Departures and Arrivals



Paper Machines
Rita Natalio

Veli Lehtovaara is one of the seven Focus Artists of the [DNA] project. “Clandestine sites: Displaced” is Veli Lehtovaara’s new creation with coproduction from DNA partner ZODIAK and support in residence from VOORUIT.

 We went to Helsinki to see the premiere at Moving In November Festival!



Paper machines

By Rita Natálio



One week ago, we moved in November in Helsinki with Veli Lehtovaara’s new work “Clandestine sites: displaced”, presented at Media Centre Lume. It was the world premiere of this work where Lehtovaara invites a group of artists (Chrysa Parkinson, Eleanor Bauer, Ville Ahonen and Marianna Henriksson) to create a work where performance is considered an amorous (love) relation.

“Clandestine sites: displaced” is composed of four different solos by these four invited artists, based on the work of Roland Barthes “A lover’s discourse - Fragments” (1977). In “A lover’s discourse”, the French author plays with several dimensions of the amorous relationship, namely the unrequited pursuit of the lover for identification with an anonymous and ideal lover. Also, literary references are often put together to form a constellation of fragments from the lover’s point of view. Love is thus the common ground where relations are built up, an interface for communication, which can be transposed into the performing arts realm as the relation between performer and spectator, a relation that also refers to idealized visions and conventions.

By adapting Barthes’ writing to the situation of a performance in “Clandestine sites: displaced”, love signs are explored within separate performative apparatus. Four heterogeneous sets created by the artists invited by Veli Lehtovaara propose a travel through language and choreography, where both spectators and performers must move (displace) in order to meet each other.



To begin with, an installation proposed by Chrysa Parkinson, a solo for an absent performer. When we enter the black box, several “paper machines” are installed in the space: a giant sculpture of stressed book pages conveys messages of an absent body, a motorized roll of book pages glides in front of our eyes and we are attracted to cut and bookmarked words like “absence”, “love” and “presence”. Wandering in Chrysa’s territory, we meet Barthes’ book but also its references to Virginia Woolf, Goethe, Diderot, etc. These names are among the ghosts that we cross in the hall of performance as an amorous relationship, whereas we lean to consider ourselves as absent spectators and books as graveyards of communication. In this first solo-installation we are invited to feel Chrysa’s presence through her absence, the delicacy of her voice addressing Performance as the “beloved one”, as we suddenly enter the magical realm of Eleanor Bauer.


  1. DANCE

Sober and smooth like her roller-skating, Eleanor’s solo starts with a circular voyage in what was once Chrysa’s domain. The body of Eleanor represents the body of the dancer, a divided body, or a new upcoming body, just as “Orlando”, the hybrid figure created by Virginia Woolf that shows up in Bauer’s sparse moments of speech. The dancer is the figure in between the performer and the idealized vision of the performer that the spectator relates to, an half male half female figure, an half given half hidden being, an half me half you apparition.



The third solo of the night is Ville Ahonen’s musical proposal, a set of songs (love songs) created for this work, along with very famous songs like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” sang in Finnish. His awkward movement partition, moving and singing at the same time, resumes the question of address between the lover and the beloved one. Ville presents us the body of the “troubadour” who recites and moves the quest for the opacity of love. In between words, music and small gestures which shortcut meaning, we are invited to “darken the darkness”, and “this is the gate for all wonder”.


  1. MUSIC

After Ville’s proposal comes the final solo by Marianna Henriksson, a harpsichord solo based on musical partitions from the 16th and 17th centuries. As we come to this final moment of the piece, one of the “paper machines” of the first installation becomes present once again, bringing up its feeling of absence. Music is the doorways for all projections and oblivions, for sure, but here it turns a dance show into a meditation. While Ville sings “I enter the night of non-meaning”, the non-verbal harpsichord creates non-meaning and moves towards the Performance as the beloved one.


 In the end, if we revise the dramaturgical path constructed between these 4 parts, we will arrive to the conclusion that each individual solo proposes a dialogue with Barthes’ book but doesn’t necessarily relate to the other solos, apart from strong conceptual organization. However, I would say that these melancholic conceptual moves in between parts thrust Barthes’ work, where love is treated as a matter of philosophical concern and thus submitted to its surgical operations. The heterogeneity of “Clandestine Sites: displaced” makes us think of Edouard Glissant:


"But does not the world, in its exploded oneness, demand that each person be drawn to the recognized opacity of the other?