INTERVIEWS, SCENERIES, POINT OF VIEWS AND DOTS
KAISA NIEMINEN AND VANESSA VIRTA form an emerging rap duo called “PIMEÄ HEDELMÄ”. Both Nieminen and Virta are also emerging dance/performance artists with a varied and vast background in street dance culture and contemporary dance scene. The female rap scene especially in Finland is just now beginning to emerge and the duet “PIMEÄ HEDELMÄ” is working on the frontline of the culture, creating new interesting and innovative crossovers between the contemporary art scene and the hip hop culture.
Vanessa VIRTA is a dance-and performance artist, graduated from DOCH in 2017. Since very early age Virta has been studying and familiarizing herself with the jazz- and theater dance traditions and also creating performances through re-evaluating and expressing the taught materials slightly differently. At some point Vanessa had a feeling of not quite fitting in to the dance forms that she was engaging with and through overcoming this feeling of inadequacy, Virta started to embrace her own artistry and creativity even more. Currently Virta lives in Helsinki and is engaging with a variety of creative practices and research collectives main emphasis being on the rap duet with Nieminen.
Kaisa NIEMINEN has deep roots in the Finnish street dance scene. Together with her long term duet partner, dancer/choreographer Marika Peura and as one of the founders of the famous all female dance crew CLEVA she has created a distinct, and original style of movement. Kaisa works as a dancer, dance teacher and a stylist and currently she is studying to become a choreographer at HZT in Berlin. The interest in the contemporary arts field has sort of gradually evolved as Nieminen started to desire a more versatile format of expression to her art besides the battling and setting in the circles of street dance events. As the CLEVA-showcases started to become longer and more versatile, the interest towards the contemporary dance scene also grew. The artistic work has evolved naturally and almost unconsciously towards a more and more performative and experimental artistic expression.
How do the creative processes between making music and making performances differ from each other?
VANESSA: For me the creative process often originates from some kind of a feeling of
irritation or depression or disappointment :) Yeah. Maybe I am a traditional artist in that way. But I feel that through the arts I have a permission to express and process these kinds of thoughts in a way that would not be quite as valid if I would for example post a facebook comment instead.
KAISA: Yeah I can relate to that. For instance, I was irritated by occurring misuse of power positions in the street dance culture and it inspired me to work on a little performance/text called "Why do we need male prophets in hiphop." ...Luckily things are slowly shifting and taking a new direction...
VANESSA: My mind processes almost everything through an initial negation. Like I was
first a bit irritated by the fact that I wasn’t doing rap, so I had to start doing it. Yeah..so the negation doesn’t even have to be enormous...I get pissed of daily and even the smallest things can be really irritating...and serve as a spark for creation. My world is full of inspiring stuff :)
KAISA: I think that in rap I have found something similar to the feeling that I got when
I first started to battle in the street dance scene as a teenager. This certain kind of a bluster and vibrancy of the rap scene intrigues me. In my dancing this original hubris has already evolved slightly into something else. So maybe I am feeding this feeling into my system from this new source now :)
What sorts of traces do you carry in yours performative body from your dance background?
VANESSA: I do have some sort of an affiliation towards the form-based dance styles,
such as ballet, but I tend to re-organize and re-order the material into my body in a different manner nowadays. I also carry some “practicing with the mirror”-traumas in my performative body. And all other kinds of bodily traumas as well. Of course it all shows somehow in my embodiment. The whole human history.
KAISA: In the hip hop scene the body usually needs to perform instantly at a full
volume. It is actually quite intense and demanding for the body. I think that training in this way has also influenced the way that I make stuff in very fast and intensive periods. And I easily question myself if the things that I am working on don’t immediately feel as something. I want to feel the different intensities and emotions in my art.
What kinds of visions do you have in relation to the “PIMEÄ HEDELMÄ” -project?
VANESSA: I think we want to develop our writing into an even more abstract direction. I
like it when the lyrics are not too blunt but rather offer several possibilities for interpretation. We are interested in deepening our trans-authorship processes and looking into different ways of writing lyrics together. I see that the writing is really a distinct world that starts to weave itself together through different tracks. I think that we already have some kind of a recognizable way of putting things into words and worlds.
