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Raisa Foster


Art-Eco Project Report

This post is based on the transcription of Raisa’s presentation at Art, EcoJustice, and Education Conference on December 11, 2017 at the University of Tampere. (Power Point presentation as PDF)


Art-Eco is funded by Kone Foundation for three years, from 2015 to the end of this year.

Only two researchers were working with the grant money, doctoral student Jussi Mäkelä and myself as a post-doctoral scholar.

Before going to the actual contents, I will give you some figures of our project: Our budget was about 250 000 euros, from which 200 000 euros was covered by Kone Foundation, and the rest by smaller personal grants and funding.

We have organized five academic events and two art festival during these years. Just Jussi and I have had together:

  • about 20 artworks and exhibitions.
  • 8 peer-reviewed articles. Plus 2 other articles.
  • 3 books.
  • and 20 conference presentations.

We have also been lecturing, reviewing, consulting, mentoring… (The list of outcomes as PDF.)

But for what? And why?

Environmental disasters, animal abuse, wars, racist and sexist crimes — these are daily news from the traditional and social media of, in what state humankind has driven itself and its planet. We live in an era of eco-social crisis.

In this presentation, I show how through arts-based practice we can challenge, what I call ”normalized pathologies” of our modern society and furthermore imagine ”what else could be”.

I will first outline the multidisciplinary theoretical framework of our research project.

In our project, we have also used different methods of arts-based research which give access to various, normally marginalized, experiences and voices beyond modern assumptions and stereotypes.

On this basis, I conclude that empathetic-ecological humanity means responsible humans who understand their interdependence with the more-than-human world and who celebrate the diversity of people, other animals, and ecosystems. 

At the end, I want to emphasize the importance of multidisciplinary and multi-sensory practices in rethinking education towards sustainable future.


The starting point for the whole research project was when we met our mentor Rebecca Martusewicz and when she introduced the framework of EcoJustice Education to us in 2014.

The principal aim of EcoJustice thinking is to understand and protect the essential interdependence among humans and with the more than human world. It is crucial to acknowledge the fact that we are mutually responsible to and dependent on others. Any assumption that we are superior to or outside this interdependence will cause damage.

EcoJustice practice works along three interrelated strands of analysis: 

  1. The first involves an understanding that the present problems of ecological and social violence are rooted in our taken-for-granted value-hierarchized worldview, including science-based rationalism, instrumentalism, and individualism. These have to be challenged to change the course of action by regarding all life as equally valuable.
  2. The second strand focuses on identifying those patterns of belief and behavior that lead to mutual care and the protection of more sustainable ways of life. This process is named as ”revitalizing the commons”. 
  3. The third strand argues for imagination as an essential means of engaging the forms of responsibility needed to generate healthy communities. So, we must imagine that it is possible to live ethically on this earth and what that could look like.

EcoJustice thinking borrows from eco-feminism (Male & Shiva 2014, Plumwood 1993, 2002), which combines feminist and ecological themes. Its key research topics include a critical interpretation of the culture-nature dualism caused by the patriarchal world-view.

According to ecofeminism, the exploitation of both women and our ecologies is due to hyper-separation between culture and nature: for example, men and rationality are always seen as superior, and in contrast women and emotionality inferior (Plumwood 1993, 2002).

In addition to ecofeminism, our artistic work and thinking are also influenced by eco-phenomenology (Abram 1988, 1996, 2010; Brown & Toadvine 2002, see also Merleau-Ponty 2008/1945, 1968, 2003).

Eco-phenomenology examines how the tradition of a continental philosophy can inform the questions of environmental ethics  (Brown & Toadvine 2002, see also Värri 2014). Eco-phenomenology emphasizes the importance of experience in our attempt to research the world, but it also aims to challenge the anthropocentric conception of experience (Brown & Toadvine 2002).

The significance of experience can be described for example, by using the concept of asubjectivity, that is, a quality between different realities that cannot be fully restored to a subject or an object (Vadén & Torvinen 2015). For example, the meaning of forest walk does not only arise from the psychological contents of my mind, nor on the objective features of the natural environment but instead on the direct encounter between the forest and me.

In our task of trying to formulate what empathetic-ecological humanity could be about, several concepts and their definitions have been influential to us. 

In the modern Western society, we think of a body as only biological, anatomical and physiological entity, something that functions without the conscious efforts of a person. In contrast, the phenomenological concept of lived body refers to the experiential extension, where the body is conscious of itself and which we also call the “self.” So, the lived body is the unity of body–mind–spirit. In other words, it is bodily, cognitively and spiritually present in and of the world.

David Abram coined the term ”more-than-human world,” because he was frustrated with the terminology of environmentalism which contrasts humankind and the rest of nature by using the word “nature” as something totally separate from ”culture.”So, this phrase reminds us of the fact that human culture is only a subset of a larger set — that the human world is necessarily interrelated with the more-than-human world.

