It is a windy but sunny day when I ride my bike to Ruissalo beach to meet with the Halmesmaa family. Next to a big pile of sand I find the two sisters, Anu and Miia, with their brother, Mikko, preparing the artworks for the next weekend’s Ruisrock festival. This year they are responsible for decorating six of the festival areas with their collaborative artworks.
The Halmesmaa’s have been involved in creating artworks for Ruisrock for the past few years, but the scale of the commission has never been so big before. The concept for this year’s artwork has been in development for about half a year, and the actual construction of it takes about two to three months. Then there are four days of building before the festival with a team of 10 people.
This means a lot of work, but with the combined forces it does not feel like an effort for the siblings. Anu explains that while this collaboration originated from her individual work, now she has to let go of control and trust her brother and sister. Because they work together they can be less self-critical and can experiment more. They support each other’s ideas and enjoy creating the work collectively. For them it is a way to spend time together and have fun.
This artwork definitely reflects this mood. The bright white colour of the fabric stands out from its surroundings and creates a contrast with the real world. They use this fabric because it is simple and clean, and can light up the space when it gets dark as it catches and plays with the colours of the lights. This should give the festival audience an other-worldly experience and challenge them to see their surroundings in a different way. It can bring people together for a playful experience in the form of an artistic installation.
“Ruisrock is more than just the music and the people,” says Anu. This artwork is spread over different areas of the festival and contributes to the visual experience that can be addressed and explored by the festival-goer. Therefore it is more than art, as Ruisrock commissioned the artists to make a piece that is functional as well as aesthetically-pleasing, and which cannot be harmful in any way. This challenges the artists in their artistic expression, and allows them to experiment and to be inventive.
This brings me back to where I found the siblings working on their artwork. Ironically, the three of them are all wearing black as they fill plastic bags with sand, which are then wormed into the white fabric to create huge hanging drops. It’s time-consuming work but they are used to putting a lot of effort into their individual work. The sand is a great material solution because it is free, and heavy enough to make the right shape. At this point they are not yet sure how the result of their work will look, as they have to finalise the concept during the on-site building days.
But the pictures don’t lie, it is stunning to see the artwork surrounded by people and lit up during the day and night. And so it goes to show how a bit of sand and fabric can transform a festival space into a different reality.