Turku: Walking and crossing

Perhaps I ought to learn at least some phrases in Finnish. I feel as close to an imperialist as I’ve ever have, asking people “svenska, talar du svenska?” all the time. Case in point: I forgot to bring a carry-around bag so went hunting for one in second hand stores. In one cramped store I find a cloth bag but try to ask the older lady if she possibly has something similar but with longer handles, appropriate for fashionable slinging up on ones shoulder. I go through English and Swedish and pantomime and am bringing out my notebook for some Pictionary, when both she and her co-worker just wave me out of the store, with a “thank you” (unless “kippis” has a second meaning, such as “shove off”) and gesturing that I can take the bag and leave. At least I hope that’s what they meant, but for all I know they thought I was telling them to “put all your money in this bag, make it large money,” and they were thanking me for not hurting them. I don’t know.

I had ambitions when I first got here that I’d use the time to whip my pasty butt into some sort of shape resembling an actual butt, and started out strong with jogging every second day and even going so far as to checking out the dorm gym. A week later I’m feeling a slight cold coming on and I’m drinking beer and eating crisps for dinner. I’m sure there is a middle-ground somewhere, but I’d be fucked if I can find it. I do hope that I’ll keep up the running though, if for no other reason than to balance out the hours sitting in the studio poking at the RepRap.

Speaking of which, I’m having some progress in the building department, and have half of it put together already. It’s probably the most straightforward part of this whole endeavor, and mostly entails following instructions and spinning a lot of bolts onto rods and such, but at least there’s a physical thing I can point to and say: Behold! Yesterday twas but a heap of rods, today it stands on it’s extruded feet. Verily, progress! etc. etc.

[x_video_embed no_container=”true”][/x_video_embed]

Two more observations regarding the traffic in Turku: First off, the bikers here drive poorly, often on sidewalks or against the flow of other bikes, while at the same time not signaling. This is in large part because the bike lanes are merged with sidewalks more often than motor traffic, and it’s just too crowded with pedestrians to allow smooth going.

Secondly, drivers are much less likely to stop for you at a zebra crossing, even if you’re already halfway in the road. Anecdotal data, and so on, but it’s happened enough times for me to notice. Also, people are very hesitant to walk on red on a crossing, even when it’s safe; It’s possible they know something I don’t. My lack of inhibition in this area makes me feel very low level badass, as pedestrian badassery goes.

Maybe related: back home people get the hell out of the way when there’s an emergency vehicle flashing lights, while on three occasions I’ve seen an ambulance or cop car stuck behind traffic which didn’t budge. Granted, once it was an older driver obviously lost and looking for the right exit, but you’d imagine that the honking, blinking, waving and shouting police behind her was a clear enough signal. So perhaps it’s an indication of an individualistic yet wary mindset? Should one do generalizations of a whole city — nay people —  on the basis of walking back and forth along four streets for a week? Of course one should, what kind of question is that?

Performance bus: Turku

With my arrival date set, I was invited to go along as audience on a Performance Bus™ with a bunch of spectators and performance artists. It seemed an excellent opportunity to see the surroundings of the city as well as meet people, so of course I signed up. Ever since my ask over at Metafilter I’ve been trying to come up with coping strategies for performances, and immersion therapy might be just the thing to push me over the edge into something resembling professional behaviour.

Most of the time, I’m not comfortable enough with the form to have an opinion one way or another, but insofar as I have a taste, it skews toward those performances which don’t take themselves too seriously. A group performing in the bus did so in Finnish, allowing me to fill in the blanks of their text, or rather just focus on the rhythm and rhymes — as a result their performance was one of the more interesting ones. This goes to the heart of what David Sedaris learned from his career as a performance artist:

It was the artist’s duty to find the appropriate objects, and the audience’s job to decipher meaning. If the piece failed to work, it was their fault, not yours.

[x_video_embed no_container=”true”][/x_video_embed]

Kimmo Modig, the director of Gallery Titanik was along for the ride to do a performance, and we spent the trip chatting about art and related topics, as well as chickpea pancakes. We seem to agree on many things, so he’s obviously a clever and sharp fellow. For his performance, people could help themselves to a bucket with all the money he’d received to do the performance; in the end he tossed the remainder into the river. Value-destroying performances have been done before of course, but I imagine that actually tossing fifty Euro into the drink feels different from thinking about it.

All in all, driving people around from one event to another is a good way to ensure a captivated audience, and it was a day well spend, especially with an excellent picnic at the end of it. You can read a short article in Finnish about it on uudenkaupunginsanomat.fi and in English on Facebook, and I’ll post some reviews as well once I find them. Leena Kela, who is the regional performance artist of Finland Proper (and who organised this Performance Bus, see video) does some other projects of her own which might be interesting to check out. For example, I’m going to read up on the outcome of Alter ego — being someone else for a month, and then having to refer to oneself in third person. “Yes, she was much ruder and ate a lot of cheese.”

First impressions: Turku

I still require parts for the RepRap, so I walked south on the recommendation that K-Rauta might stock the metal rods I need. The surroundings quickly changed into an industrial park, and shortly thereafter I find out that K-Rauta does not have what I need, unless I what I need are two burly men behind a counter. They did point me to an adjacent store which looked promising albeit closed, so I’m going back there Monday.

I’m staying in a student dorm named Domus, and have found a jogging route. The shared kitchen is a dump but there’s Al Jazeera English on the TV and a balcony I’d appreciated were I still smoking. The room is nice enough, fridge kettle shelves, and the smell of soap will be renewed once a week when someone cleans the room. Oh, and there’s a sewing machine in a cupboard, which will come in handy since my last pair of Cheap Monday jeans once again have experienced crotch failure.

The esthetics of the city is odd — it’s a mixture of fifties functionalism and drab Soviet buildings — and wherever there might have been an uncertainty about what to build, they just poured more asphalt; The roads are wide and everywhere. If there’s a city planner, that guy sure likes cars. Given a chance, I’ll ask.

[x_video_embed no_container=”true”][/x_video_embed]