I BLAME YOU, TONY BLAIR! in the press

Our performances at Kiasma-teatteri/Finnish National Gallery in early March gained a wide coverage in the press — here are the first articles, in the most influential theatre magazine in Finland, Teatteri, tanssi & sirkus (2/2016) and Hufvudstadsbladet, the main Finnish-Swedish daily (13.3.), please see below for translation excerpts:

Teatteri+tanssi_2-2016

Breaking free from forced entrepreneurialism
Interview by Riina Maukola

I BLAME YOU, TONY BLAIR! premiered in Vienna. In your opinion, what differences are there between the performance art scene in Vienna and that in Finland?

– Vienna is a city of nearly two million inhabitants and there are more audience than in Finland. In Vienna, the arts – including experimental art practices! – are regarded as an essential part of the society. Compared to Finland, art is much more present in the Austrian media.
In Vienna, there are several internationally renowned performance art centres such as brut, with which we have realized projects within the last few years. In addition, museums and festivals take performances in their programmes and there are artist-led performance spaces all over the city. The cultural budget of the City of Vienna is big, yet the majority of the funds are given to established artforms and institutions.

Your performance is political. What role does politics play in your everyday life?

– The performance is not only about blaming Tony Blair but, rather, we criticize the contemporary societal situation to which the political ethos propagated by him has led us. Blair “instilled” the market ethos to social democratic and Leftist politics and public social services. The ethoses of efficiency, result-orientedness and optimization are a commonplace in today’s political decision-making processes. In arts funding policies, you can see this ethos in the growing emphasis on the instrumental value of art: art “should” empower its participants and beholders; to be financially profitable; or, for instance, strengthen the “country brand”.
Artists are forced to act like “contents producers” and service providers. The deterioration of the welfare state ideology and the emphasis on individualism and individual responsibility in the society are crucial themes both in my daily life and my artistic practice.

 

HBL_13-03-16

An artist’s lament as a monologue
review by Martin Welander

We hear Tony Blair’s speech from 1997, right after his landslide victory, from the loudspeakers. This was the beginning of New Labour’s path to power and Blair, intoxicated by his success, talked about changing the world in the near future. My experience of this first scene was rather cosy, since this vision of the future echoes over the stage whose emptiness gets emphasized through the light strips that frame it … Artists are not “daydreamers” anymore but “makers and doers”, says Jokesch with exuding sarcasm … Art has always been a means of political resistance and today, the critique is often posed at the financial policy. It is natural that the performance criticizes the “marginalization” of art but, at the same time, it feels that Lahtinen and Jokesch do not have new perspectives to offer to us … The need of having to sell oneself as an artist becomes the most interesting part of the performance, as Jokesch describes the press photo of the performance as a perfect exemplary of the “selling ethos” … the empty stage becomes a protest against art as something spectacular and sexy. Also the final scene, in which Jokesch finally comes to the stage, can be seen as an ironical commentary on the clichés of contemporary performance. Without saying anything, he stuffs a couple of metres of red raspberry candy thread into his mouth and chews it, and then walks out of the room. A frustrated roar ends the performance.

 

In addition, Hanna Helavuori, the director of the Finnish Theatre Information Centre TINFO that organizes international co-operational projects between Finnish and foreign theatremakers, also highlighted the performance in her weekly “web-column” (tinfo-tiedote newsletter, 17.3.2016):

Creativity, productivization, innovation, financial growth, efficiency

Art and culture have become part of the financial ethos that emphasizes innovation as the driving force of competitiveness. Tony Blair’s New Labour adopted the creative sector into the culture policy of his party. Well, here we are now, trying to survive. I Blame you, Tony Blair! was shown in Kiasma just at the right moment. Soon we will need a “protection plan” for artists and researchers in humanities and social sciences. They are indeed “endangered species”.

 

More articles and a PDF compilation of the media coverage to follow!

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About Joonas Lahtinen

Joonas Lahtinen (* 1984, FIN/A) is a performance artist, director and researcher who lives and works in Vienna and Helsinki. His performances are often site-specific and have a strong installational character. In his works, he explores the politics of space and of the everyday from perspectives that are both humorous and disturbing. Joonas has studied Performance at Queen Mary, University of London and he is writing a PhD thesis about the problematic of “emancipatory” participative art at the University of Helsinki. Since 1995, he has performed in various Live Art, theatre and TV productions both in Finland and abroad.
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