In my dissertation, I formulated the pedagogy of recognition (Foster, 2012) borrowing from Paul Ricoeur’s (2005) lexical and philosophical analysis of recognition. In my pedagogy of recognition, I first claim that we shift our action from (conceptual) knowing to (perceptual) recognizing. Second, I suggest that education should move from supporting (egoistic) self-esteem to (critical and inter-relational) self-recognition. Third, I claim that education should move from the model of possessive relation to others towards the mutual recognition of all life forms.

Jussi Mäkelä is using the concept of social sculpture which he has borrowed from German sculptor, teacher, and political activist Joseph Beuys. Throughout his whole artistic career, Beuys concentrated on developing a new kind of understanding of art that would lead to “a social organism as a work of art” (1990, p. 21).Beuys seems to refer to the social organism as something that we have power, freedom, and responsibility to shape. Society is our work of art which we have made and which therefore also represents our sense of aesthetics, the things we value.

Elisa Aalto and Sami Keto have recently released an insightful book about empathy. They describe the position of empathy in the contemporary world by using theories of psychology, philosophy, and biology. They ask, how is empathy associated with moral, cultural and political issues? And how does it affect our ability to share this planet with other beings? Especially Elisa’s conceptualization of embodied empathy and reflective empathy resonate well with our understanding of empathetic-ecological humanity.


The problem of academic research is that it often reaches only the members of our own scientific community and at most a few professionals working in the field.

In our project, we have used several different arts-based research methods.One of the main features of arts-based research is its ability to engage with a broader audience than what traditional academic research has been able to (Leavy 2015). Especially in the fields of social and educational sciences arts-based research has become increasingly popular and it has proven to be a reliable method of especially in researching experiences as well as bringing out the voice of people living in the margins (Leavy 2015, see also Suoranta & Ryynänen 2014).

Without going into the details of our methods, I will just say that we have done 

  • installations, exhibitions, festivals
  • movement-based practice and performances
  • videos and films
  • sculptures
  • poetry


By combining artistic practice and theory what have we found out?

First of all, through our work, the normalized pathologies were reaffirmed as key issues in the human and more than human disconnect – hierarchized dualisms, rationalism, individualism, instrumentalism, centric thinking, etc.

But more importantly, our research project found three critical practices in an attempt to overcome these normalized pathologies:

  • first, we should cultivate multi-sensory experiences,
  • second, seek balance,
  • and third, recognize diversity.

During this research project, I have guided sensory walks to different groups of people. By being in silence and closing our eyes, we can better focus on other sensibilities than just rational. We have made various movement and body-awareness exercises, we have focused in particular on the presence of breathing and to our tactile sense. It is our sensory body that binds us to the world, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty (2008) has said. So, based on our research we claim that through multi-sensory bodily practice, we can truly find and understand our vital connection with the more-than-human world.

By borrowing Beuys’ theory of sculpture Jussi suggests that the most important task for responsible humans is to find a creative balance between chaos and order. We are making a mistake of considering chaos as a threat (something to be defeated or controlled) when in contrast chaos could be seen as the pure unfettered energy that makes life possible. The current state of our world  is a result of not trying to find or maintain a balance: in the light of Beuys’ theory of sculpture Jussi argues that we have instrumentalized (or ignored) the pole of organic chaos, and forced pretty much everything into a determined form – often with measured (monetary) value. With artistic practice, we can celebrate also the creative force of chaos. 

In the world of instrumental values, it is radically political, to let the other to be another. Challenging dualism does not have to mean sinking into sameness; it only intends to remove the hierarchy (Plumwood 1993, 2002). After all, we need diversity for life to be possible. And the recognition of diversity is also vital for healthy ecologies of humans. Artistic activity where we don’t worry about what the participants don’t know or are not capable of doing, but on the contrary, where the practice starts from the recognition and celebration of what the participants are capable of doing and who they basically are in their difference (Xxx 2012b; 2014b) is empowering for the participants, but it is also a powerful political gesture. For example, contemporary dance, which starts from disabled dancers’ own expressions, is not “worse” than abled-bodied dancers’ movements but it is only different. Authentic and honest communication of movements overcome the normal-different hierarchy. Then the objectifying diagnosis of a person with disabilities loses its meaning and the other appears as an equally valuable subject. 

Art practice does not offer ready-made solutions or quick-fixes to problems, but it plays with different possibilities and endorse imagination. I hear from the participants of my multi-sensory movement workshops one sentence more often than any other comment: “I did not know that this kind of world existed”. As an artist with an intention to engage the public with critical imagination, this is the best response that I could wish.

Dualisms are illusions.

