Article categories: Issue 57
March 15th, 2010

In March and April 2004 I travelled to Helsinki for PixelACHE 2004 DIY Electronic Arts Festival: Audiovisual Architecture. During the first weekend of the festival I caught the ferry to Stockholm with 15 artists and crew to present a solo exhibition and performance at Sauna Gallery, participated in artists’ talks at CRAC (Creative Room for Art and Computing) and attended audiovisual club nights at Metro Club and legendary experimental music venue Club Fylkingen. Returning to Helsinki I participated in the Signal Process and Locative Media workshops, gave an artist talk at Landscape Sampling presentations, exhibited work in the group show at Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art and performed Singing Bridge compositions with improvised Cello and Kantele at Club Gloria.

Blueberry soup

The word ‘PixelACHE’ as explained to me by Festival Director Juha Huuskonen means to experience an overload of digital media, like having a bellyache, or being up to your eyeballs in pixels. The focus on DIY, collaboration and cross-disciplinary work was evident throughout the festival, establishing an environment that encourages artists to explore new ideas, make grassroots connections, foster critical engagement and develop unexpected collaborations. There was time for engagement with the cultural and social landscape of Helsinki; swimming in the classical 20’s Yrjönkatu swimmhalle, traditional birch twigs in Kallio wood sauna, magical ferry trips across the ice to Suomenlinna Island, Finnish performance poetry during dinner at the SeaHorse, random meetings of networked media artists at Kiasma café, and on the final night a visit to the sauna bar.

It was snowing when I flew into Helsinki and the Finnish enchantment began. I found MUU Gallery, home base for the Signal:Process and Locative Media workshops, focused on the sonic and cultural landscape in and around Helsinki Rautatieasema (Railway station). Signal:Process participants spent two weeks at the station, using contact microphones to record sounds the ear doesn’t hear, noting the different public groups in the space, and exploring different performative gestures and unusual behaviour. A selection of recordings played in the gallery, as people worked through ideas and the sounds collected. Locative Media started with a sound walk of the railway station led by Sophea Learner, and continued with explorations, performances and public interventions in the railway station, GPS shadow drawings, video, text works and contemporary archaeological surveying. Some participants experimented with images and text sent via SMS from Nokia 6600 mobiles to the Aware database. Developed at UIAH media lab, Aware was used to create intriguing and poetic collaborative linked explorations of urban space and remote locations.

Post box

Presentations for Signal:Process and Locative Media workshops achieved a satisfying flow through a wide range of ideas and practices, moving through historical/performative and contemporary readings of the space, to performance interventions, soundscapes, and poetic responses. The archaeological sound-scape written by Mike Pearson took us on a journey through the spaces of the station, conjuring the sounds one may have heard at key historical moments combined with what is there now. There were complex negotiations to include announcements for regional train destinations in Somali for an afternoon, claiming a voice and space in the railway station for an unheard migrant population. Sirpa’s sound work installed in a suitcase at the railway station attracted unwarranted attention as a potential bomb threat. Although clearly labelled as an artwork, it was removed (to be reinstalled at Kiasma) and complaints were lodged with the police.

Saturday 27th March at Club Fylkingen, performances included the sonic terror of Swedish noise band Läder; aurally satisfying Digital vs. Analog sound clash between Mukkul and Tuomas Toivonen (Giant Robot), TeemuK Amfibio and the mesmerising Grey Zone: Weathermatrix: a performance of live electronic music composed using sounds collected from the ‘grey zone’, with electric Kantele, and stunning video created from images of 200 weather cameras across Finland, developed from close-up snow and ice on empty roads, into a matrix of 6 months climate changes viewed in 10 minutes. Thursday was the opening of PixelACHE Exhibition at Kiasma. Exhibitions included the multi sensory world of ‘Aquatic,’ a three dimensional interactive soundscape by Marianne Decoster-Taivalkoski, and the exquisite work of Aether architecture.

Landscape Sampling: Artist Talks
Ville Hyvönen talked about The Grey Zone: Weather Matrix and Sami Jarvinen presented Kamppi Reconstruction, a performance using live sound and video from wireless microphones and cameras at the nearby Kamppi construction site, transmitted into the Kiasma theatre. The process of negotiating access to the building site, the changing nature of the noise from construction, and technical issues with receiving signal added to the random nature of the performance. The ‘Art of Noise’ Futurist Manifesto was realised, as the city itself becomes a symphony. During the presentations I discovered many points of intersection between all three projects, focusing on locations that are generally unnoticed (road, bridge, construction site), choices made in manipulating and the material, and the process of selecting and composing music from architectural, ‘unmusical’ sounds.

Sophea Lerner and Marianne Decoster-Taivalkoski

Singing Bridges performance at Club Gloria combined bridge recordings, video and musical improvisations. The original sound work was created using contact microphones to amplify and record the vibrations in the cables of stay cabled and suspension bridges. The bridge sounds were edited into a 30 minute composition, played with live manipulation and processing, and accompanied by improvisation from Lasse Kaikkonen on Kantele, Jussi Lehtipuu on Cello and video mixing by Mari Keski-Korsu. Club Gloria is a fantastic old cinema with red velvet balcony seats, a large stage and great dance floor. The performance was well received; afterwards I enjoyed Shogun Kunitoko’s analogue synthesiser and electric organ concert and dancing to DJ Coolof in a happy melee of artists.

Attending PixelACHE 2004 gave me a unique opportunity to expand technological skills, debate philosophical concerns and produce work outside the parameters of my usual practice with artists from Finland, UK, Hungary, Sweden, USA and France.  Thank you to ANAT for funding my trip; the PixelACHE crew, Juha for the magic and making it happen; Sophea and Andrew for the workshops, inspiration and warm welcome; all the artists and workshop participants for energy, ideas, encouragement and conversation.

Jodi Rose

PixelACHE: DIY Electronic Arts Festival: Audiovisual Architecture was held 26 – 28 March 2004 in Stockholm, Sweden and 1 – 4 April 2004 in Helsinki, Finland

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