Investing in a
new dance generation
in Europe
Credits: Joshua
Culture Program of the European Comission

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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ARTIST PROFILE: Veli Lehtovaara

RITA NATALIO : How do you feel about being labeled a young or emerging artist, both in its positive/negative aspects?

VELI LEHTOVAARA: About being labeled, I feel a bit uncomfortable and also slightly distracted. It raises a question of who is labeling me and for what reasons. Is it the market speaking and how do I relate to that? It also sounds a bit like “it is now or never”, which is for me a distractive thought in the context of making art or other creative work.  And in more generally thinking, to label something that is emerging is always to some extend a violent act.
The expression “a young and emerging artist“ tastes like a promise. It could be used to direct the attention of the persons working in between artists and hypothetical audiences. In this sense the expression is useful, but quite empty. Who is using the expression, making a promise, is more important than the content of it.

I decided to think the words “being labeled”, “young” and “emerging” trough an association game with a help of a dictionary:

1) Being labeled: object, information, trade, identity, sovereignty.

Label is a tool for trading. Receiving a label raises the question of recognizing or ignoring it and identifying with it or not. I do recognize the risk to identify with labels and by doing so losing the sovereignty in what I do.

2) Young: pristine, intact, untouched, virgin, undisturbed, sacrosanct.

Being young is always attractive. And as a label it increases ones marketability, without revealing too much anything else.

3) Emerging: coming in to view, break out from a cocoon, recover from or survive a difficult or demanding situation

I fancy the last definition. It also makes me think of what if the “being labeled a young or emerging artist” is itself the demanding situation that I need to recover and survive from in order to become an artist.

4) Artist:

The source of artworks (products) vs. a culmination of creativity (being alive)

I think that reformulating the question by converting the concepts ‘young’ and ‘emerging’ reveals the flip side, shortsightedness and the absurdity of the “hungry” market: “How do you feel about being labeled an old or regressive artist?” We can’t ask this from anyone, but maybe we should?

RITA NATALIO: A lot is said about the democratization of access to training and the means of production in today’s art world. Have you experienced this trend in any meaningful way in your professional life?

VELI LEHTOVAARA: I haven’t been following the discussion on the issue, but it reminds me of one thing that has lately happened in Finland. In 2004 the Network of Regional Dance Centers was founded and during last nine years the network has supported the freelance artist trough out the country. I think this has been a remarkable step towards more democratic and geopolitically spread means of dance production inside the country. Organizations forming the network have very light structures and limited resources, but a powerful effect to the grass-root and local activity. Personally I have no experience of democratic access to training in arts. All the professional training I have accessed has demanded participation (giving recognition) to auditions and selection processes.

RITA NATALIO : Does network-based production and support for your work influence how and what you do?

VELI LEHTOVAARA:I think it does. The knowledge of how the networks function helps me to understand how I should organize the thing that I want to do. Also because of the networks the information of what I do has reached people and organizations and this has helped in creating and circulating my work. The challenge is to stay independent while acknowledging the different interests and preferences that organizations forming the networks always have.
At the moment I am thinking a lot about locality and inter-locality. I see them as counter forces to international market, power centralization and pressure for unified development in Europe. The networks can provide an access to local environments and communities and bridges to move information, activity and knowledge from one to another. This is something I am interested about and I see there a possibility to create new methods of practicing the art form parallel to the traditional piece making.

RITA NATALIO: When was the last time you were with or talked to someone who is also part of the Départs network (artist or partner)? What did you do or talk about? If you’d like, send us a few lines about this person, a snap shot.

VELI LEHTOVAARA:In the end of March I had a conversation with Mikko Hyvönen and few other colleagues about possibilities to work in a well-organized way outside the production cycle and it’s time perspective. What it would mean to remove or erase the idea of a performance as an entity connecting dance-artists and audiences? How to work with the paradox of ‘the audience without a performance’?
The idea of removing the recognized product (performance) might offer a possibility to redefine or reinvent the meaning of such concepts as ‘artist’, ‘work’ and ‘audience’. Maybe the concept of ‘performance’ itself could be rediscovered under the conditions that are not defined by the market.
One of us was concerned of the possibility that there will not be an outcome. Mikko answered by saying that he is concerned that there actually will be an outcome and what that will be. There was some intriguing excitement in his voice. Mikko Hyvönen is a freelance performer and choreographer. Currently he is working on a performance titled From routes untraveled, which will premiere in May 2012.

RITA NATALIO. Who would you most like to meet from the départs network?

VELI LEHTOVAARA:I would like to meet Rita Natalio and to talk about networks and locality.