Art-Eco project has worked in-between of these oppositional poles, especially in-between of

  • theory and practice,
  • mind and body,
  • self and other,
  • human and other than human
  • masculine and feminine
  • abled and disabled.

For example, in the practice of body awareness and movement improvisation we can see how the body and mind are not separated, movements can generate different sensations, emotions, and memories in our bodies. Movements can also take the mover to the experience of I-lessness – to the disappearance of the ego. I coined the term I-lessness already in my dissertation in order to describe the state where the ego does not exist, but the experience is very much alive and the self is intertwined with others and the world. The self merges into the world and the world merges into the self. However, this feeling of merging does not mean falling into sameness. In short, I-lessness is experienced as the disappearance of the rationally controlled and constructed I, but not the disappearance of the self. The state of I-lessness can only be understood when we abandon the dichotomies of mind—body, self—other, reason—nature, and search for mutuality, in relation with others and in the living space of in-between dualism. ”I-lessness is a rejection of extreme subjectivism, which highlights the individual and independent self over others. On the other hand, the term refers to the overly accentuated position of objectifying and judging eye or I that is in control of everything” (Foster, 2012, p. 212).

Dancing is an activity which is typically excluded from men, because dance as a bodily practice, is considered something feminine. The hierarchized dichotomies are also dangerously grouped together. So, the man is using his rational mind, and not his sensual body. He is not a spiritual but a rational being. These qualities make him a ”real” man. In the bodies of dancing men, we can hit right in-between masculine and feminine dualism. 

Working with people with disabilities showed that art can offer a tool for everyone to express themselves and also to recognize their own abilities. Through art, we can also present the experiences of people with disabilities and open discussion about restructuring our society in a way that the diversity would be better and more positively recognized.

Art-based research can help us to see in-between dualisms and to imagine beyond the limits of the objective and rational realm.

So, coming down from our findings we claim that

Empathetic-ecological humanity means humans as responsible and reflective bodily beings, who understand their interdependence among others, other animals and eco-systems and who recognize the diversity of all life-forms.


In Art-Eco project we have looked at the features of modern Western society and how they have caused the emergence of eco-social problems. Rationalism, mechanism, and individualism as well as the belief in continuous economic growth, are currently ruling the political decision-making in Finland.

On the basis of our research, we claim that the current education policy that is only devoted to technology and natural sciences can lead to severe social and ecological problems. Accordingly, we are afraid that the abolition of arts, social sciences, and humanities from curricula leads students to a distorted view of the world. 

The normalized pathologies of modern thinking have penetrated all the levels of contemporary practice, even in the green politics: For example, bio-economics is marketed for us as clean technology, which, of course, reduces the use of fossil fuels, but which is still referred to as a bio ”resource”, meaning that trees are only seen as instruments for us to use and in the benefit of economic growth.

The so-called instrumental approach also leads us to see students as “learning machines,” which we have to program with right kind of information.

In our project, we also believe that it is problematic that this right kind of information is only considered to come from natural sciences and the use of technology.

Of course, we need technology and science too, and we have been able to get a lot of information for example about the severity of climate change.

However, despite all the information we have, we do not seem to change our behavior.

If the principal objective of the research project was, in fact, to find how to educate towards socially and ecologically sustainable future. Our research has shown that integrating arts-based practices consciously to knowledge-based learning situations is one way to do so.

Our American collaborator Nick Morris has told us how he used to do environmental education by guiding nature tours, naming the different species and revealing facts about ecosystems to his students. However, he has noticed that that has not helped his students to find a true connection with the natural environment.

Collaboration with Jussi and me allowed Nick to realize that getting to know the environment in a way artists do can make people appreciate nature in a new way. By throwing yourself on the ground, listening to the birds singing your eyes closed and feeling the sun on your skin — so doing things that are totally useless and irrational —make you notice the intrinsic value of plants and animals. So perhaps we, adults, should just return to that what children seem to do naturally.

The reason, which opposes itself to the body and nature, is fixed to the dominant position. All rational activities are seen as more valuable than those involving the body.  However, the practice that highlights the importance of the body, our sensory experiences and emotions “does not imply abandoning all forms of reason, science and individuality”, as Val Plumwood says, and continues, ”Rather, it involves their redefinition or reconstruction in less oppositional and hierarchical ways” (Plumwood, 1993, p. 4). Or as Jussi has discovered, our responsibility as artists and educators, or as any human being, is to find a balance between chaos and order, emotion and reason, action, and reflection.

In our project, we have also come to know that the will to protect animals and nature comes from the experience of authentic contact between humans and the more-than-human world — and not just by knowing the facts. Similarly, in order to give recognition for example to people with disabilities, we have to understand them as much more than just their diagnosis.


