Örö Island Workshop 2019 (Course: DOM-E3042)
You leave behind Helsinki and the metro stations, the bus stops and highways, the train station in Salo and the harbor in Kasnäs. You try to count the black rocks rising from sea in this maze of islets, while another grey wave mirrors another grey sky. On a Monday in October you arrive on an island called Örö at the edge of the Finnish archipelago where the Baltic Sea swallows the horizon. The equipment in your backpack outweighs your food supplies by far and you carry more films than underpants as you start the walk to your cottage with the other lens based creatures that will be your roommates for the next five days and your partners in crime for the next two years.
Last autumn, eleven first year photo students went on a trip to Örö under the guidance of artist and lecturer Ari Saarto. The Island Workshop is designed for new students to start off their Masters journey in the beautiful randomness of a field that people call – in the absence of a better word: photography.
On the island you stay in the quarters of the Örö Art Residency: A former 6” battery officer’s house and old wooden barracks, equipped with a small kitchen, dorm rooms and shower. Before Örö became part of the Archipelago National Park, it was a military zone for one-hundred years, first under Russian rule and later as part of the Finnish coastal defense line. Due to it’s past as a closed fortress and in contrast to the heavy defense facilities, the island’s natural environment remained widely untouched. In its remoteness the island developed a unique variety of habitats which are home to rare plants, butterflies and at times other fantastic beasts.
During their five days on Örö, the photography students were free to explore the island’s military history in the network of bunkers and rusting artillery and to wander around the diverse biotopes between the long sandy shoreline and the old crooked pines. The borders of these mystic woodlands are home to a herd of gentle giants. From afar, the long-horned furballs look as if Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things have come to life. But unlike in the children’s book, they do not “roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws”. Instead these highland cows just graze peacefully along the green coastal meadows and curiously observe the doings of the funny looking, two legged creatures geared up with cameras and tripods.
The artistic outcomes of the Island Workshop can be seen
from 27. February until 08. March 2020 in Väre Gallery V1 & V2 at the School of Art, Design and Architecture. Exhibition – Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/555007715104340/
Additional infos about the island: https://www.nationalparks.fi/en/oro
Artist in Residence program: https://www.ores.fi/