Tellervo: Tonight I’m gonna talk about those works of mine which deals with islands and utopias. And it’s completely a coincidence that this body of work has come about.
Tellervo: The field of performance in Europe was like a strange bubble, not really communicating with the rest of the world, or even the rest of the art world. It felt like there was this club of performers who invited each other to performance festivals, and it seemed rally dusty and I didn’t want to be part of it. Like every art student, I had a crisis, which is good.
Hence! The First Summit of Micronations (2003), organized by the newly cobbled-together, s’posed-to-be temporary collective YKON (her boyfriend-now-husband was/is a member too). All these obscure little plots of somewhere which eccentrics had declared independent, recognized by hardly anyone of course, had never been gathered before.
Yes, the act of making a country was a performance: the act of bringing them together also; all elements of the unexpected: they opened embassies for all of them on the island of Hallarka, in old bunkers. Visitors by boat were greeted by a choir of male shouters (this is a thing in Finland, apparently), bellowing an article from the Amsterdam Treaty.
Last-minute emergency when guest-of-honour HR Giger (the crazy Swiss artist who designed the movies Alien and Species) wanted to cancel, because his cat was sick. They used all their diplomatic skills, got someone else to nurse his pussy and welcomed him so he could implant a pair of steel shoes on the island’s highest point, inviting lightning to strike the wearer in the head.
Tellervo: I still don’t really understand.
And remember the first Singapore Biennale in 2006? YKON was part of it! They created M8, a fictional summit of micronations, a ring of men and women laughing wildly at a roundtable, while – if you remember well – the IMF Meetings were happening just outside. And of course, Singapore was included among the laughing panel, alongside Lidonia and the State of Sabotage.
Tellervo: The more we read about Singapore, the more it sounded like just one of the micronations really. It was an island, which was a nice similarity, and there was this one guy, Lee Kuan Yew, and he had a vision and he made it happen.
And it’s a different question what you think about his vision, but he made it happen. And it shows how much vision matters in this world. Whose vision are you living? Yours or somebody else’s?
In a parallel occurrence, the head of Lidonia protested that permission hadn’t been sought for the impersonation. And Tellervo hit back with:
Tellervo: What are you talking about? You’re a state. I don’t ask the President of Finland for permission.
So when YKON was invited to a show in Taiwan, she wrote letters every micronation they could, asking them to officially recognize Taiwan – letters were exhibited, a book was laid out for visitors to sign in support of friendship, and a marching band was rolled out for the opening ceremony. (The YKON rep had an autograph queue for this one – way to suck up to a host nation!)
Lately she’s been researching islands as utopias: Thomas More’s Utopia; Heinse’s Glückseligen Inseln; Francois Fourier’s New World of Love; HG Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau; Die Gelehrtenrepublik; Kevin Alexander’s Alexanderisle.
And in fact, a while ago YKON organized The Summit of Practical Utopias (yes, oxymoronic), which actually features people with really utopian ideas, some actually practicable - An idea exchange of current utopian practices, vodka prizes, lotteries.
Tellervo: I’m interested in the importance of utopian thinking and thinking wide, and I also believe that it is something that influences us here and now, and something we can already start working on here and now. So we only invite to the summit people who have really utopian ideas. I believe very much in individuals and that’s why I do the type of art that I do.
Tellervo: Often when hippies are talked about we are sarcastic, but we don’t think that is necessary, because they had vision.
The films are super-simple: each community only had four days to shoot, because they were busy-busy doing their regular upkeep – yet they were grateful for the break, because it forced them to revisit their original principles. But they’re high-quality in terms of production values – we saw “Open Day”, about the commune of Moora Moora, which exposed the rift between contemporary eco-dropouts and themselves: how today’s rebels can’t believe these guys aren’t vegetarian, don’t have composting toilets, don’t use drugs, have big thick rule books.
When - how - are we gonna get to watch the other two?