Internationally, Finns are often praised because of our connection to nature and, also of the broad general knowledge that our schooling provides. However, our American partners have now been terrified of the current education policy in Finland, for example, about the planned high school reform with ranking tools. Our American friends cannot understand why we would want to repeat their mistakes.

Our project’s bold approach to combine art and science in an environmental research project based on social and educational sciences has attracted interest particularly in the United States, where in fact our research results have already been applied to the Environmental Engagement in Ohio.

What we have done during these last three years could be called Arts-based EcoJustice Education. Our arts-based EcoJustice practice does not only aim to reveal the problems of modern thinking but it helps, to imagine, to see and feel, in and through art, what else could be. We believe that with a phenomenological attitude and a critical approach we could all educate and create art that ”changes the world”.


Ympäristöuhka: Tutkimus varoittaa koulutuspolitiikan kapeutumisesta

TIEDOTE 4.12.2017

Heti julkaistavaksi

Ympäristöuhka: Tutkimus varoittaa koulutuspolitiikan kapeutumisesta

Ainostaan teknologiaan ja luonnontieteisiin panostava koulutuspolitiikka voi johtaa vakaviin sosiaalisiin ja ekologisiin ongelmiin, väittää juuri päättyvä Koneen Säätiön rahoittama tutkimushanke.

Kansainvälinen kolmivuotinen Art-Eco-hanke havaitsi monialaisessa tutkimuksessaan, että taiteiden, yhteiskuntatieteellisten ja humanististen aineiden karsiminen opetussuunnitelmista johtaa vääristyneeseen käsitykseen maailmasta.

Hankkeen tutkijoiden mukaan elämme ekososiaalisten kriisien aikakautta. Ympäristökatastrofit, eläinten kaltoinkohtelu, sodat, rasistiset ja seksistiset rikokset ovat tutkimuksen mukaan esimerkkejä siitä, minkälaiseen tilaan ihmiskunta on ajanut omilla valinnoillaan itsensä ja planeettansa.

Hankkeessa tarkasteltiin modernin länsimaisen yhteiskunnan piirteitä ja niiden merkitystä ekososiaalisten ongelmien syntymiseen. Teknologia- ja yksilökeskeisyys sekä usko jatkuvaan talouskasvuun ohjaa tällä hetkellä Suomessa poliittista päätöksentekoa.

“Esimerkiksi biotaloutta markkinoidaan puhtaana teknologiana, jonka avulla toki vähennetäänkin fossiilisten aineiden käyttöä, mutta silti siinäkin luonnosta puhutaan resurssina eli puut nähdään vain välineinä talouskasvulle”, sanoo hankkeen tutkimusjohtaja Raisa Foster.

Niin sanottu välinearvoinen suhtautumistapa johtaa myös kouluissa oppilaiden näkemiseen vain “oppimiskoneina”, joihin tulee ohjelmoida oikeanlaista tietoa.

Fosterin mukaan ongelmana on myös se, että oikeanlaisen tiedon ajatellaan nykyään tulevan ainoastaan luonnontieteistä ja teknologian käytöstä.

“Toki niitäkin tarvitaan ja niiden avulla olemmekin saaneet valtavasti tietoa esimerkiksi ilmastonmuutoksen vakavuudesta. Kaikesta tiedosta huolimatta emme kuitenkaan näytä muuttavan käytöstämme.”

Tutkimushankkeen keskeisenä tavoitteena olikin löytää keinoja siihen, miten kasvatusta ja kouluopetusta voisi kehittää huomioimaan paremmin sekä sosiaalisesti että ekologisesti kestävä tulevaisuus.

Hankkeessa mukana ollut amerikkalainen tutkija Nick Morris huomasi, että vastaus löytyy nimenomaan integroimalla taidetta ympäristökasvatukseen.

“Biologina olen tietysti vetänyt oppilaille luontoretkiä nimeämällä lajeja ja kertomalla faktoja ekosysteemeistä. Se ei ole kuitenkaan auttanut oppilaita löytämään yhteyttä luontoon.”

Yhteistyö Fosterin ja toisen suomalaistutkijan Jussi Mäkelän kanssa sai Morrisin oivaltamaan, että tutustuminen ympäristöön taiteilijan tavoin saa ihmiset arvostamaan luontoa uudella tavalla.

“Heittäytymällä selälleen sammalmättäälle, kuuntelemalla lintujen laulua silmät kiinni ja tuntemalla auringon lämmön iholla huomaa luonnon arvon sellaisenaan. Meidän aikuistenkin pitäisi palata siihen, mitä uteliaat lapset tekevät luonnostaan.”

Morrisin mukaan havahtuminen eläinten ja luonnon suojelun tarpeeseen syntyykin nimenomaan aidon yhteyden kokemuksesta eikä pelkkien tiedollisten tosiasioiden pohjalta.

