Starting April 12th, 2017, Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner spend a month in three separate remote cabins somewhere in Finnish Lapland. Their only connection to the outside world is through a video connection to a cabin inside the Kiasma museum of contemporary art in Helsinki. In the cabin there are three screens with live video feed from each artist, and while the artists can see and hear what happens in the cabin in Kiasma, they can only communicate through text without seeing what the other artists are typing. Even if you're not able to visit the museum, you can follow along as there's a live video of the outside of the cabin and of the written communication by the artists on Kiasma's website (the museum is closed today, so check again tomorrow). And there's also a sweet Twitter community pitching in.
Sounds like a crazy chatroom, right? Yeah, it's a bit of a crazy chatroom, too, at times. But #ALONETOGETHER is also weaving a web of genuine and meaningful connections. There's a squad of regulars visiting the Kiasma cabin daily, there have been at least a couple of first dates in the cabin, there's been lots of contact info exchanged - there have been brief hellos, intense arguments, long talks about politics, deeply personal conversations, general silliness, choosing the perfect boxer entrance songs (I chose mine without thinking too much - it's Phenomena by Yeah Yeah Yeahs), reading aloud poetry (mine, too), relaxing group hypnosis, and lots of four-minute life stories and eye-to-eye staring.
So, yeah, I spent a quite a lot of time (10+ hours of my life extremely well spent) in that tiny hot cabin rebreathing the breath of others during my brief visits to Helsinki these past few weeks. I'm generally not one to easily connect with people and I always worry about misreading situations. The line between brief small talk and revealing yourself in all your damaged glory is a tough one to navigate. #ALONETOGETHER is about connecting. There's no ambiguity about whether or not it's appropriate to be present and vulnerable if you so choose.
The atmosphere and the dynamics inside the cabin change as the visitors inside come and go. Not once was there even a hint of hate speech when I was there, and the cabin was nothing but welcoming to me. Most of the squad of regulars is formed by teenage girls - some probably there because of Shia LaBeouf's acting career, others for other reasons. But their reasons to be there are irrelevant. Their presence and what they bring to the room is relevant. I haven't spent this much time with teenage girls since I was one, and it was a pretty cool experience at the age of 33. The girls were both adorable and super smart, and I have no doubt they will turn into amazing grown-ups. I have a feeling during the days they spend in the cabin they overhear so many life stories and learn about important life lessons this might be a huge deal for them. Their minds like sponges. And mine too. I know this experience was something pretty significant one to me now (and it was heaps of fun, too). I can only imagine how earth-shattering it would've been to me to be welcomed as a part of something like this at the age of 15.
Shia, Nastja, and Luke are three very different personas. It made the #ALONETOGETHER experience all the more interesting. At one point Luke named the cabin the Finding Yourself Cabin. To me that feels pretty accurate: lots of finding oneself seemed to be taking place there. Many people came in to reflect on major (and minor) life events - past, present, or future - and often ended up gaining a new perspective or two by the end of their cabin visit. Having three artists with three distinct approaches and a changing crew of museum visitors in the Kiasma cabin means someone is bound to bring up an aspect you hadn't considered before. Don't get me wrong, the cabin isn't a therapy cabin - it's whatever you make it. But you'll get the most out of it if you let yourself be open to having whatever conversation that may arise.
I admire how the artist trio manages to continuously challenge new people to be present, to take part, to maybe share something quite personal, to see themselves and the world in a slightly new light. There's a certain magic in feeling connected. And this piece wouldn't be as powerful as it is if it weren't for the visitors willing to take that leap and say hello to the camera.
Until Friday the 12th of May you too can visit the cabin in Kiasma or follow the live web stream. I highly recommend both. It can even change your life, at least a bit. If you do go to the cabin, please say a huge hello from Kaija and play the song Just Dancing by Sylvan Esso on your phone. I'm sure Shia at least will appreciate it.
The images in this post are from screenshots of the live stream. See how skillfully I've blurred people's faces? I didn't take a single selfie inside the cabin. I know I was there and that's enough. And the other photos I have of the things that went on in the cabin are just for me. But if you want a peek of the cabin and myself, take a look at this story. I was visiting the cabin with V and got ambushed by a journalist.