REALITY RESEARCH CENTER
Reality Research Center, founded in 2001, is a collective of artists engaged in performative adventures. Our shared aspiration is to observe, question, and renew reality by creating performances.
Performances are both the instrument and the fruit of our research; every year we produce several projects that expand and break not only the prevailing concept of reality, but also the borders and definitions of performative art. Most of our performances take place outside of traditional art spaces: in the woods, in offices, on the street, in boxing rings, in virtual reality, in parliament, or in homes. Exceptional circumstances require exceptional care for the spectator - over the years we have become specialists in audience development. The spectators and their experiences are the focal point of our interest. That is why we often replace the word spectator with experiencer, participant, or even author.
In the 21st century, Finland has seen the emergence of performance and live art (FI: esitystaide), an art form located somewhere between theatre, performance art, and contemporary dance. Performance and live art is related to the general performative turn in society - nowadays performativity is of interest not only to artists but also to event producers, consultants, teachers, digital service developers, health care professionals, and the game and advertisement industries, among others.
During the past 15 years, Reality Research Center has been establishing the position of performance and live art on the Finnish cultural landscape, and has carried out more than 100 performance projects. In addition we have organized workshops, seminars, events, and disturbances; our creations include a pedagogical method, a mystery school, a prison residency, art larcenies, and urban rituals. We have participated in long-term international projects and our performances tour abroad regularly. We started our publishing activities in 2007 with the launch of Esitys magazine and have since released several books as well. The newcomer in our family of publications is the online magazine ICE HOLE - the Live Art Journal.
So, Reality Research Center is not a theatre, even though many of our members have a background in that field, and some of our work falls within the borders of contemporary theatre. We are a crew of disagreeing performing arts professionals - directors, actors, choreographs, lighting designers, musicians, game designers, ritual artists, cultural pedagogues. Reality Research Center is not a secret society, either. Every autumn anybody interested in the artistic research of reality can apply as a member. At the moment we are a group of 40. In addition to our members, 15-50 visiting artists or scholars take part in our productions yearly.
For 15 years Reality Research Center has stayed two steps ahead of others. That’s why our performances may seem strange and we might stay below the popular radar. But, when a certain performative approach becomes a trend, it is probable that some of us have already experimented with it. We are contemporary explorers and the outpost of the future; the avant-garde of the Finnish performative arts.
RESEARCH ISLANDS 2016-2017
Reality Research Center has renewed its operational structure. For 2016-17, the core activities are organized as research islands instead of a unifying research theme. The members, invited artists, and experts form five islands, each of which has its own subject, methods, and performative forms. The islands are Platonic Island, Work Island, The Nonhuman Island, SexLab and Mytho Logic.
Over two millennia have passed since Plato wrote his famous dialogue The Republic; it’s been one century since the state of Finland was formed, and still philosophers have no place in our democratic system. Mysteries of Love is a seven-year platonic body of work, offering tangible, personal, and political solutions to the crises with which citizens struggle in the era of environmental worry and post-colonialism.
The project re-evaluates the cultural heritage of Antiquity in the context of contemporary art, focusing on the moments when theatre and democracy were born, on the rituals that gave birth to them, the mystery cults behind those rituals, and platonic philosophy.
The fourth episode of the series, the mystery play Plato’s Republic, aims to relocate theatre in the present polis. In classical antiquity, attending the theatre was a duty connected to citizenship. Once thrown inside the frame of contemporary art, The Republic negotiates the meaning of being good through the form of a mystery play. While doing that, it evaluates the meaning of the good in the political environment of today, in which democracy is questioned across party lines. What is the place of spirituality in politics?
Plato proposed that a Council of Philosophers would guide political decisions in the state. Plato’s Republic is made with an audience of 21 protagonists, who will form this Council at the end of the play. The protagonists are prepared for this task by five acts performed across nine days. Greek gods guide their paths as they strive to lay foundations to a just and good state.
Performances in May and September 2017.
Group: Maria Oiva, Jani-Petteri Olkkonen, Tuomas Laitinen
The project investigates how we see working life today, how work is represented, and how work affects our lives.