Ulkomailla Suomea arvostetaan nimenomaan ihmisten luontoyhteyden ja esimerkiksi laajan yleissivistyksen tarjoavan kouluopetuksen vuoksi.

“Amerikkalaiset yhteistyökumppanimme ovat olleet kauhuissaan Suomen koulutuspoliittisesta suunnasta, mihin esimerkiksi lukiouudistusta ranking-työkaluineen viedään. He eivät voi ymmärtää, miksi toistamme heidän tekemiään virheitä”, Foster kertoo.

Fosterin mukaan Art-Econ rohkea linja yhdistää taidetta ja tiedettä yhteiskuntatieteellisessä ympäristötutkimushankkeessa onkin herättänyt kiinnostusta erityisesti Yhdysvalloissa, jossa hankkeen tutkimustuloksia on jo sovellettu ympäristökasvatuksen opetussuunnitelmaan Ohiossa.



Kasvatustieteellinen ympäristötutkimushanke

Koneen Säätiön rahoittama kolmivuotinen Art-Eco-tutkimushanke empaattis-ekologisesta ihmisyydestä.

Hanke on itsenäinen, eri yliopistojen (mm. Tampereen yliopisto, University of Eastern Michigan) kanssa yhteistyössä toteutettu, monialainen tutkimus.

Hankeessa yhdisteltiin taideperustaista feminististä ja filosofista tutkimusta käyttäen erityisesti ekososiaalista oikeudenmukaisuuskasvatusta (engl. EcoJustice Education) taustateoriana.

Hankkeen päätöskonferenssissa Tampereen yliopistossa 11.-13.12. puhuu sekä kotimaisia että ulkomaisia tutkijoita ja taiteilijoita, muun muassa Nick Morris, Rebecca Martusewicz, Elisa Aaltola, Saara Särmä ja Antti Majava.



Raisa Foster, FT, tutkimusjohtaja, Art-Eco Project

raisa.foster (at )

050 345 1847



Runot raportoivat vammaistutkimuksesta

TIEDOTE 7.11.2017

heti julkaistavaksi

Runot raportoivat vammaistutkimuksesta

Minkälainen tahansa tavallinen -runokokoelma on tutkimusraportti filosofian tohtori Raisa Fosterin ja Tampereen kaupungin aikuisille kehitysvammaisille suunnatun Wärjäämö-toimintakeskuksen yhteisestä tutkimushankkeesta. Hankkeessa tutkittiin taiteen keinoin kehitysvammaisten aikuisten kokemuksia.

Kriittisen vammaistutkimuksen alaan kuuluva hanke on osa Koneen Säätiön rahoittamaa Art-Eco-tutkimushanketta, jossa tutkitaan ekososiaalista oikeudenmukaisuutta monitaiteellisesti. Hanke on kolmivuotinen ja se päättyy joulukuussa.

— Toivon runojen auttavan asettumaan vähemmistöasemassa olevan ihmisen kokemusmaailmaan, sanoo runojen kirjoittaja ja hankkeen tutkimusjohtaja Foster.

Tutkimusrunous on yksi taideperustaisen tutkimuksen muoto. Sosiaali- ja kasvatustieteissä runoutta on käytetty erityisesti Pohjois-Amerikassa erilaisten ihmisryhmien identiteetin tarkastelussa ja tutkimustulosten esittelyssä.

— Runot eivät ainoastaan välitä tietoa, vaan vaikuttavat meihin myös tunnetasolla, Foster perustelee tutkimusrunouden mahdollisuuksia kokemusten ymmärtämisessä.

Taideyliopistoja lukuunottamatta taiteelliset tutkimusmenetelmät ovat Suomessa vielä vähän käytössä. Taiteen avulla tutkimustuloksia voitaisiin kuitenkin avata laajemmalle yleisölle, eikä ainoastaan vain omalle tiedeyhteisölle.

Foster muokkasi runot kehitysvammaisten tutkimuskumppaneittensa päiväkirja- ja haastatteluaineistoista. Runot avaavat kehitysvammaisten aikuisten kokemuksia esimerkiksi erilaisuudesta, mutta myös tavallisuudesta, rakkaudesta ja kosketuksesta. Runoissa käsitellään myös kipeitä aiheita, kuten yksinäisyyttä ja toiveita parisuhteesta ja omasta lapsesta.

Runoihin tutustunut teatteri- ja nuorisotutkija Satu Olkkonen on myös vakuuttunut niiden voimasta: 

— Nämä runot osoittavat, että tieteen raportointi voi avautua ja uudistua, sen sijaan että peitettäisiin taiteellisesta toiminnasta sen vaikuttavuus.

