/ The Knowledge of the Earth / Marja Haapakangas & Maria Laitila: Seusuo

Marja Haapakangas & Maria Laitila: Seusuo

Seusuo is one of the dance videos in the project Luonnotila – The Shape of Nature. Each dance video has its own unique world. The project creates space for bodily communication between contemporary dance, video art, sound art and nature. It is a trek by two artists, a journey in nature in a search of places that have an impact which makes one stop; places that allow one to encounter their inner and outer worlds. It tells of an embodied dialogue between a dancer and a film-maker and nature. The Shape of Nature is a speech for and of nature.

Seusuo was filmed in the peatland of Kemijärvi, Lapland. At the Art Ii Biennial the video was set up as an installation that creates a quiet conversation between the video and some industrially produced peat on the floor.

Peatlands are an important part of nature’s diversity, and their capability to store carbon is meaningful in the age of climate change. The swamp can be experienced as a healing oasis or unpredictable land, even as a non-place. Experiencing the swamp raises a feeling of instinctive alertness in the body. Swamps are fascinating places whose mythology and stories evoke strong images and emotions. For us they are captivating places that hide treasures in their layers. What kind of experiences has the swamp preserved in itself?

What sort of a holistic and multisensory experience can it be to be in a peatland? The natural experience of being in the middle of a swamp overwhelms your entire body. The strong scent of rosemary is an inseparable part of the environment of age-old swamps. The magnificent colours of deep and warm yellow, rusty red, silvery grey in dead pine trees, hints of starry white in the flowers of cloudberries, are all held in the arms of surrounding forested and rugged hills.

We want to pay attention to a post-humanistic point of view as well. When we had chosen the locations for our video, we first asked the swamp how it sees us. Nevertheless, the history and memory of a swamp is so long compared to humans’ time on this planet. The peat placed on the floor brings responsibility into consideration. How can we build a more equal relationship with nature by cherishing its diversity?

The impressive presence we experienced during the dance event and filming can be felt in our work. It gives hope for a balanced world where there is room to wonder about both the inner and outer worlds in your own way – breathing in and building a culture of compassion.

The dance was filmed in silence, trusting the inner river and turning towards it.

Marja Haapakangas & Maria Laitila

Marja Haapakangas is a video artist, fine artist and art teacher from Paimio, Finland. She graduated with a Bachelor of arts from the University of Lapland. Her video art and paintings have been installed in Finland in galleries since 2002. Her method in film-making is bodily as well as deeply thoughtful. Moving with a camera is a kind of authentic movement. In dance videos, she occasionally works as a mirror for a dancer. The camera can also be like an extension of the film-maker’s body.

Maria Laitila works in the field of performing arts and contemporary art pedagogy. Her enthusiasm has grown for the questions of life, communication, consciousness and emotions. She has a Master of Education degree from the University of Lapland. She also undertook basic studies in Theatre Education and Dance Pedagogy at Uniarts Helsinki. Her practice is influenced by martial arts, butoh, somatics and creative movement. People have experienced her performances at the TEHDAS theatre, art galleries and happenings in Finland.