everything you want to know

Frequently I am asked questions about Humanshredder -performance project. Here are some of the most common ones:

WHAT IS HUMANSHREDDER?

Humanshredder is a participatory performance project that has been practiced since 2012. It deals with encountering, stepping over borderlines and letting go. Humanshredder collects people’s burdens. It can be a secret, a goodbye, letting go, accepting, making a decision: It can be anything from wanting to stop eating candy to exploitation. 

HOW DID YOU START DOING IT? WHERE DID YOU GET THE IDEA?

I have a terrible need to do something with my hands, so I often shred papers, coasters, orange peels – what ever is infront of me while I’m waiting or watching tv…Maybe it would be more useful to have a pen and paper? I do that also. Anyway, I guess it relaxes me – it brings me to a meditative state. It also makes me more attentive. At some point year 2011 I started to think could I do art with this method. Because also the material that started piling on top of the tables looked really beautiful. For one year I was thinking about the project, talking to my friend and colleague Anna Uschanov about it and the project slowly started developing. My firs ideas were not so much concentrated on the act of performance, even I thought it was a necessary element in the process, but into the material that I would make: I planned mainly to collect material that I could later work with.

When I was asked if I would have some performance I would like to execute in one parking space in down town Helsinki summer 2012 I decided to jump. I thought that the idea won’t get any readier the longer I think about it. So I went and gave out flyers and then sat down on my spot with a big glass jar, papers and pens. I thought people would come and tell me that they want to stop smoking and give me their last cigarets, or they would tell that they feel guilty about buying a dress that they don’t really need and give me a receipt. But no. People told me very touching stories, some cried, and many left smiling. I noticed that the project has a lot more potential than I anticipated. I hadn’t believed in people’s courage enough. 

Of course I am also very curious.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The person comes to me, tells me what she/he wants to share with me, wants to get rid of and then gives me a thing that symbolizes the burden to shred and destroy. The only request I have for the material is that it somehow is connected to the matter and that it is possible to break. Hopefully after the action the burden feels lighter to carry, maybe is even gone. I try to shred everything with my bare hands, but often I need some tools. I want the action to be as personal as possible. The participant is asked to watch the shredding action. I store all the material and show it in different combinations. I still plan to build a large installation, where I combine all the material I have collected over the years, but I am not in any hurry. I would also like to make a publication in the end – and maybe that will be the last edition of Humanshredder.

WHAT DO YOU MOST LIKE ABOUT THE PROJECT?

There are many things. I especially like that this piece can be experienced in multiple ways: in the live act as a participant or spectator, studying an installation, watching the act on a video installation or through sound works. For me as a performer interesting are the moment when the burden is given to be shredded and the reaction after it is done. The burden disappears when shredded and becomes material to be worked with.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS PROJECT?

With most of my art I aim to stop and give time. I think that everything in the world is moving so fast that we don’t have any time to really think and reflect. And when we don’t have that time, we are not feeling good – and the world is not feeling good. Humanshredder gives the participants and viewers a possibility to stop and breath, as well as a permission to feel whatever they feel. The performance act is very personal, but when studying the shredded burdens people also feel being part of something: they connect themselves to other people’s burdens and feel togetherness and sympathy. I often say that with this project I want to show that all the bad things that has happened, all the shitty things we have experienced, create something beautiful: we would not be who or what we are without them. The shredded material shows it visually.

ISN’T IT HARD FOR YOU?

Yes, of course it is. But when the person tells me the story behind the burden and attaches it to an object that is handed to me, I also start seeing the object as the burden. That means that when I break the object I am handling with the burden myself, getting it out of my own system as well. Naturally some burdens stay longer with me, and I am often very tired after the session. I also remember almost all the burdens I have ever collected.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE HOW YOU BREAK THE OBJECT? WHAT IF YOU CANNOT BREAK IT?

Intuitively at that moment. Obviously the tools that I have with me, and the space where I am performing dictates a bit the acts. I have noticed that the ways I break have changed. I am being more creative in the process as I feel some ways quite boring…But also the heaviness of the burden has importance. If I feel that the burden is really heavy I choose more difficult ways to break it – or more time consuming that is. But I don’t think that at the moment, I just notice it afterwards.
Everything can be broken, but sometimes I don’t have the right tools, or it would take too log (sometimes breaking takes close to 2 hours!) or the space is such that I cannot be trowing stuff on the walls. Then I have asked if I can make a video of the breaking.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS OF THE PROJECT?

Performance, different installations (combinations of burdens and single altered burdens), video- and sound-installations, letters, and texts.

WHEN ARE YOU FINISHED WITH THE HUMANSHREDDER-PROJECT?

I don’t know. It might take until I am old and grey, or it might be tomorrow. Maybe it will never be finished!
When I feel that there is nothing more for me to collect. That I have all the pieces of humanity in my storage. Then I can build a person.

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