Jessica Koivistoinen is one of the two artists exhibiting new works on this year's Barefoot Path exhibition. As you might already know for the information in this webpage and for the interview we published with the curator of the exhibition Sandra Nyberg, the team behind Barefoot Path decided to put the path in resting mode for 2022.
After 10 years of exhibitions, as the number of visitors have grown year after year, the team started observing the human impact on the forest area that hosts the path. Because of these observations, they decided to act responsibly and put Barefoot Path in resting mode, giving themselves time to reflect about this impact, and how to run the exhibition sustainably into the future.
In this context, Jessica’s work suits this exceptional moment for the path extremely well. Her work, Oriolus oriolus, consists of two different elements: a post box where the visitors can find a pair of binoculars to observe the forest from the side of the road, and a series of sculptures placed on the limits of the forest that contains the Barefoot Path. On one hand, you can enjoy her sculptures from the sandy road without even entering the path itself, reducing the possible impact of your visit to a minimum. And on the other hand, her sculptures are to be spotted between the branches with a pair of binoculars. This, connects the work with her growing interest in bird watching (as we will discover with the interview below), as well as it becomes a window to reflect about observing nature without disturbing it, something intimately interlaced with the spirit of the Barefoot Path this 2022.
Jessica arrived in Korpo for the first time in November 2021 for a residency in the fabulous AARK (Archipelago Art Residency in Korpo). While here, her recent passion for bird-watching inspired her to start a series of abstract paintings from details of some of the birds she observes. A few months later, in summer 2022, her works can be seen all over Korpo in different art and cultural projects: in the exhibition Migration in Skärgårdscentrum Korpoström, as a part of a memory interactive game developed by Skärgårdshavets Unesco biosfärområde, Biosfärakademin, as a teaching material for kids on the school and kindergarten, and on Barefoot path. She has also led workshops on the kid's lab at Skärgårdscentrum Korpoström.
For all these reasons, interviewing her for this series of articles about the Barefoot Path is super exciting to us. So without further ado, let’s get to the interview.
My works, made with different techniques, are like abstract notes about watching birds or things I’ve learned about their habits and features related to plumage. They are colorful and often detailed, just like the birds are.
/ Hello Jessica. As a child, you visited Korpo many times, but it was not until last November that you visited the island again as an adult to be part of the AARK residency in Korpo. Can you tell us what expectations you had before coming here, how long time did you spend on the residency, what did you do here and what this residency meant to you?
Hello Aaron! After almost half a year, thinking about my plans for that two-week residency period feels a bit funny. I was planning to focus heavily on working and having a quite strict schedule. Well… quite soon after arriving to lovely AARK, I realized how tired I was and how good it felt to let myself wander around places nearby and just rest. I was also watching birds as much I could. The greatest finding was in Nauvo where I saw an Ural Owl.
After one week resting and having lovely walks, I had an idea to paint abstract birds and use paintings as a Christmas calendar for my friends in social media. That was a start of a big chain reaction! So, I have to say that AARK has a very big impact in my artist work!
/ I understand that years ago you worked as assistant for Sandra Nyberg, and that once here you invited her over to visit you in the residency. How did that visit go? Was it then that your participation on both the barefoot Path and in the exhibition “Migration” on Skärgårdscentrum Korpoström started?
Yes! I met Sandra for the first time when I was studying in Turku UAS' Arts Academy, and there was a collaboration with artists and art students called In Public, In Particular (IPIP). Once here, I thought it would be nice to meet again, so invited her to AARK. While drinking tea and talking, I told about my bird watching hobby and future bird-themed exhibitions in 2022. One of my ideas was to paint all the birds I observed during the coming year in the same abstract style as I had painted in my Christmas calendar. Honestly, abstract paintings have helped me a lot in learning to identify birds!
Sandra told about Skärgårdscentrum Korpoström's upcoming Migration exhibition, for which she had been asked to be curator. She told what kind of works would be in the exhibition and how they dealt with migration in different ways. However, a bird-themed piece was missing from the works, and birds are a strong part of the migration theme. So it was a funny coincidence that I had started painting birds only a few days before we met and that they were like a missing piece in the exhibition.
