Thank you for your audio / Planning a festival with and/or without a venue

How to plan a festival based on open calls? Our Pixelache Helsinki 2021 Festival #Burn____ Open Call for Audio was announced the day after Winter Solstice, looking towards the festival planned for 6.-13. June 2021, a few weeks before mid-summer. I write to thank you all who submitted (call closed 31.1.2021) for your trust and generosity in sharing, especially without much guarantee of compensation. It is much appreciated as we all are challenged by precarity in our different situations. We can write as feedback that we will soon be finished selecting an audio programme to accompany the festival from the open call, and will be in contact again to audio submitters in March.

We were/are promoting participation in what was written as a “transdisciplinary arts festival”, with an ambition which “connects psychological, social and environmental collapse, and how we can survive it, developing resilience”. With a little more than 3 months until the festival, as co-director together with Laura Gustafsson and the Pixelache production office, I can honestly say that we are planning an ambitious festival with and/or without a venue.

Last autumn 2020, it was becoming clear that the Coronavirus pandemic was going to last much longer than anticipated into 2021. Our advance-planned ‘biennale-model’ festival, which I first took responsibility for in August 2019, launched thematically in January 2020, and one month later confirmed with venue Oodi Helsinki Central Library, has been an ongoing negotiation. We have been discussing spaces inside the building with the Oodi production team since, with the hope that the building will be open in June 2021. It is increasingly likely with Finnish Government decisions about public gatherings that we are likely to be affected by restrictions on physical gathering and accessibility at our Festival.

Nota Bene: The conjuncture ‘and/or’ is typically an indication that one or more cases it connects may occur. 

The Festival Open Calls for proposals related to a site-specific (and presence- based) programme inside Oodi, and/or a audio programme, which was a parallel path that was site-specific also - many  people listen to audio content in their own headphones while visiting the library - but also an alternative in case the venue is closed. Describing the 1st Open Call selection process in reflection, was that it was like a wedding cake with decreasing scaled layers or tiers of potential contributors with a local foundation base to special few invited from afar at top. With regards to that production process, we have now identified the few who we wish (and can) invite internationally from across the border, including advance quarantine period. A small ‘Corona’ achievement! As we get closer to the festival itself in reality, following the 2nd Open Call for Audio, I have caught myself also using a different metaphor: Of forked paths into two parallel, potentially overlapping and merging production processes, which at some point, we will need to focus on side more than the other. However, they will anyways complement each other. Some contributors from the 1st Open Call will join the audio programme & be (sadly) more remote. Our financial challenge is that we so far have not gained more festival production funds than usual to make a bigger festival, never mind one which has to consider two parallel productions paths (site-specific presence-based & audio programme).

Helsinki Metropolitan (HELMET) Libraries have been closed since 30th November, with restricted services, meaning picking up reserved items and returning. Uusimaa region of Finland, which includes Helsinki Metropolitan area is heading into a more restricted ‘lockdown’ period during March 2021, with new regulations, and it is not sure if these restrictions will be relaxed before June. Our festival at Oodi venue is totally based on Helsinki City and Uusimaa region regulations with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic. In some ways this is good, as it is a decision out of our hands, and we can focus on our cultural production agility.

We plan to announce our Pixelache Helsinki 2021 Festival announcements in two stages: Later in March, with an announcement revealing confirmed Open Call contributors from both the Site-specific & Audio -based calls, as well as our cooperation partnerships; With our second announcement around mid-May, we will know if our venue Oodi is scheduled to be open or closed (as it is currently), and will reveal our full programme and schedule. In either case of venue accessibility, our festival will have an audio/radio programme format with several AV-stream -based performances. If the venue is open and/or closed we can have some restricted presence-based events, at least outside the front of the building in the under-hang area, and hopefully also enjoy some sun and/or warmth in the public space beyond.

Rather than delay or cancel events in the case of pandemia, despite the challenges of precarity and uncertainty in cultural production, we follow forking and merging paths. Yes, I revel in Jorge Luis Borges.