. 

‘I am using repetition and rhythm to turn these songs into a kind of incantation, a sort of a spell (the songs form the first part of the work). The second part is an invitation for the audience to join in a sing-along. I want to create a moment of collective singing in the form of karaoke, although highly abstracted – without images or recognisable melodies,’ says Budvytytė.

Eglė Budvytytė’s drawing "Incantation karaoke"

Karaoke has achieved the status of being a kind of social tradition in Finland, the roots of which Jonna Strandberg sees stemming from ‘the 90s depression, during which Karaoke bars opened up all over Finland. Karaoke is something that unites people from the working classes to the highest social groups and brings them together. So it might be seen as something of a democratising process. There are people who are doing Karaoke seriously, repeatedly, and even competitively...although the most important thing is to have fun together. In a Finnish Karaoke bar, you can find very shy people or people who don’t normally sing, or who consider that they can’t really sing, just shining.’

Performance makes up a very essential part of the programme shown at Kiasma Theatre, and when asked about the future of the genre, Strandberg answers: ‘As a curator, I have been living inside of the performance art scene for such a long time that it is quite hard to see the big picture clearly. But still, I sincerely feel that the visual and performance art scenes are increasingly coming together; many (art-related) boundaries are blurring, and there are always more and more performances around us in the art world in general. So, contemporary performance art is doing quite alright. About the future – I feel good. I don’t want to simplify such a complex question, but in short, I don’t personally believe that a body that wants to keep in contact with another body is something that is disappearing. This doesn’t mean that in the future we will not also see more technology and/or nonhuman creators on stage. And the stage can also be virtual. I believe that many questions that we, as a world, are facing, both currently and in the future, will be discussed or dealt with in convenient and creative ways through performances.’

Eglė Budvytytė. Photo: Niels Stomps