SUBJECT #01 — Fear as a Creative Tool — EPISODE 1
PROLOGUE: Episode 1 of this – the very first – SUBJECT feature series passes the pen to Finnish performance artist Annika Tudeer, who shares her experiences with fear and creativity throughout her artistic career.
Most of my artistic practice over the past fifteen years has been about minimising fear in the creative process. Lately, I have started to think that it also has been a way of dealing with fear on a personal level. I have been building up the world of Oblivia partially in order to deal with some very personal fear-related issues – to create an antidote for fear.
By Annika Tudeer
I founded the performance company Oblivia in Helsinki in 2000 stating the hypothesis that the process should always visible in the end-result – and asking the question whether it is possible to create a friendly working environment, and at the same time make good work.
To my surprise this was very much possible.
I believe that art needs a lot of freedom, but the question was: What is freedom and how do we create a situation where the mind can roam as freely as possible? That was where the idea of friendliness and collectivity came into play. My only method, in the beginning, was to turn things upside down from what I was used to in the performance and dance world in Finland the 1990s. Say yes instead of no and vice versa.
Fear as subordination and exercise of power was only interesting on a theoretical level, while reading Michel Foucault, not as a way of dealing with others.
As I started to think about the possibility to create without fear, things started to shift. It is fearful enough to be on stage or to claim your right to existence as an artist and fight your own demons as it is – why not at least try to counteract that in the working process? – I thought. Step over the fence where it is lowest, take the easy way out, have fun, laugh, and trust everyone to do his or her best. No directors – no imposed authority – instead everybody is contributing to the process in their best way. We all know that we have a performance to make; motivation is the least of problems in that process. In the end it is all about people. Oblivia gathered very different people, most of us carrying some odd baggage.
Because the performances were the creation of many brilliant people’s capacities combined, the outcome was always so much more than the number of people involved. This kind of collective work meant many people fiddling around over quite long periods of time. This way of working requires a lot of time and security. Comfortable and secure working conditions are a good antidote to fear.
This collective working process became a very fun method that we called Oblivias: ”The do what you saw method”. We start with an enormous theme, and then go on distilling it. It is a light and whacky method and we laugh a lot while creating the material.
But fear can work in so many strange ways. Ways you do not even think of. Today I have to admit that despite having created a small universe where lightness, openness, fun and friendliness prevail, I was personally, for the entire time, entangled in a web of subordination and cowardness that I never realised. When I realised this, it was time to start over again, striving towards fearlessness on a more personal level and to see what would happen then. What if I just try not to be scared anymore? – Of other people, of emotions, of encounters, of openness, of proximity. What if I stand for what I say? What if I look to my own needs?
All of a sudden claiming my own needs and wishes seemed to be so much more radical and hard, than to create a sound working environment for my surroundings. Was my work with collectivitiy and collaboration just a cover up? If building empires have to do with covering up – or as the proverb goes; that the best place to hide a pebble is on the beach – perhaps my work diligently building up Oblivia has been a way of not having to deal with some blind spots within myself. In that case I cannot but congratulate myself as to how much a person can achieve in order to cover up deeply hidden fears. I can see Freud smiling at me in heaven.
Looking at the world today, there is no time for fear. Time is running out, at least that is what we are told. This is a very stressful situation, especially at the moment. Courage on a personal level is very much needed. Running as fast as possible is definitely not a good antidote for fear. Laughing, spending time together and relaxation on the other hand, is. It is oddly easy to be radical these days. You just have to pause, listen, be calm and claim your own voice. Without fear.
Some details about Annika
Annika Tudeer is a Finnish performer and the founder/artistic director of the international performance company Oblivia. She graduated from Helsinki University with a MA in literature, after working as a dancer and choreographer in the 1990’s. She has worked as a critic writing on new trends within dance and the performing arts, nationally and internationally. In early 2015 she premiered her first solo for several years: Annika does Swanlake.
SUBJECT is an ongoing feature series inviting artists and creative entrepreneurs to share their point of view and interpretation of a given subject. To inspire, open up horizons and start conversations – because more perspectives make a better story. SUBJECT is curated and edited by Sidsel Søgaard Spas.
SUBJECT #01 takes its starting point in the subject of fear as a creative tool. Alter Ego has invited three contributors to interpret and shape the subject to their own opinion. Annika Tudeer’s contribution is the first of this series.