KAISA: Yes. And I don’t know if conceptuality is the right term to use, but I see us
taking the whole act into a more performative direction. And for sure our dance histories and bodily practices will also appear in the lyrics and performances even more distinctly in the future.
VANESSA: YES! Of course right now the venues where we are performing set some
limitations to the more experimental side of our visions...but just wait for our gig at the FLOW-fest someday ! :)
How does this future-fantasy-flow-fest-gig looklike in your daydreams at the moment?
VANESSA: It would be very visual for sure. We are currently working with a video artist
for our upcoming first music video and I think that we will continue working with the visuals more closely in the near future as well. And then of course there would be some kind of a clear performative dramaturgy to the gig as well.
KAISA: Yeah! I think it would be quite ritualistic actually.
VANESSA: Very healing and clearing rap-ritual. We would be channelling some
transformational witch-energies and shifting the Finnish music scene onto a different track :)
KAISA: Making things slightly differently and creating some sort of a transformation. I
think that is the main goal in our endeavours at the moment.
VANESSA: But first and foremost we are making music.
How do you experience your place in the Finnish arts scene?
KAISA: I am still figuring out what it is that I want out of the dance. I haven’t really
worked as a dancer or choreographer in the actual arts scene yet but I am working on my own performative projects mainly related to and inspired by the “Pimeä Hedelmä”. With the rap scene the intention is a lot more clear.
VANESSA: In the rap scene we are one of the pioneers creating the scene for female
rappers really! There is some kind of a feeling of community amongst the female rappers in Finland and it feels really empowering to have artists who have been working for a bit longer and also us new bees encouraging and rooting for each other. And obviously, one act cannot change the whole scene alone! In the dance scene I am a young maker, starting off and looking for ways to work and make art. At times it is a survival game but then again having the freedom to try out stuff and take things a bit more lightly is also nice.
KAISA: Yeah. It’s also about finding and searching for the own way of doing stuff.
Things evolve in a process-like manner. I am interested in keeping the creative process going rather than trying to come up with a five-year-plan or something perfect right away.
How do you see the performing as a dancer differing from performing as a musician?
KAISA: I haven’t myself done that much of freestyling as a rapper, but I feel that it is
really similar to the mode of freestyle dancing. You get an urge or really strong desire to say something or to move in a particular way and only after having expressed it or having sput the lyrics out, you sort of figure out what it is. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. But it has to do with really throwing oneself into the emotion and expression. And the moment when the outcome sort of works and starts to build itself is extremely interesting. At its best it is a surprise to the performer as well. It is never random, even though it is improvised. I always already inhabit my emotional state and my opinions. The things are there ready to burst out from the body and the body starts to build them further through the expression of the emotion.
VANESSA: The way to approach the audience is also different. In rap gigs the audience
is standing quite close to the performer and the contact is quite clear whereas as a dancer I don’t necessarily always try to engage in a straight eye-contact with the audience.
KAISA: I feel that the audience-relation will shift as we get to perform more as
rappers. I think this is a really interesting point in relation to our performance and it is nice to get to dig deeper into it.
In your work the theme of transformation is obviously quite relevant...How do you approach this theme in your own life/as an artist?
KAISA: I see myself as a deeply embodied maker. I often think that I approach stuff
lightly through just simply engaging in the practice of making. But really often I get surprised by the stuff that emerges on the surface through this making. My light approach can end up expressing itself through anger or even sadness. Especially when I am in some deeply somatically wired state, my body often starts to spit out these darker emotions, even though my general feeling would be quite positive. But I find that it is a really healing and transformative process.
VANESSA: And to some degree, to be able to perform anything under the gaze of an
audience, some kind of an egoic transformation has to happen. Like there is always some degree of shame there, present. One has to be ready to be really bad and a complete failure in order to perform anything. It is always a huge risk. I think I would had started earlier with this rap thing, if I wouldn’t had had such a huge fear of a possible shame and embarrassment. Finally I have decided, that if I totally embarrass myself as a rapper in Finland, I can always move to Sweden.