Roi Vaara: Grounding

24 September 2019
Public space, Old Town




Roi Vaara


Sonic Circuits

The site and situation–specific performance Grounding is based on an interdisciplinary approach and on the integration of various formal matters in a simple way. It is an artistic ritual-like performance where a brand new musical instrument is sacrificed as it is being played.


A performer in black clothing walks at a ceremonially slow pace. He drags a guitar amp on a hand truck, followed by an iconic electric guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, dragging along on the ground a few meters behind him. Its strings are face down and are played by the surface of the ground. The loud amplified sound varies at every step. It calls people to join the procession. At the end of the performance, the guitar is worn out.

Roi Vaara (1953) is a pioneer in video, installation, performance and collective arts in Finland and internationally best known of his performances. His background is in visual arts and in improvisational sound works. As soon as his elemental groundwork in his art became clear to himself, he rejected the conventional genre based art disciplines to work on site and situation specific interdisciplinary art forms made live. He has done performances since 1978 and since 1988 he has been active in a performance collective Black Market International whose mode of operation is based on free and open exchange of ideas.

Vaara has performed over 500 unique, experimental works. His art has been presented in numerous international exhibitions/festivals in about 50 countries worldwide. He is one of the founders of Muu ry (1987), an association for interdisciplinary art in Finland and its honorary member since 2012. He has written about art, worked as visiting lecturer and teacher in numerous universities and art academies around the globe, curated and organized performance art programs. Poikkeustila (Exceptional State or State of Alarm) in 1999 was the first and until now the only nationwide performance art festival in Helsinki. In 2001 Vaara organized EXIT Festival called as Woodstock Festival of Performance Art which presented works of about 300 artists from 34 countries in Helsinki. His performance Artist's Dilemma (1997) on video became an international hit and the emblem of 47th October Salon in Belgrade subtitled as Art, Life & Confusion (curated by René Block) in 2006.

Vaara was born in 1953 in Moss (Norway) from Finnish parents, studied art in University of Art and Design (now Aalto University) in 1972-75 in Helsinki and in Jyväskylä University 1976-77 in Finland. He was granted a state award from the Arts Council of Finland in 2000 and the Niinistö Foundation's Ars Fennica Prize in 2005. In 2010 he was nominated (by Esther Ferrer) to 5x5 CASTELLÓ International Art Prize and was awarded Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of Lion in Finland. Roi Vaara lives and works in Helsinki and Budapest.

Prepared by: GHMP and Agosto Foundation.