The town of Pori (a small industrial city in Finland) burned down in 1852 leaving over 70 % of the population homeless. The poorest of the people moved to the outskirts of the city inhabiting the barns and the kilns. Others dag holes for their dwellings in the sandy pastures outside the city planning. These kinds of underground houses built from scrap wood, straw and earth constituted in ten years time an area of 500 habitants living in these shanty town conditions. The situation was widely discussed in it's time in local and national newspapers; it's habitants were often depicted as either morally corrupt outlaws or romantically as troglodytes of the past times. This kind of living lasted for decades giving the area a name: "Holetown" which can be described as a Finnish slum.
In the spring of 2014 a reconstruction of this kind of historical house in a land-hole was built in the area where the so called "Holetown" used to exist, which had then turned into a more traditional working class housing area and more recently a picturesque bourgeoise neighborhood. Autochthonic Fantasy is a video that documents the building process and puts it into dialogue with narrations that fetishize the concept of "underground" in various ways. The piece deals with the mechanisms of taking shelter and reliance in relation to the emerging of repressed hopes, urges and resources. Through transhistorical treatment it depicts chthonic processes: what arises, what takes form, what becomes tangible.
The video consists of four parts: a prologue of narrations and texts that hold temporal specificities mainly from the newspapers from 1860's, alternation of the documentation of the building and dramatized scenes from the hole that bring forth a more sensual approach to this historical situation, an epilogue presenting a future dystopia where people are forced to live in underground disaster shelters, and end credits.
video, duration 18 min
Production, planning, script, directing, camera, editing, sound, music: Arttu Merimaa
Performer (The Autochthon): Mika Rättö
Performer (Shelter Guide): Angela Washko
Narrator (Toivo): Markus Åström
Narrator (Beata & Miranda): Christine Langinauer
Narrator (August): Jaakko Pallasvuo
Main builder / performer: Kalle Virtanen
Builders / performers: Marko Lampisuo, Antti Pedrozo, Henry Merimaa
Producer (Pori): Tuuli Penttinen-Lampisu
Production assistant, second camera: Miina Hujala
Historical consultation: Tuulikki Kiilo from Renovation Centre Toivo of Satakunta Museum and Pirita Frigren whose master's thesis work "Kaupungin Wierustalla" from the Department of History and Ethnology of Jyväskylä University has worked as an inspirational reference as well as an accurate source for contemporaneous writings.
Texts: Björneborgs Tidning 10.5.1861 and 17.5.1861, Lännetär 5.8.1863, Porin Kaupungin Sanomia 24.11.1860.
Desaster shelter footage: Atlas Survival Shelters webpage (2014)
Hymn: Nyt ylös sieluni (Suomalainen Lauluseura, 1901)
Everyone involved in the making of the piece; Ismo Ahonen and the staff of the technical service provider of City of Pori; Boshko Boskovic & Nathalie Anglès, Residency Unlimited; Alex Young; Arika Beachy Hill; Ritva Merimaa; Eero Merimaa; Janne Salonen; Porin Kulttuurisäätö; Pori Art Museum; SIC Space; people of "Kuukkari"; Sari Tervaniemi; Tuhkamäki Sound Studio, all the individuals and parties who offered their support in the making of this piece.
Arts Promotion Centre Finland