Minkälainen tahansa tavallinen -runoteos julkaistaan keskiviikkona 8.11.2017 Taide & Osallisuus -seminaarissa Tampereella.

Tää on just tällanen
ja tää tarvii just tämmösiä apuja
Tällä ei oo mitään merkitystä
Sää oot nyt tällanen
Tällasessa purkissa
Se tarkoittaa sitä
että päätetään puolesta
koska meet nukkuun, koska syöt,
koska lähet ulos
Purkitetaan kaikki
12 neliöö vammaisparkkia:
ajatellaan valmiiks
päätetään puolesta

(Katkelma runosta Purkissa.)


Raisa Foster 050 345 1847
raisa.foster (at)


Jenni Päily ja Mari Heinilä ovat Raisa Fosterin tutkimuskumppaneita Wärjäämössä. (Kuva: Milja Keinänen/Aviisi)


Exploring landscape with Dr Bagryana Popov

My visit in Australia included various artistic and research activities. Here are some highlights presented in photos.


Bagryana Popov’s Uncle Vanya in Eganstown in April 16-17

Uncle Vanya is a site-specific, durational version of the play by Anton Chekhov, an early environmentalist. Performed over two days, Uncle Vanya is an immersive experience that dissolves the division between audience and performers, as they move through the rooms and grounds of these homes. The characters of the play grapple with a deteriorating environment, the economic difficulty of living on the land, tensions around family inheritance and deep family bonds. We enter the world together; a world of the past and an experience of here and now. – LaMama

The (Eco)Pedagogy of Recognition – presentation for SUSTAINed Network at La Trobe University in April 19

In my talk I discussed how the pedagogy of recognition (Foster 2012) can be seen as a form of EcoJustice education (Martusewicz, Edmundson & Lupinacci 2015).  EcoJustice education starts from a systematic cultural-ecological analysis: the critical investigation focuses especially to the structures of modern thinking and to the discourses that reproduce those deeply rooted assumptions of modernity. Education which aims for supporting eco-ethical consciousness needs, along with the discourse analytical approach, an (eco)phenomenological attitude as its starting point. Eco-phenomenology extends beyond the conceptual structures towards the sensual world, which is more than human. The pedagogy of recognition claims that new ethical understanding can occur when we shift our action from (conceptual) knowing to (perceptual) recognizing. The pedagogy of recognition respects all forms of lives as equally valuable.



Being an artist-researcher-educator presentation at VCA, University of Melbourne in April 19

I gave a personal talk about my life as a former student of dance in VCA and a current artist-reseacher-educator. I talked about my journey from a student in Australia to the independent practitioner working in Finland. I also talked about my own artistic-pedagogical method of dance animateuring and presented its six thesis. It was great to visit my old school and meet the current postgraduate students!

IMG_8062 IMG_8069


Movement explorations with Dr. Bagryana Popov in April 20-22 

Bagryana and I continued our collaboration by doing some movement explorations both in studio space and outside. Soo Yeun You joined us on Thursday and it was great fun to work with her again after ten years! (We danced together in Bagryana’s Studies in Being Human in 2006.) Bagryana also presented her research paper The listening body: Encounters with trees, water, rocks for me, which was very interesting because the paper handled our collaborative project from last year in Finland. In our practice we used authentic movement technique and we focus especially to the concept of landscape – as in our childhood memories, as in the experience of multi-sensory presence. On Friday Bagryana and I walked along Yarra Creek and research the landscape as a personal sanctuary of everyday.


Sounds of Grey

Something happens – four short films


Something happens – four short films

Sat 27th February 2-3pm at Arthouse Cinema Niagara, Tampere

Four poetic films about atmospheres. The films born intuitively – by yielding to that what aroused in the process. The films you cannot rationalize and which do not reflect anything particular, but which, exactly therefore, have a potential to awaken you for deeper understanding and to connect with that which is present in this very moment.

Something happens is a film event organized by Tampere Art Education Association and which presents four short films by Markku Hakala and Raisa Foster:
I am You – by Markku Hakala
Sounds of Grey – by Raisa Foster
Matkaopas – by Markku Hakala
I Shall Not Suffer – by Raisa Foster & Markku Hakala


I have used the method of dance animateuring in the creation of the two films Sounds of Grey and I Shall Not Suffer. The starting points for the films were: 1) to investigate and bring front the quality of so-called “weak performer” (opposite to charismatic, skillful, and others that are normally valued), and 2) to let meanings to emerge from “in-between” (opposite to subject/object division), in other words to avoid the psychologization of individual subjectivity and also the pretense of universal symbolization.

The collaborative creative process of film making also challenges the idea of “possessive individualism” (Macpherson 1962), the concept of human as “I own therefore I am”. The modernist idea of film maker and/or its performers as the owners of the film and its meanings is abandoned. In contrast, the film invites multiple meanings to arise and thus requires active participation from its audience.

