By Nadja Sayej, October 2010
From singing bus drivers to seagoing vessels made of trash, here are eleven art acts to catch when the southwestern Finnish city of Turku steps up as 2011 European Capital of Culture.
Add 50 million euros to 120 art projects that will draw two million visitors and what do you get? Answer: Turku in 2011, the European Capital of Culture.
To help you find your way as the yearlong art festival pumps out culture, we've compiled (in no specific order) a Top 11 list for this city gone wild.
Forget the calendar, forget your watch. Turku 365 promises "unpredictable encounters each day of the year." Artist and organiser Meiju Niskala has invited 52 Finnish artists to come up with 52 exercises, compiling them into the Book for Everyday Explorers. From lullaby choirs on late-night trains to pop singers crooning in the backs of taxis, the goal is the element of surprise.
Turku 365 on the Turku 2011 website
Keep your ear to the ground for the River Aura Symphony, a work of sound art by artist and composer Simo Alitalo. Alitalo has created a symphony from whistles, cannons and church bells timed together along the River Aura and harbourfront – so don't say we didn't warn you if you hear a blaring fog horn as you're walking along.
Turku is listening on the Turku 2011 website
The Tapiiri literary group sets out make your heart sing with poetry portraits. They host poetry workshops in senior's homes, Saramäki Prison and the University Hospital of Turku to help turn local nurses, doctors, prison guards and grandparents into everyday poets. Put up with a poet observing you for 15 minutes to several hours and he or she will write a poem about you and read it aloud.
Poetry portraits on the Turku 2011 website
In this travel-by-sea show, Antti Laitinen, a Finnish artist who has works in the Saatchi Collection, braves the Baltic Sea waves in a one-man bark boat (in a past project, he created his own island). His travelling companions board the Baltic Herring, a vessel built from recycled consumer packaging. Expeditions take place in 2010, with exhibitions starting in spring 2011.
Curated expedition to the Baltic Sea on the Turku 2011 website
Hate crowds? Get off the busy mainland for something more serene. Islands lining the gulf of the Archipelago Sea, connected by ferries and bridges, kick off with their first-ever Islands Triennial in May 2011. The islanders are all tight-lipped about their projects. The best way to find out is to venture out and see it.
Islands Triennial on the Turku 2011 website
If you've always wanted to spraypaint the streets, now is your chance to do it (legally). From public workshops on animation to seminars on graffiti and government control, local artists come together on May 20–21, 2011 to show the flipside of the white box gallery world with sprawling street art. Who is behind it? Eurocultured was formed in Manchester – now with five other chapters in Dublin, Belfast, Bratislava, Wrocław and Turku, the newest addition. Expect cut-and-paste leather workshops, breakdancing competitions and crazy concerts.
Eurocultured on the Turku 2011 website
Left: British art collective Walk the Plank helps kick off the Turku 2011 celebrations with fireworks and acrobatics.
Top right: The opposite of the white-box gallery world: Eurocultured provides breakdancing, graffiti, concerts and more.
Bottom centre: "Remember to breathe," brought to you by the Turku 365 project. This forms sound advice for visitors attending any of the Turku 2011 events.
Lower right: For a limited time only, Turku poets will observe you, write about you, read aloud to you and make your heart sing with Poetry Portraits.
The surprises continue on the streets with Turun Sarjakuvakerho (Turku Comic Book Club). Look out for funny stop signs, washroom signs and traffic signs – large-scale comic characters will even be leading the way with speech bubbles, so you'll never need a map.
Come across comics on the Turku 2011 website
On November 20, kids celebrate Universal Children's Day, founded by the UN in 1954. While it was built to celebrate and protect the welfare of these little ankle-biters, in Turku it's all about the art. Eleven Taikalamppu (Magic Lamp) Arts Centres and the City of Turku are teaming up to showcase the artwork of Finnish children, up the ante on their arts programming and get them off the internet and making more stuff – from clever cartoons to self-directed cinema.
Magic lamplight on the Turku 2011 website
If you think tweens who post pictures of themselves online are self-obsessed, think again. They might have something new to tell us. Vesa Aaltonen is a photo artist and teacher leading a class photo project where each of her students will compose a self-portrait once they turn 18.
From photorealism to simple MySpace-esque snapshots, look out for video self-portraits, paintings, drawings and even papier maché in October and November 2011, all to show that in the art world we've gone from pop culture to peep culture in watching ourselves and others.
2000 & 11 Self-Portraits on the Turku 2011 website
Mannerheim Park in central Turku will become home to a new Spiegeltent Theatre where a circus love story will unfold from June 22 to August 14, 2011 between Dracula and his numerous brides. Trapeze artist Pauliina Räsänen, a key organiser from ArtTeatro, is producing the event and wants to fuse circus and theatre – with a comical edge.
Dracula, played by American actor Ebon Grayman, has an unlikely arch nemesis: Dr van Helsinki. Played by acrobatic Ukrainian "yoga-comedian" Kotini Junior, he'll keep things playful for those who think it's all drab and dark. Be sure to visit the snack bar, but watch out for human pretzels.
Cirque Dracula on the Turku 2011 website
From April 14 to 30, 2011, the ten-metre high Dancing Tower will spotlight acrobatic dancers, ventriloquists and magicians from Finland, Russia, Estonia and the US. Erected by the Turku AB Dance Company – celebrating their 30th anniversary – the tower offers a sort of fable storytelling through themes (Spirit, Chaos, Research and Energy).
The Dancing Tower on the Turku 2011 website
Turku2011 kicked off on January 15, 2011 at Forum Marinum in Turku. Walk the Plank, a British art collective that stages outdoor performance art, thrilled the crowds with aerial acrobatics, music and fireworks to kick off the yearlong celebration. See our slideshow: Turku kicks off year of culture »
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