This Autumn was marked by TaikaBox launching a community art space in an outlying district of Oulu. Oulunsalo is often many people’s first experience of the region as it is where the airport is located. It used to be a municipality – founded in 1882, but was merged with the city of Oulu in 2013 – and therefore has been having to deal with rethinking its identity.
TaikaBox started its exciting artistic journey in Northern Finland six years ago. Having emerged in Wales in 2010, it used to exist on the international art scene – but mainly focused on the British dance sector. In Northern Finland we concentrated on building sustainable networks within and between local communities, artists and audiences, engaging deeply with site-specific and community-based art making and innovating the art practices with a low-carbon approach, facilitated using new technologies.
The two major sites of our work so far have been Varjakka – the ghostly island in the suburbs of Oulu – and Pikisaari, a little island in the heart of Oulu. In Varjakka we have been organised a number of art residencies and art labs, as well as create Warjakka Community Gardens, complete with an augmented reality app which restores buildings that were destroyed a century ago, and provides a virtual gallery of artworks inspired by, or created in, Varjakka.
Pikisaari was the home of our first studio where we were happy to run rave sessions with digital art elements and a strong mental health awareness vibe – as well as hold a number of projects within the Connected Studio System. This system provides an innovative art space for research, improvisation and performance. Oulu Dance Hack 2021 connected the artists in Oulu and Budapest and Moving Barents 2020 allowed six artists from four countries to reflect on issues of climate change and perform simultaneously for international audiences connected in one performance space.
Summer was the time when we were engaged in the Keho on Dacha / Body is Dacha project connecting TaikaBox’ artists in Varjakka with Arkhangelsk-based artists in a joint long-term research on energising communities through art, technology and gardening.
Then Autumn came, and in October we started building the new space in Oulunsalo.
Opening the studio / gallery space here became a new chapter in TaikaBox’ ongoing in-depth research into community-based art practices. We are still deeply engaged in international collaborations in a number of outstanding projects connecting dance and technology, but it feels like we are also digging deeper into creative immersive experiences for people who have limited access to art. This research brings joy, unexpected beautiful discoveries and inspirations.
Here’re some of the cultural practices we have launched in TaikaBox taidepaja so far:
Daily Energy Boost is TaikaBox’s innovative community dance class supporting self-confidence, strengthening the body-mind connection and energy and reducing stress and fighting anxiety. The project contains simple breathing and dance exercises, a unique soundtrack and a digital projection which enriches the experience of enjoying yourself in a creative way. Daily Energy Boost is a place of harmony and freedom of expression for people of all ages and body types – everybody deserves a recharge during the day, and Daily Energy Boost is a healthy and exciting reminder!
The Boost session lasts 30 minutes and costs just 5 euros per session. It takes place every afternoon – Monday to Friday – at 12:00!
DigiDance is an experience for children – educating and entertaining at the same time. Combining elements of dance and digital art, it is aimed to help children explore and appreciate their imagination and express themselves in original ways. The course develops children’s body awareness, physical and performance skills. DigiDance consists of a warm-up, creative tasks, free improvisation and stretching – all accompanied by colourful interactive projection, fascinating the children who find themselves dancing and performing a visual art improvisation at the same time, painting with light whilst dancing, enjoying the interactive digital reflection on a gigantic screen. It cultivates self-esteem and is also simply a lot of fun!
TaikaBox is running a DigiDance course for children aged 7-12 years old every Tuesday at 16:00-17:00! The seven week course costs 70 euros per participant. The current course session is full, but we’re starting a new one after the Christmas holidays. Stay tuned!
The gallery is open every day Monday to Friday, introducing artworks informed by topics and themes resonating with the local communities and empowering the community spirit. The current exhibition is dedicated to the beautiful old sites of Oulunsalo. The exhibition is free of charge and is available every day at 12:30-14:00. This time is also a good opportunity to chat with us, learn more about our workshops and cultural activities and even see some behind the scenes of our rehearsals and work in progress. The sites of old Oulunsalo will be exhibited until Christmas.
TaikaBox taidepaja also hosted a programme of dance and interdisciplinary art events. With a series of weekly research sessions within Remembering Futures project we are developing in the Connected Studio System with our friends and colleagues in Tatar art collective Alif in Kazan. This project brings together Finnish and Tatar folklore re-worked in a creative way. After creating a short film for the Finnish-Russian Society and a performance at a book festival in SMENA arts centre in Kazan, the project was prematurely ended as a consequences of the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
The other thing we were lucky to be doing in Oulunsalo was bringing the LUMO light festival here. TaikaBox cofounder – visual artist and DJ – John Collingswood – created light installations in the local church (“The Beacon” – “Merkkituli”) and our art space (“1989”).
“1989” was much about combining straight lines and organic shapes – mixing naturally through art, just as cyber and human movement complement each other in harmony, and that’s the essence of TaikaBox’ philosophy.
“Merkkituli” involved rays of light radiating out from the church bell tower, lighting up the frosty Autumn sky above this beautiful place in the North.