What are you doing with your hands?

For the second time this year – and in my life – I had the luck to be invited to Helsinki, Finland. This time the host was Nordic Culture Point (Kulturkontakt Nord), and the occasion was the seminar:

The Role of Culture in a Sustainable Society – Sustainability in Art and Cultural Projects

My contribution was a workshop, and as I am stubbornly continuing in my aim to find out what we can do to build sound collectives, this time as well, I invited the participants to a collective experimentation with – not drugs  – but gesture.

The participants at the seminar were people who in some way or another dedicate their professional life to arts and culture, and I saw this as a great opportunity to try out something new. You see, I have this thing for our everyday life practices, things we do with our hands, things we create, we produce, etc.

The inspiration springs from my thoughts when going back from my residency in Cali, Colombia, 2014. I had a project there about informal work, street vendors, etc., and in Cali this was an area of very diverse, rich, and sophisticated gestures. The project focused on these gestures, and together with an ad hoc group of artists, I had gathered, we made workshops, happenings, videos, etc., around the patterns of these gestures. These gestures have a very heavy cultural significance, embedded in the everyday lives of the majority, and in the plane from Cali to Copenhagen, I thought: Well, how can we work with something similar in the modern welfare states? All these manual processes, manufacturing goods, etc., have been rationalized, centralized, robotized, and the gestures of our work lives are reduced to taps on our touchpads!

As you can see, the perspective of having a group of people whose work lives are full of sophisticated manual procedures was a really happy one. On top of that, the event itself was a place where it would make a lot of sense to ask the participants to take a round of introduction. The typical format one would use to this end would be the obligatory “speed dating” session.

I felt there was an inherent impulse in the group for getting to know each other, and I chose to grab this and direct it into a collective experiment, where – instead of using language, speed dating – we would get introduced to each other’s worlds through gesture.

Instead of simply asking the participants to do whatever kind of gesture, as I usually do, this time I invited them to do a gesture from an everyday life productive activity, and specified that it be something they felt good about, something they liked doing. Of course some of the participants would choose gestures from their professional life, – I am sure that I spotted some painters and some weavers, maybe a ceramicist – but I left it open for people to include, what they would be doing outside their specific professions.

So, what is the point of all this? Of course there is a great challenge in putting into words what sense it makes to interact without words, and I must admit that the first part where I had tried to explain these things, via good old powerpoint and everything, didn’t seem to have the same effect as the second, practical, part. I guess this is what they mean, when they say “show it”? In any case, if you are interested in being confused on a higher level, as they say, you can read my introductory speech here.

To get an idea about the participant’s response to the workshop itself, see it for yourself:

Second seminar on Culture and Sustainability presented practical examples from the field,  an article by Annika Nummelin about the seminar.

The Role of Culture in a Sustainable Society – Sustainability in Art and Cultural Projects, about the seminar.

Art as consumption vs artists engaging in real life collective processes, my speech at the seminar.

President of Totemization

Today: Workshop with 18 young people from DIS – Danish Institute for Studies Abroad.

On the menu:

  1. Building the collective through: gesture imitation, gesture merging, jibberish, jibberish emotionalized, emotionalizing the space by attributing an emotional state to each corner.
  2. Totemizing the collective. Dividing the group into 6 “tribes”, with “totems” borrowed from our natural biotope, ie elements from free commercial postcards, such as “queen”, “beer”, “car”, “art run”, etc.
  3. Building immaterial instruments. Each “tribe” created an “instrument”, only using what was at hand, with the constraint of using the principle of either an idiophone, membranophone, aerophone, chordophone, electrophone, none-of-the-above-ophone.
  4.  With the sound from the “instruments” recorded, and after a break, we proceeded to performing collective improvisations, a “chorus” using microphones to form the “instrumental” sounds with their voices, “dancers” conducting the chorus by moving in the emotional space. etc.

Here are the resulting collective improvisations:


The Role of Culture in a Sustainable Society, seminar in Helsinki, September 2015

“Culture and art provide our society with creativity, critical thinking, empathy, confidence, risk tolerance and mutual respect. We believe that working with culture and art and through the cultural meeting, we create an essential part of the foundation for the Nordic region and societies to become sustainable”

– Per Voetmann, director, Nordic Culture Point


We are pleased to have assembled a versatile and exciting programme with speakers and examples of inspiring projects from all over the Nordic region:

  • Katriina Soini (FI), postdoc researcher, Cultural Policy, University of Jyväskylä. Topic: Introduction to culture and sustainability
  • Angela Goldin (NO), director, The International Museum of Children’s Art. Topic: How does art projects for, with and by children contribute to a sustainable society?
  • Ola Jacobson (SE), chairperson for the Culture and Art Programme and strategist and responsible for international affairs for Culture Skåne. Will comment on Angela Goldins´ presentation
  • Casper Hernández Cordes (DK), composer, Fonografit and Building Sound Collectives. Topic: Sustainable support and culture and art as a driver for cultural sustainability + artistic intervention about sustainable collectives through sound and movement
  • Kenneth Flak (NO), chairperson for Mobility Funding and choreographer and dancer at Roosna & Flak. Will comment on Casper Hernández Cordes´ presentation and intervention
  • Ulrika Lind (AX), freelance culture and art strategist

Read more here.

