Metsä - a project combining contemporary circus arts and the forest

"As time goes by, the status of the forests has been changing with the rise of industrialization and urbanization, but the connection between the Finnish people and the forest remains. For the Finns, the forest has once symbolized something spiritual and holy. Nature gods and spirits were worshipped in the sun-lit groves and dark and gloomy spruce forests were avoided, since they were considered to be the relams of goblins and trolls. The lives of the Nordic people were not directed by a calendar, but the harvest season of berries and mushrooms and the yearly migration routes of the animals. The forest used to be our ruler."
”Where there is a wound on the psyches and bodies of women, there is a corresponding wound at the same site in culture itself, and finally on Nature herself. In a true holistic psychology all worlds are understood as interdependent, not as separate entities. It is not amazing that in our culture there is an issue about carving up a woman’s natural body, that there is a corresponding issue about carving up the landscape, and yet another about carving up the culture into fashionable parts as well. Although a woman may not be able to stop the dissection of culture and lands overnight, she can stop doing so to her own body.”

The project

Metsä - The Forest Project is a pluridisciplinary art project started by contemporary circus artists Sade Kamppila and Viivi Roiha around the central theme of circus arts in a forest. Metsä is a site specific touring performance, a platform to launch various photography series and and circus short films. The project was started in 2014, and is an ongoing process of artistic research around various topics and goals revolving around the forest-theme. The walking trail performance of Metsä premiered 10.6.2016 in Kittilä, Finnish Lapland and is currently touring internationally. Both Sade and Viivi are working mainly as circus artists, but their way of creating is not limited to solely circus acrobatics. They have both been working in performances combining various art forms, worked long term as circus teachers for all aged students, and played music. Elements of dance, music, performance and fine arts are present in the duo's work.

The project is site specific and moving from one forest to another. Roiha and Kamppila have created the performance so that they can tour with them around Finland's and Europe's villages and forests. On one hand the project aims to bring contemporary circus and its audience into an unusual environment for the art form, and on the other it has the possibility to bring circus arts to places that were inaccessible before because of a lack of performance venues in smaller villages. The project will adapt to each place it travels to, so the experience will always be unique, and the local forest will play the important part of the third performer. 

Our inspiration

The idea for the project was born from the artists' will to have more time to spend in the nature. They want to find new dimensions and inspiration to working with their circus acrobatics from our natural environment. Both of the artists have been pondering their own relationship with their bodies as women in our society, about their connection to the nature, and have been working to become more honest and natural both in their art and their lives, so the theme and the forest as an environment came very naturally to them. They aim to take a step forward from our urban society and bring their modern way of living back in connection with the nature and the environment.

Both Roiha and Kamppila have been performing around Europe in theatre spaces, and in this project want to strip the act of performing from the stage lights, critic opinions and stressed schedules into something else. Something that is more naked, more in direct contact with the space and the people sharing the moment with the performers, something that allows one to breathe deeply and in peace. They feel that being in the nature filters away all the unnecessary hassle and distractedness of focus and distortion of perspective that the fast-paced everyday life brings. When getting absorbed into the rhythm and the balance of different beings in the forest, their senses open up to observe the surrounding reality and other fellow beings with more clarity and inner peace.

Part of the inspiration for their project is also to research their roots. The Finnish generations have lived their lives in the middle of the forest with the harsh Nordic seasons, and living in harmony with the nature was essential for survival. A lot of this knowledge and the view of life traditionally passed from generation to generation is no longer present in the everyday lives of urban people, even though the connection with the forest that many feel is still present under the surface. 

The performance

The performance is in the form of a nature trail, which the audience is guided through. Along the trail there are various scenes presented to the audience; aereal acrobatics and coreographic climbing amongst the trees, acrobatic movement splashing water around in the shoreline of a lake, dance on the forest bottom, soundscapes inspired by traditional finnish singing and a possibility to share a moment of collective silence listening to the forest around us. For the performance the artists drew inspiration from old Finnish folklore and the stories and beliefs around all the beings and powers of the forest. The duo works with 50 meters of aereal rope suspended between the trees, hair hanging, intimate partnering acrobatics with tree trunks and acrobatics, not forgetting their dark finnish sense of humor.

The photography series

As the project strongly focuses on the connection with the natural state of being, a large focus is also on us as females relating to our bodies and the position of the feminine in this moment in time. Eco-psychologists talk about how the state of how the society is respecting and treating the environment goes hand in hand with how the feminine is related to. The feminine is forced to fit into a "proper" form dictated by the hard values revolving around consuming and marketing. Living as women in Europe, it is a part of the norm to alter your body from the outside in the never ending attempt to reach the image of the ideal woman. This brainwashing has been such a great success, that it feels more natural to enjoy spending a lot of time, energy and money into building up self acceptance by hiding the natural state of the female body with all sorts of products and treatments one didn't even know they needed in the first place. The artists want to promote the reconnection and acceptance of one's body as it is; a natural part of you, that thrives with good nutrition, a balanced mind and self respect. Not an object to manipulate to gain acceptance from the outer world. The duo has been working with different photographs on the themes of natural beauty and the connection with the mind and the body.

The short films

Acrobatics within the forest. This is the starting point in all its simplicity for the video part of the project. The theme for the short film is the different varying speeds of the cycles of the human body and the cycles of the nature. Compared to a body in movement, the forest floor seems to stand still and immobile, but when looked upon closely, it is also in constant movement. With the videos the artists want to explore the similarities and differences with their bodies and the environment. 

Join us

We are searching for other people to co-operate with, who share our interest and values in these themes. Whether you are a researcher, a nature center, an artist, a performance venue or just feel like you have something to offer or to suggest, please don't hesitate to contact us. 

The project is supported by the following people, events and organizations

Co-producer: Sirkus Aikamoinen. Collaborators: Silence Festival, Ben Hopper, Isla Peura. Residencies: Silence Festival, Festival Scenes de Rue, Mulhouse, Saaren Kartano, Kallo Collective. Funders: Kone Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Finnish Cultural Foundation