The idea of dance animateuring is to encourage everyone to find their own way of moving and to express by movements. The film created in the process of dance animateuring presents a performer which presence and expression is “undemanding”. The use of pedestrian movements is common, but even if the movements are antiexpressive – abstract in the sense that they go beyond everyday moves – they still give an impression of effortlessness.

The films aim to show, how the meanings of an art work are not based on just semiotics. The film does not aim to present artistic symbols (in the form of dance steps and choreography) which are based on the artist’s intentions and which are pointing to some particular and coherent meaning. In contrast, meanings emerge from elements that go beyond the (human) subjectivity and were not in control of the (human) makers of the film: in other words, from the movements of plants, light and shadow, rain, an empty chair and a room, train tracks, staircase, colors, sounds.

Something happens celebrates the ineffability of artistic meaning. All the four films bring front the idea of “holistic affective experience”. Another concept to describe this kind of phenomenon is “atmosphere” which points to a state where everything is interconnected. (See also Vadén & Torvinen 2014.) Atmosphere occurs as a primary experience and it shows the world as it is, and not through concepts and representations of it (see also Klemola 2005). The films are not illustrations of life, but they have a life of their own.


OPEN CALL: Break a Brain – ecojustice art festival

Break a Brain is a new art festival organized by Art-Eco Project in August 8–9 2015 in Tampere, Finland. It is a multi-disciplinary and place-based art festival, which provides a meeting place for both artists and audience, who are interested in different art forms placed in public spaces.

The theme of the festival is social/eco-justice. Our concept of art is broad and the festival program will contain a wide spectrum of different art forms and their fusions. We believe that art in everyday contexts can challenge us to rethink the roles of people and the norms of our society but also to pay attention to our surroundings and to the ecological questions.

We are looking for art works that handle and follow the principals of social/eco-justice. Read more and apply!


Rikka – video installation

I was planning to show my latest performance Rikka (2014) at the EcoJustice and Activism conference, but unfortunately we did not get enough funding for the whole artistic team to travel to the States. That is why I ended up in showing the video documentation of Rikka at the conference.

Rikka – the video documentation of a site-specific performance touching the unknown
Director Raisa Foster
Performer Ale Ripatti
Sound artist Alpo Nummelin
Rikka is an artistic outcome of a research project asking two questions:
What is the value of uncertainty in artistic practice?
How is space and consciousness intertwined in bodily experience?
Thank you Jussi and Jani for helping me with the installation.
Thank you Taike Arts Promotion Centre Finland for the travel fund.

Workshop: To touch and to be touched

In addition to my paper presentation I also gave a short (60 min) workshop at the EcoJustice and Activism conference.

To touch and to be touched – sensory explorations out in the nature
This workshop is for everyone! In this workshop we will communicate without words. The workshop provides its participants a moment to experience the state of conscious presence through various tasks and the phenomenological concept of lived body opens up in a more concrete way. We will do some body awareness exercises and sensory tasks and we will also explore our connection to the other people and our surroundings.
raisa2_EJE Raisa3_EJE Raisa4_EJE Raisa5_EJE

How is space and consciousness intertwined in a bodily experience?

I presented my paper How is space and consciousness intertwined in a bodily experience? on Friday the 20th of May in the EcoJustice and Activism conference at the Eastern Michigan University. My paper presented an art-based research about the bodily experience of “a promenade performance”. The starting point of my research was an art project called Rikka. The project was executed in collaboration by a dance animateur, me, a performer Ale Ripatti and a sound artist Alpo Nummelin in Finland 2013–2014. The improvisatory project led to a synthesis of the site-specific movement and sound art Rikka (2014). In my paper the art project was viewed in the light of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception.

As an artist and a researcher I am trying to have a phenomenological attitude in my practice. I am trying to avoid working from ideas. I am just trying to be present and perceive. I start from action. I am not working towards something specific and I am not trying to present something specific either. I create and then I will see what is there. So the ideas, the interpretations come only later. I am the first spectator of my own performances. I select material from the improvisations to the final performance often very intuitively. I may just have a feeling that there is ”something” in the scene. I don’t often know what it is, but something. Sometimes my bodily responds brings up emotions or memories. But I am very aware that my own interpretation may differ from an audience’s or each and every spectator’s own immediate respond or more rational analysis. What is important is that I don’t want the audience to passively receive my art but to actively live with it.