/ Did you visited the Barefoot Path prior to your participation on the exhibition?
Yes, I visited the Barefoot Path for the first time when I was in AARK's residency.
/ What are the impressions that you got from that visit?
There were no other people on the path and I could walk alone, looking at the works and the forest in peace with no hurry. I really liked the art works and how they communicated with the surrounding forest. It was great to feel like I was more in the forest than in an exhibition, so I paid attention to how I walked in the area. If the path was a little unclear at some point, I felt a little uncertain about whether I could continue going wherever I wanted.
/ How do you personally see the process that the Barefoot Path is undergoing this 2022? How does your work relate to that process/reflection?
I think actions like this are important messages from people to others. For some reason, we seem to think that limitations don't apply to us, and the idea of who really can set limits is strange. Although we see nature changing due to the power of human influence, it seems that some people do not know how to take the matter seriously and set limits independently without being specifically ordered to do so. I think that's sad and makes me worried.
I was very happy when Sandra asked me to include the work for this year. For a long time I have been attracted by the idea of making a work that is somehow different to look at and even difficult to see, so the concept of a resting forest supported this theme well. After discussing the place of the piece in the forest, Sandra suggested using binoculars as part of viewing the piece, and I think that was the perfect idea. It's funny that I didn't think of it myself, even though I spend most of my time with binoculars hanging around my neck. Ha ha!
/ Talking about birdwatching. On the webpage, we can read that “a small-scale hobby that has literally developed into a way of life in a surprisingly short time”. Could you tell us more about it? How did this hobby start and what it means to you and how it this passion inform your art nowadays?
Well, at first I was thinking of buying binoculars and wanted to learn to identify more birds in addition to what I already knew. In autumn 2021 I joined a bird watching walk organized by the Turku Ornithological Association, and soon I found myself interested in bird ringing and bird monitoring by different counting around the year. That all happened very quick!
At the moment, I am training to become a prey bird ringer, which takes a LOT of time. Time is spent looking for bird nests, mapping new areas, and also ringing during the summer. In order to get my own ringing permit in the future, I need to be able to identify the most common resident and migratory birds found in Finland very well. There are about 240 species in total, so there is plenty to learn with males, females, young birds etc.!
I think that if I make art about birds or nature, it is important for me to participate in birdwatching and spend a lot of time in nature. When I know what changes are happening in nature, I can also position myself to protect it and speak for it. It might be easier to just paint birds in my studio, but I'm totally in love with my new lifestyle, and it's hard to believe that my life will ever go back to the way it was before.
/ Can you tell us what the name of your work (Oriolus oriolus) makes reference to?
Oriolus oriolus is the scientific name of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (kuhankeittäjä). Kuhankeittäjä is a colorful migratory bird that is now classified as endangered in Finland.
There are many people who do not know most of our birds. The thought that some species are in danger of disappearing as unknown is sad in my opinion. I hope that my abstract paintings and sculptures will arouse people's curiosity to study the birds that represent them, so that they understand how wonderful birdlife we have and how important it is to protect it.
/ Is there anything else you would like to tell to the readers of this article?
I encourage all people to stop and observe not only birds but also insects, plants and trees etc. It's okay if you don't recognize any of them. You can just count how many ones you see and name the ones you know. Maybe you can get more interested and want to learn to recognize more of them. By doing this, I have found a lot to do and observe wherever I go, so it feels like there are new adventures to be discovered everywhere!
Thank you Jessica for this interview, for your kindness and for all the inspiration that you have spread around our community.
You can find the interview with Sandra Nyberg, curator of the project, on this link.
If you are interested in visiting Barefoot Path this year, you can check out the list of artists that are exhibited in 2022 on our homepage. From there, you can read a description and get a glimpse of how each work looks on our 2022 exhibition page. And if you want to know how to arrive to barefoot Path, please visit about us.