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Lynn Lu’s and Saana Svärd’s Menetys

By Jenny Suhonen

In the middle of the room is a low white table. Thirty palm-sized nude-coloured clay-tablets have been organized on it. They resemble stones that have been washed smooth by water. Each clay-tablet has a same symbol drawn on it. They are all equal. They look peaceful.

There are more spaces at the back of the gallery. A whisper is travelling to the front room. I am a little early, so I enter a doorway and find two screens on opposite sides of the room. On the screens are documented the process of making the clay-tablets. But the sound doesn’t come from those video works: behind the separating wall are two loud speakers – again opposite to each other, as if having a conversation. Overlapping whispers mix into each other and form a twirl of words: I am able to pick out one word – and another – but I am not able to make out a narrative. I return to the front room where an audience already sits and stands around the table.

The performance starts. Lynn Lu and Saana Svärd read their own letters to each other one sentence on a time. The conversation is built of fragmented thoughts where one is talking in detail about burning the clay tablets but the other answers with personal uncertainty how the process is going to mould. Both have very calm and soft voices (the same voices were whispering in the other room). From the fragmented conversation we learn that the whispers are stories of loss that were collected from people during the process. We are also told that those stories have been sealed inside the clay-tablets on the table – objects on the table suddenly have a lot more weight.

After reading the letters Lynn and Saana approach the audience. They carry pieces of papers and pencils. They stop in front of people and ask them in a quiet voice to write down the thing they cherish most and then roll it and exchange it to a clay-tablet with a loss. I watch people when they are handed the paper and pen. Faces turn concentrated and many start writing – only to stop and re-think. Finally also I get a paper and pen and hear the same request. Writing down a thing I cherish most feels like the most difficult thing in the world. But the tablets disappear one by one and the table is soon covered with white paper rolls: The losses have been exchanged to their opposites. A ritual has been executed. The performance is over.

Lynn Lu’s and Saana Svärd’s performance “Loss” in Titanik-gallery the 29th of September is part of the Floating platforms –project that creates encounters between performance and science. Lynn Lu is a Singapore-born performance artist and Saana Svärd a Finnish assyrologist. The two women work normally from the opposite ends of entities: Lynn creates her art by fragmenting meanings and Saana creates meanings of fragments. But it didn’t seem to have created a problem in their collaboration. They created a contemporary ritual that used methodology from both of their practises. The performance together with installation was a collection of fragmented conversations that the audience was invited to collect and put together.

With the use of Mesopotamian history the performance comments to incidents that are currently happening in the Middle East: hundreds of thousands of people are loosing their homes – not to talk about their intimates – in the wars happening on the area. The information I have of the events happening is very fragmented and scattered form many different mediums and the same confusion was achieved by the fragmentation of the presentation. The performance made the audience also realize their own impotency to make a change and to help. That was created with the exchange of the letters: the despair was communicated to the receiver of the “loss”, but the “precious” that it was exchanged to will never be received by the person in need. This is why I try to complete my exchange.

Hi unknown, who wrote:
“Kun erosimme, tyttäreni äiti teki kaikkensa saadakseen huoltajuuden. Nyt tapaan tytärtäni ainoastaan äidin valvonnassa, vain muutamia tunteja hänen vihaisen katseensa alla. On sydäntä särkevän tuskallista joutua seuraamaan sivusta kuinka pikku tyttöni kasvaa isoksi.”

This is for you:
“Se että aurinko nousee ja laskee joka päivä. Ja että kuu valaisee yön. Mielikuvitus.”
I hope that the thing I cherish most will give you hope and strength to wait.


Jenny Suhonen