office blog

First Office of Useless Words / tarpeettoimien sanojen toimisto, Turku, City Library 2015

In the beginning:

I had been a self-employed artist only for a few years. In search of a rehearsal space I found the Fritz Deutschland e.V, a collective of artists, designers & craftspeople, working in the old Westerbach-Factory in Frankfurt-Roedelheim. not far from my home. The rehearsal room was in a very spooky basement. Upstairs there was a mixture of workshops and office spaces and I was offered to share an office space with the stone mason. Next were Graphic Designers, Film Makers, Carpenters, Visual Artists & a bike repair shop. From now on I told everybody that I am an office poet.

Next, I was trying to get an art grant for an art container. I immediately envisioned the container as a mobile office, where I would be sitting and exchanging words of some kind. I didn´t get the grant. But I told Pia Bartsch, the community artist at Saari Residency in Finland about this. It turned out she belonged to the curating committee of Olohuone Art Festival in Turku, a public art event all over the city. Discussing possible locations the court of the public library of Turku seemed to be a good place – many people passing through but I would not disturb any library users in the building. The first name was “office of dispensable words” or “tarpeettoimien sanojen toimisto” in Finnish.

When I took off for Turku on Thu. 4thl I only had a very vague idea of how my project would come to life. Originally I wanted to use a cardboard kiosk design by Frankfurt Artist Cornelia Heier. But I couldn´t get the right kind of thick corrugated cardboard in Turku. My „art buddy“ Pia was sure, we can build „something“.

The guest poetry program was not ready & the Olohuone Program had already been printed. It is always a bit irritating to me that Finns can sometimes be slow, easy and last minute with organizing.

I started to panick a bit….because nothing seemed ready, the cardboar kiosk was not possible, my performances were not in the program, I was afraid I would have to do an open air performance with just a desk. Weather forcast didn´t look too good. Quite cool for June. Rain & wind are never far in Turku. So there was no bad weather option. I didn´t know if the library was informed about my program & wishes. And  I was far from ready with my concept & performance program. Some of my intended guest poets had not confirmed yet. Finally I got hold of Juhal Kulmala, Esa Hirvonen and Daniil Kozlov & thought about having an open stage so I could recruit more poets.

My rough idea was to have 2-3 hours of daily office time, where passerbys could hand in words they „don´t need“. And there there would be some kind of performance every day, using these words and inviting guest poets. But I couldn´t really imagine how this would work practically….also I want to give them something in return…some other word….but what kind of word? A dadaist, surrealist, made up word….yes I could do that but it seemed somewhat cheap to me. How should I get words that are not cheap & that could pass for a gift?

As usually I hope that some good ideas will pop up either shortly before or even while doing the project. I am afraid my project might be too abstract & to complex. These are common mistakes I make – maybe one of the reasons why I became a minimalist. It forces me to concentrate.

In the end, everything turned out fine. Pia indeed helped a lot, she lend me a desk & built a transparent framework around it, even with a roof. Not exactly storm proof, but ok for light Summer rain. The weather was nice, mostly sunny. And my strange construction did interest passer-bys who would leave me words they could do without. Sometimes there would be long talks about language and society. And it was great to have well known Turku poets Esa Hirvonen, Juha Kulmala and Daniil Kozlov as special guests.

What a big surprise. The Japanese artist Takafumi Tsuji, who had be my residency companion at Saari Residency in 2012 suddenly showed up with some more Japanese friends.