Interview with Egle Oddo (How to Inhabit a Transitory Space)

One of PIxelache's newest but most enthusiastic members in 2015 is Egle Oddo, a Helsinki-based artist, originally from Siciliy, who has her hands in a wide variety of local projects. She's a founder of the Ark of Seeds project since 2007, organiser of last week's Planet Suvilahti festival, and the instigator of How to Inhabit a Transitory Space, a process-exhibition open 24 hours per day during the festival. Thanks to Egle, the festival technically begins at midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (we'll see you all there!) and the space will be open as a place for anyone to invade, interact with, or otherwise contribute to until midnight Sunday night. 

We asked Egle for some more details about the project....

Pixelache: When we started organising the festival you enthusiastically jumped in with the How to Inhabit a Transitory Space proposal. What appealed to you about the Pixelache festival as a platform for this project?

Egle Oddo: I was attracted by the coherence between the theme of this year's festival and the research we conduct in our HITS project. Since 2008 I have designed HITS as a contemporary art course dealing with what happens when individuals inhabit public space creatively and without monopoly. Activism, environmental art, site-specific art, social engagement and political awareness are important ingredients to understand space under this lens.

The theme of this edition of the Pixelache festival seemed very close to it. I interpret Living Spaces as spaces that are alive, pulsing knots of the territory. Along with it, I was thrilled to give to the inventive students of the course the opportunity to be part of a festival known for its educational component. 

In HITS we research what it takes to understand and interpret site-specific forces and vectors ruling our habitat. In my vision it doesn't make any sense to approach this theoretically, but it is necessary to confront the space and its qualities with concrete actions and direct experience. That is why we use art practice as research method. The exhibition, open from day 23 at 18:00 to guests and public participation throughout the whole festival, is in fact the transitory result of our exercise. 

photo: Terhi Ketolainen

I've always tried to see exhibitions as beginnings, not ends. But perhaps HITS is actually purely a middle, an exhibition that is constantly in flux and active. Do you think it's difficult to remove the idea of finality from the art world? How do you approach these ideas with students?

HITS is a process-space exhibition. That means that for five days the space and the exhibition influence each other sharing the same destiny, the same story. Nobody thinks of exhibitions as stories, because it is very problematic to sell a memory, an oral account or even a more labile sequence of facts. That is why finality is cherished in the art world. It is useful to wrap up things in a package, and it makes logistics easier. Finality is helpful for analysis.

I have a lot of problems with finality. In order to finish an artwork I often repeat to myself that "When it appears it is done"; whatever that means, it helps me to detach. If students would ask me to tell them if their painting, installation or video is done, I would try to help them to get in contact with their own imagination, and then ask them to check if they perceive anything of it appearing outside. The initial idea and what one does in the end never meet in the form. But there is something in the imagination, a scent almost, that is guiding the work somehow. To be in contact with it is what the artist does.

There's certain intensity to the concept of being in a place non-stop for five days, like a durational performance that somehow merges with your everyday "living". Do you see your own presence (and that of the students, and anyone else who is there) as being a performative element in the work, or are you trying to keep some separation when you have to, say, sleep and eat?

There is no separation, virtual or physical. You can define it as a flow, a gesture, or the contraction of muscular apparatus during motion. Anything entire and all-inclusive. With the students we are planning to involve in our process aspects related to nutrition as well as political awareness of what is happening right now in Finland.

In the best case our space will become like a book whose story is available to be read or changed. It is really unpredictable.

What should people actually expect when they visit MaaTila during the festival? Is it possible to just drop by as a spectator, or is everyone going to end up being a participant?

Being a spectator is just being a participant that has chosen contemplation.

photo: Juste

How would you like to see spaces such as MaaTila and other exhibition/art spaces used in more imaginative and open ways? Do we want to extend these uses to more everyday, regular experiences as opposed to being only special "festival" experiences, or are you happy with that separation?

MaaTila is already a living and trans-active space. The students and the teachers have designed it to be very versatile. Other exhibition spaces in town could follow their example.

In my experience I have always paired exhibitions with activities. My feeling is that enjoying art is more meaningful in a convivial context and I think that art reveals its heuristic potential only when it is somehow decontextualised. Therefore, during the exhibition periods, I would recommend galleries being used for a tea party of transcultural groups of women meeting up to chatter, as well as hosting a local pop-up restaurant, or being a temporary shelter for parents running away from their kids.  They could even have some charm for yoga classes, a computer programmers' summit, and for role-playing games.

What does the term 'Living Spaces' mean to you?

"Living Spaces" means a space that is alive, that does not allow for mono-use, mono-culture, nor mono-poly. Living Spaces are politically receptive and socially active spaces. When they find Living Spaces, artists nest and lay beautiful eggs.