TaikaBox is based in the small village of Varjakka on the coast of Gulf of Bothnia, about 18km SouthWest of Oulu.
Varjakka has a school, harbour, manor house, bar and is currently home to around 400 households.
A small deserted Island sits just off the coast, accessible by boat or cable ferry in the Summer, and by walking or skiing when the sea becomes frozen.
It was not always so quiet.
100 years ago, Varjakka was a busy industrial centre, with the island home to Varjakka Sawmill – one of the biggest in Europe at the time. The mill attracted workers from all over Finland, Sweden and Russia and Varjakka was home to most of the 700 employees. In 1929, the Wall Street crash had affected international trade and when the main drive shaft failed, it was decided that the mill was no longer viable. Gradually the island became abandoned. During the second world war, prisoners from the nearby POW camp worked on the island making charcoal and then it was a holiday destination in the 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s.
We are fascinated by the local history and have a mission to increase cultural activity in the area. In 2017 we started a programme of artist residencies, launching an open call for artists to come and spend two weeks in Varjakka. Over the last few years we have developed the project to focus on bringing artists together to research collaborative practice.
In 2017, Luke Fair, a Canadian visual artist living in Denmark, arrived and spent time in the local village association’s fishing hut, kayaking around the island and collecting materials to process into natural paints. He experimented with a range of drawings and paintings and ran a workshop for the local community. We ended the residency with a big picnic evening of food and chat.
2018 featured the OHO KEHO collective, with a group of dance artists making site-specific movement sketches in the konttori building on Varjakka Island.
In 2019 we ran an Art Lab, opening the konttori every weekday throughout July and running a regular ferry service. In addition to this, the international residency featured Sunčica Pasuljević Kandić from Serbia, Nancy Dewhurst from the UK and Oulu’s Inkeri Jäntti.
Unfortunately, the events of 2020 led to the international residency being impossible and travel to the island made much more difficult by the pandemic restrictions. Instead we focused on the mainland, developing Warjakka Community Gardens and AR experience, and working with local artist Mirjami Mäkelä who created an art walk through the forest and a programme of workshops and activities.
In July 2021 we returned to the island with three dance artists as part of a much larger international project initiated by Goethe Institut in London.
CROWD is a dance residency programme developed together with European partners in a time when international sharing and human togetherness is needed more than ever.
This research programme aims to support dance artists with an established practice in community engaged dance making for a series of residencies in Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and England. Participating artists have the opportunity to extend their professional network, work alongside peers to exchange and develop their individual and collective practice, whilst generating new knowledge in the area of community engagement in dance.
The three artists who met for the first time in Varjakka in Summer 2021:
In 2022, CROWD returned for its second year, this time the network had grown to incorporate producers and hosts in Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Scotland. In this year’s project we hosted Rita Marcalo from Ireland and Finnish artist Silja Tuovinen. Oulu City was in the process of selling off the building in the island, so we focused on the mainland, dancing and meeting the local community in and around the Warjakalaiset fishing hut, the community gardens, art walk and Warjakka B&B.
CROWD 2023 will take place in Varjakka over the second half of July when we welcome Anni Puuperä and Natalia Barua to Varjakka.
Check out crowd.dance for more details.