Can we predict the future of work? At least, we can make some coherent observations on how the very meaning of work and wage labour have changed: work becomes increasingly abstract; the border between our personal lives and work lives becomes more obscure, and according to researchers the concept of work as we know it is disintegrating. Is work merely a tool for controlling the masses, and are we in the middle of a revolution?
The project continues the research on the topic of work by Pilvi Porkola and Janne Saarakkala, started in 2007 with a focus on new work, characterized by changes in working environment, work time, and patterns of work. A character named Panda became the embodiment and performance of new work. Panda is always at work - 24/7 - even though he never seems to be doing anything that could be considered work in the traditional meaning.
"STOP PRODUCING, START SEDUCING!" – Panda
WORK 5.0 – BREAD:
In 2017 the project investigates physical labour in the form of baking traditional Finnish rye bread. The performance is open and participatory.
Whilst wage labour evaporates and the forms of working become more abstract, the desire to see one’s imprint and to feel the strain of physical labour are more present than ever. The performance focuses on traditional, physical work that is shared between the performers and the spectators by baking and sharing the bread.
THE NONHUMAN ISLAND
The Nonhuman Island is a two-year performative research project that approaches nonhuman beings as potential performance makers, proposing to not only collaborate with them but also create working structures and performances on their terms.
The project delves into the following questions: What kinds of performances emerge if the makers consist of other-than-human beings? How do these performances change our perception and experience of reality? What kinds of changes do our ways of thinking and working need to go through in order for us to collaborate artistically with nonhuman beings, and how do these changes challenge the conventions of performing arts? What ways of performing, spectating, and participating might nonhuman beings suggest and enable? Can a performance happen without any human intervention or contribution?
The two-year working process is divided into three phases, each of which makes more space for nonhuman agencies and forms of authorship. In 2016, it consisted of a research process and a series of events that were open to human and nonhuman participants alike: in the spring, we approached nonhuman entities and life forms as possible collaborators; whereas in the fall, we looked both into their ways of performing and initiating performative situations, and into the resulting forms of spectatorship and participation.
On May 27th and 28th 2017, we will organize a two-day seminar concerning nonhuman forms of performance and authorship. The first day will be dedicated to a series of three discussions: the first will focus on questions of performing and performance-making, the second on questions of authorship and collaboration, and the third on the political relevance of interspecies and nonhuman forms of performance. The second day of the seminar will consist of two performances that reflect the methods of working that have developed during the two years of research.
The seminar will take place at Esitystaiteen keskus – The Center for Performing Arts, Suvilahti, Helsinki, Puhdistamo building.
Working group: Anniina Ala-Ruona, Saara Hannula, Minja Mertanen, Linda Priha, Kati Raatikainen
SexLab explores sexuality: its manifestations in culture, its diversity and possibilities, its boundaries and taboos, its ontology and philosophy, and of course, sexuality in performance.
What kind of sexual reality dominates us? How can we disassemble and re-create sexuality through art?
SexLab POWER / COMMUNITY
The Power/Community working group approaches sexuality through ritual and participatory performative environments. The process emphasizes the ritualistic nature of sexuality, power and surrendering. The research question is: In what kind of performative environment / community it is possible to for people to explore their own individual sexuality and re-create new forms of sexuality.
The Bedroom performance will be completed in the fall of 2017.
The working group: Julius Elo, Outi Condit, Anna Maria Häkkinen, Alisa Javits and Eero-Tapio Vuori
SexLab SACRED / MYSTERY
The Sacred/Mystery working group is looking for ways to create rituals to approach sexuality from the point of view of the sacred, mysterious, and ecstatic. Our aim is to re-evaluate the archaic and classical ritual practices and how they could be used today. The research question is: What could be an updated and performative version of Elysian mysteries?
The piece Cave Ritual will be completed in the fall of 2017.
The Working Group: Eero-Tapio Vuori, Jani-Petteri Olkkonen, Jenny Suhonen, Hannele Kirjavainen
Cave Gallery: SexLab’s Cave Working Group’s research trip on the roots of the theatre and ritual in Brazil.