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Raisa Foster


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!

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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.
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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!