A walk in old Vuosaari and the meaning of a bench


I have walked from August 2019 onwards, almost every day or evening. I go out and let my nose point in the direction. I don't get tired of walking, because there are several alternative routes, I live in Vuosaari. One of the highlights of my walk was the stormy wind in the middle of the woods. In forming the highlight, it was important that there was a bench to sit on.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 20:15, weather: semi-sunny and windy, temperature + 19 degrees.

As I walk, I also think of a sensory task or exercise for myself. I decide to walk for the stairs that lead from Merikortti Road down to Rantakiventie. There is a bench in the middle of the stairs. I decide to walk to the bench and, if it's is free, do something about it. In my mind, I decide something like this: sit on a bench and be receptive to what the place has to offer you.

The bench is free and I sit on it. The wind is gusty and reaches stormy strength. The surrounding deciduous trees form with the wind like a symphony orchestra in the middle of which I am. The noise and roar of the trees is like sand floating inside a giant instrument, or like huge waves by the sea. Small debris falls from the trees. The cones burst into the ground, and the sound of a burst is like drumming. I enjoy being in the middle of it all. Couples walk past. The runner runs past. I take a picture.

I would also like to document this concert of nature on video, but for privacy reasons I do not want to video people, and thus the filming is not possible. I feel like others would like to sit on this unique bench in the area as well. I become restless. I decide to come document this place the next day.

The next day is calm and sunny. What does it mean that a certain moment in a certain place is influenced and remembered? Thus, afterwards, I can recall and reflect on moments, as I do now as I write. On the bench, I formed my own point of view, the standpoint from which I followed the events around me. So does every living being.

This is also where the importance of my own actions comes into play. As I move around in nature and give myself sensory tasks, I sensitize myself to perceiving what is around me, instead of paying attention to my own thoughts, experiences, and memories. Perception of what is around is also related to the ability to position oneself. As we shift our focus to what is around us, we can also consider things from the perspective of another, a spouse, a neighbor, birds nesting in the yard, predators moving in urban forests, migratory groups of people, or humanity suffering in the grip of a pandemic.

With the help of sensory tasks, I search for a connection and attach myself to the perception around me and at the same time to the limit at infinity, so that I can also tell about it afterwards. I believe that limiting observation to a task at the same time increases the intensity of observation. The moment on the bench was short but memorable. My activities are not only outdoor activities, exercise and counterbalancing to working from home, it is also the development of my artistic-research practice. I practice within myself the ability to perceive and sense and communicate it to others.

The nature's own orchestra performed for me when I first settled down to perceive it. I listened, watched, smelled and wondered. Such a situation strengthens the feeling that I'm really alive. Life becomes meaningful. At the same time, I think of myself as part of nature and as a party to interaction, not just as a passive recipient. However, my role as an active participant in the interaction did not come in the middle of the concert. For example, I didn't start screaming in the wind or throwing cones around. Admittedly, it wasn't even a task. In addition, my work as an artist-researcher in urban environments has become increasingly meager over time. It has to do with paying attention to places and other people and the need to be tactful. I write about this, for example, in Ruukku # 14, publication in artistic research: Martin, Mari 2020. Sensory Excursion as a Site of Encounter. In Mika Elo, Henk Slager and Tero Heikkinen (eds.) Ecologies of Practice. (Peer-reviewed research exposition.) https://ruukku-journal.fi/en/issues/14. My contribution comes now as I write this text. I may also make use of the moment I have experienced in some future artistic work or research article.

Without the bench, I wouldn't have written this text and I wouldn't have the experience I was writing about now. It is clear that there is a need for more places to settle in common public urban spaces, such as benches. They don't always have to be in the most obvious places, but also in places that require a bit of effort to get to. The city is a much more diverse environment than just streets, squares and parks.


Here is an excerpt (with my translation from Finnish to English) from Emanuele Coccia's Plant Life. Metaphysics of mixing. (Originally La vie des plantes. Une métaphysique du mélange. Translation in Finnish: Jussi Palmusaari. Researchers' Association, Helsinki 2020.) When I read Coccia's description of plants, I now think especially of the trees in the middle of which I sat in the summer storm wind.

Plants appear to be absent, as if they have been deprived of chemical sleep. They have no senses, but they are nowhere near self-contained: no other living thing is as equal to the world around them as they are. They have no eyes or ears to distinguish the forms of the world and to perceive the world as the innumerable colors and sounds as it manifests itself for us. They take part in the world as a whole in everything they encounter. Plants do not run and cannot fly. They are not able to choose a particular place in the space, they have to stay where they are. The world condenses for them in what they have captured, a piece of soil and heaven. (Coccia 2020, 15-16)