Letter for the festival visitor

Laajasalo, East Helsinki, 18 March 2023

Dear reader,

We’re writing to thank you for all the support you’ve given us. It’s a good time, too, to consider how important the support and sheer existence of friends is to humans and other species. Through the ages and everywhere. 

Today we celebrate National Quilting Day, and in town people are marching for nature. Yesterday the sun shone, melting the dirty heaps of snow. I saw the first snowdrops of the year when I went to remove the mouse guards from the hives and to see if the bees were alive. I peeked into the hives carefully, lifting their roofs slightly. There was a lot of food left, and not many wax scraps on the bottom of the hive yet. From this I gathered that the egg laying has not properly started yet, which is probably a good thing. Last year one of the hives perished when the winter storage ran out during a cold April.

The garden is still asleep under the snow, but a few brave bees dared to peek out from the doorway of the hive, called out by the sun. The situation is dangerous though, as the great tits are on the prowl for unsuspecting bees. I cannot wait for the snow to melt and the tulips we rescued last summer from the park’s rubbish to sprout in the Sanctuary garden. This week felt like the first of spring, and I immediately went and bought some new flower seeds and started dreaming of sowing. One can luckily start that inside already, pregrowing seedlings for summer.

My theme for 2023 is warm, and through that I wish to do everything this Year of the Rabbit. Warmth is intrinsic to our work. Handicrafts and gardening share the same ardor: slowness and being hands on with life warm the maker, and at best this warmth is conveyed to the viewer, too. I find quilts fascinating because they are so enigmatic, layered and misunderstood. They are tolerant and abundant in their aesthetics and full of stories. Quilts are heavy and awaken strong emotions for the blankets that they are. 

This past year, feelings and relationships have often been tangled in the Bee Company. These tangles are of no interest to you and I do not wish to say more about them here, but what I will say is that all those feelings and sorrows are also present in the works. They have been sewn into the seams of the tent, and painted and sanded and repainted, dug into the earth and grown into flowers. This exhibition, however, is not about conflict and difficulty but desire, joy and unity. There’s warmth in collaboration and gathering, especially if you can gather in a garden, or in a tent if it rains. Perhaps the most important thing is working, and being, together. Or what do you think?

A few weeks ago we were planning our trip to Prague. It feels meaningful to be going to a city we visited together twenty years ago, on our first trip together, an Interrail at sixteen. A part of the work we present in the Quadrennial will be made, collected and thought about during our long trip by land and sea from Laajasalo to Praha 7 in June. The work continues during the whole PQ23, where our exhibition is slowly forming and changing before your eyes. The beginning and end of this journey are the same as the Interrail in 2003, but in the opposite direction. Something is about to come full circle, though we are not certain what it is yet. This is how we approach art making too – the route is clear, intuition carries you and you know before you know. 

I have been thinking about where to get two comfy and lightweight chairs to sit on for you and me. Is it too risky to try and find them along the way or should I scout them beforehand? I’ve also been thinking about how to pack Catharina’s huge pot and how to prepare the hives for my absence during the buzziest time of the year. I need to ask someone to check in on them and also to water the flower bed when it is dry. An exhibition is an awful responsibility and so is a garden.

But perhaps, after all, it is not what you get out of a garden, but what you put into it that is the most rewarding. And forgive me for my self-conscious ending to this letter, but let me ask one silly and egoistic question: What is my place in the world? A question frequently asked, and never, so far as I know, satisfactorily answered to me. We commonly spend our years, as long as they are given to us, getting ready to enjoy ourselves. How many hours, how many minutes do I get of that which is happiness? I do not mean laziness, which is always discontent; but that enjoyment, in which the natural senses have easy play, and the cynic thoughts and hopelessness have a holiday. There is probably nothing that has such a tranquilizing effect, and leads into such content as gardening. By gardening, I do not mean that insane desire to raise gigantic vegetables which some have; but the philosophical occupation of contact with the earth, and companionship with gently growing things and patient processes; that exercise which soothes the spirit and develops the muscles. 

I hope Prague will be good for us and that we make many new friends for the future.

With warm regards,

Ina & Aino