In Rikka I was especially interested in researching the meaning of space as we experience it in our bodies. For Merleau-Ponty (2008, 171) to be a body, means to be united to a certain world: our body is not in space, but it is of it. Merleau-Ponty (2008, 343) talks about natural or primordial space instead of geometrical space: instead of the physical distance between myself and all things, “a ‘lived’ distance binds me to things which count and exist for me, and links them to each other” (Merleau-Ponty 2008, 333). We live at the same time in the common property world and in a private world (Merleau-Ponty 2008, 335). The two worlds are often separated as an external, which is geometrically and objectively received and explained, and as an internal, which is mental and individual and accessible only subjectively.

Contemporary visual art, as well as the performing arts, can purposely play with the rules of interior and exterior perspectives and also with the whole complex weavings of different point of views. Moreover, especially installation and performance art often shake the traditional separation of an object and a subject or a sender and a receiver by placing the work of art or a performer in a new relation with an audience. Rikka can be seen as a “promenade performance” or a total work of art which surrounds the spectator with multi-sensible ways; it invites the spectator to join in the instant experience of a shared moment.


Merleau-Ponty, M. (2008/1945) Phenomenology of Perception. (Trans. Smith, C.) London: Routledge Classics.


NOTE: This was a short description of my presentation. If you are interested in reading the whole paper, please contact me via email: raisa.foster (at)



Introduction seminar: The possibilities of art in creating new (ethical and ecological) ways of being human

Today we had the opening seminar of our research project! Unfortunatelly the other researcher Jussi Mäkelä was sick and not able to participate, but we had an amazing group of eight dance animateurs, who will work as my co-researcher in this project, taking part of today’s seminar. We had a great – and very important – day together talking about the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues that we are dealing with in our project.

The main purpose of this seminar was to intoduce the whole research project for my co-researcher. The aim of our study is to investigate the artistic and pedagogical possibilities to support the holistic awareness of empathetic-ecological humanity.

We are asking:

1) How is the expanded concept of art connected to the concept of eco-citizenship?

2) How could we support the holistic awareness of empathetic-ecological humanity by using art-based pedagogies?

There are two reseachers working fully funded in this project. PhD candidate Jussi Mäkelä is a visual artist and an educator. His interest is in Joseph Beuys’ art and thinking. I am the project leader and my interesterests are in researching how dance animateuring can support the awareness of empathetic-ecological humanity. The dance animateurs (who have been studing with me last year and who graduated in December 2014) will collect/produce data from/in their own projects with very diverse groups (disabled, young, elderly people, women with eating disorders, …) Both of us, Mäkelä and I, have Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology as the theoretical background for our research.

Professor Veli-Matti Värri (University of Tampere) and professor Rebecca Martusewicz (Eastern Michigan University) are working as our mentors in the project. Martusewicz will work as a Fulbright Award scholar in Tampere, Finland, from August till December 2015. We also have an Australian collaborator, theatre director Bagryana Popov (Ph.D.) from La Trobe University, Melbourne, coming to Finland later in this year.

The researchers will produce both artistic outcomes as well as research papers during the research project. The reserchers will also edit a collection of peer-reviewed articals about eco-justice, eco-citizenship and empathetic-ecological  humanity into a book in the end of 2017. The discussion will be opened to a broader audience by publishing also a collection of practice-based descriptions from the dance animateurs. This blog also serves as a platform to a broader discussion. It is very important for us that the new understanding that our project will produce does not only stay inside an academia.

Today we also had a great pleasure to have a philosopher Vesa Jaaksi talking to us about the possibilities of art in creating a new (ethical and ecological) ways of being human. I will try to summarize his speech later for you. Follow our blog!

In the afternoon I presented my own art-based methodology, eragraphy, which we will use with the dance animateurs in this project. I will also write a blog post about the eragraphy later – stay tuned!

Thank you, the head of Tampere Art Education Association Jarmo Skön and Sanna Piitulainen from Taideverstas Wärjäämö for creating this event in collaboration with me!


New collaborator: Dr Bagryana Popov from Australia!

I just received great news today: we have a new collaborator from Australia, Dr Bagryana Popov!

Dr. Popov is an award-winning theatre director, who has worked in theatre and music for over 20 years in Melbourne and across Australia. She has initiated collaborative projects with theatre institutions also in Bulgaria
and Macedonia. Her work in theatre has explored themes such as human rights, imprisonment and the plight of refugees – and now she is also interested in the questions of eco-awareness (see Bagryana’s new project Uncle Vanya in Avoca: Creative development in March 2014). She has completed a PhD through the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. She is currently working as a lecture in applied theatre at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Bagryana is also my very dear friend and I have performed in her physical theatre piece “Studies in being human” in 2006 in Melbourne.


Bagryana and I in Melbourne in 2006.

Bagryana was given a travel grant to come to Finland for a week and do some art-based research work with us! Her schedule is still open – we let you know what will happen and when!

Bagryana, welcome to our Art-Eco team! It’s very nice to have you with us!