My 9 favorite tweets, Day Three at the conference

My 10 favorite tweets from Day Two at the Culture(s) in sustainable futures Conference


12 favorite tweets from day One at the conference about Cultural Sustainability in Helsinki

Day one at the Culture(s) in sustainable futures conference.

These are my favorite tweets from the day:

Bruno Latour was not at the conference (that would have been really awesome), but here is a tweet popping up from @latourbot, that I find really relevant:


Going to the conference in Helsinki? If not, join the live streaming

Not participating in the conference? Here’s a chance to experience part of the program as a live stream.

Cultures in Sustainable Futures, webcast schedule:

Wednesday, 6th May
9.30 – 11.00 Opening plenary
11.30 – 13.00 Plenary I: Culture as the fourth pillar of sustainability and beyond – a dream or achievable goal?

Thursday, 7th May
9.00 – 10.30 Plenary II: Just and sustainable culture(s) from local to global
11.00 – 12.30 Plenary III: Transformations: Towards sustainable ways of life

Friday, 8th May
14.00 – 15.30 Concluding session

Are you joining us at the conference? Or the live stream? Hook up with me on twitter, @fnogr, I will be tweeting along the way!

Link to the webcast:
Read more about the conference:  http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/helsinki2015/programme

Read about my workshop at the conference (not live streamed!) here:

Building Sound Collectives in Helsinki

Building Sound Collectives has been selected for the Conference “CULTURE(S) IN SUSTAINABLE FUTURES: theories, policies, p􀀀ractices”, Helsinki, May 6 – 8 2015.

For three days, the University Jyväskylä will host a series of talks, sessions and panels at the “Wanha Satama” (Finnish for “Old Harbour”), – a renovated warehouse for coffee and spices located in the heart of Helsinki and close to the seashore.

Wanha Satama - before: coffee and spices, now: conference about cultural sustainability

As a part of the conference Ph.D Taru Elfving, is curating the “Open Stage” program, which is “a space for posters, art and performances”; this is where our workshop Building Sound Collectives comes into the picture. It will take place on Friday 8th of May, scheduled as a part of the program for the conference.

This conference is an excellent opportunity to continue our work, learning from knowledgeable people, and inviting participants to engage in a practical, hands-on research into what role non-verbal interaction plays and can play in a  collective’s cultural sustainability.

Read more about the conference here.

Join us! Share, like and comment!!

Can social media help us build our collectives?

I see many benefits in the social media. It is a place where I can easily get in touch with people, and make things in real life happen. Still, I have some serious and growing worries when it comes to their capability for enhancing or building sustainable collectives.

When I am on Facebook, the world that I meet is a highly constricted one. And it is certainly different from the one you  experience. This gradually aggravating digital autism is a consequence of my own – conscious and unconscious  – choices. And of mechanisms, that are working behind the scenes, on which I have absolutely no influence. The algorithms of the social media have an enormous power deciding which information reaches each one of us, and  it is fair to say that they are the most important cultural battleground of our time Tweet:

I am often engaged in interesting dialogues with interesting people on Facebook, much more so than on any other online platform. Unfortunately, I rapidly loose contact with these temporary collectives, and the discussion will die out. Maybe it will start again some other time, but from scratch.

Social media forces us to constantly embrace the new while forgetting about the old, lost in a river of collective digital amnesia. Tweet:  It fosters a logic that matches the way of thinking that has brought us in a situation where we have to look for a growing number of planets to sustain our way of living.
Let’s face it: Facebook is about accumulating cash. This is not less true since the company went public. The push towards commercialization enhances the linearity and the fetishism for the new of Facebook’s surface design and hidden algorithms.

Do you remember in the good old days, when we were told that we were part of a multi-media revolution? What has  happened since then? It is true that we are now sharing photos and videos like crazy at the social media. And that these formats are creating more engagement from followers. Still, when it comes to interaction as such, we are almost exclusively using text. It is still definitely much faster and more efficient to comment on an update via text than via audio and/or video.

Also read this: Is audio the next big social media trend?  

 When reducing our interactions to text alone, what do we miss out? Can smiley faces and other textual tricks substitute for the nuances that are being conveyed through speech? And by this, the whole range of elements of human interaction that serve to build empathy, trust and understanding. Again, the digital deafness of the social media is a consequence of choices that are out of our handsTweet:

Also read this: What’s keeping audio from going viral?

 In an environment of digital autism, amnesia and deafness, how are we supposed to build and sustain our collectives?Tweet:

Cultural sustainability via social mediaSupposing that our collectives are feeding on the access to, and the capacity for understanding the other’s world. Supposing that we need ways of storing our collectively build knowledge and reflections in intuitive and easily retrievable ways. Supposing that we need to engage in dialogue in a way that stimulates trust and empathy. Our social media do not look to good, do they?

There are examples of places on the Internet where parts of these requirements are met. In wikis, we are able to store collectively build knowledge. Check. There are probably thousands of forums where people interacting around more or less obscure shared interests. In a sustainable way. Check. The fact is that most of the time most people spend online is on the social media. And the majority of the social media platforms are failing to provide us with the tools to build and sustain our collectives.Tweet:

Is this a technological problem? Or a cultural one? So you are still thinking about technology as if it was something external to us? Guess what! Our so-called technological revolution is driven by cultural forces. And cultural forces, that’s you and I!Tweet:

Also read this: “Does social media really empower local communities?”

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