...is to wait train to stop in Oulu and be surrounded by 30 strangers who's minds are quietly wondering in far away places
...hear one of those strangers suddenly break the silence and saying "It is always the same travelling in Finland.. hard to find anyone to talk to" some of the passengers look at this person with respect for breaking the silence others are annoyed to be dragged away from their own world
...is to jump up and down in a buss station when it's -35C in January and you need to get into school
...is sweating like a pig in Midsummer party and wish it was January. Good that there is always beer and cider to cool you down
... is being pressured to drink and at the same time remember all those friends who have another parent passed away because of a drinking problem
... is talking with your friends on Facebook how cold it has been in different parts of the country and planning your next vacation to Thailand or other warm place
...is when people ask if you would like to have a cup of coffee and they roll your eyes and don't believe you when you say you don't drink coffee
...are those moments when you feel so sad, depressed and lonely you feel like you could die
...highest freedom of press in the world that is very much controlled by the government
...anonymous comments in on-line new-feeds. Finnish on-line trolls have opinions on everyone and everything but in fear of getting opinions about themselves they decide not to reveal their identity
..is being dumped with a text message or get fired by e-mail
...trying to finish your degree and failing last minute because your teacher was too "busy" to answer to your e-mails
...is lay-offs in postal services at least twice in a year
...is to have your hair turning gray because government insurance institution (KELA) wants to know all your comings and goings since you turn 18 and legally become and adult and if you are a student doing a part-time job(s) you end up doing more paper work than government paper workers.
...is frustration towards the current leaders but fear of taking any actions to change the situation
...Finding Finnish music and movies overall quite depressing
...to communicate with your apartment building neighbors using the message board in the downstairs lobby
...is to let fear of being judged control your life and being called overly emotional by others that are overly emotional
..unpleasant meetings with back wood bachelors who vote for the basic Finns and believe that only job for a woman is to give birth boys to this word (most likely these men are in their 30's live at their moms and do volunteer work for the church or salvation army).
..is the talent of sulking. Finns can get fucking pissed at something but they can't reach the ultimate state of rage...which is probably a good thing
...is collective melancholy that exist even within the most optimistic Finns
...is feeling very alive while moshing your long locks in a rock concert
.. is knowledge of that Finnish men speak about their feelings...with each others ..in the sauna
...is to go abroad with your Finnish friend and people have no idea what your conversations are about
...is to appreciate your own space and know that everyone else appreciates it as well
...Picking blueberries and getting your hands and your tongue all blue
...is to get really pissed when you hear someone judging your family or friends even if your loved ones would drive you crazy
...watching the stars in winter nights and feel unexplained pain in your heart because it's all so beautiful
...Moving abroad and start from a scratch because there is sisu in your dna
There is 5,5 million inhabitants in Finland and 3,5 million saunas. That makes 0,5 saunas for each Finn. If you live in Finland, if you have lived in Finland or if you have just visited Finland it is more than likely that you have been to sauna.
Road to sauna in my family summer cabin
You can find different types of saunas from other parts of the globe as well but in Finland sauna is major part of the culture and national identity.
For example Native Americans have their sweat tents that are used for shamanistic purposes. Same goes with the original purpose of Finnish sauna. Sauna was a place for shamanistic practice and spirituality. Sweating was seeing as spiritual process. It wasn't just physical purification but also mental cleaning of the body. Sweat lots that have been used for spiritual purposes have been found also from India and Africa.
Bath house culture in Europe originally started in the ancient Greece. Bath house culture however back then wasn't that much about shamanism or spirituality. For ancient Greeks going to a bathhouse was more a social event. Later on when Rome took over the world of ancient Greek they also adopted the bathhouse culture. After the fall of western Roman empire conquers from Turkey and other eastern Byzantium adopted the bathhouse culture and that is how bathhouse culture spread also to eastern Europe.
Turkish sauna however is more similar to steam room and temperature doesn't rise above 40C unlike in Finnish sauna.
Early Middle-Age Europe there was bathhouses build next to several monasteries. Washing and healing waters believed to have powers to purify the soul as well.
Later in the Middle-Ages and Renaissance era (1000 - 1500 ce) Europe was battlefield of constant different religious conflicts. Bathhouses withing monasteries started to get questionable reputation as vulgar entertainment and destroyer of morality. Which is why bathhouse culture disappeared from most parts of Europe for a long time. It is interesting to ponder why sauna culture has survived in Finland 'till today.
I doubt that modern Finns put lot's of thought to wonder why they go to sauna or why Finns love to be in the sauna. Once I read lovely comparison; it said that; sauna is as important for Finns as drinking tea for English. I'm a Finn and don't spent much time analyzing why I go to sauna. It's a learned habit. Maybe it's a subconscious habit. Perhaps I go to sauna because my ancestors did.
Once I read a theory that was created by some foreign professors. They thought that ancient Finns went to sauna to do sun worship rituals. I think this theory is quite amusing. I don't believe it's very accurate since the first saunas that have been found in Finland are earth saunas (ground saunas).
Earth sauna is a sauna build underground. You can pretty much only see a tiny bulge and chimney. Naturally earth sauna is extremely dark place so I don't really buy the sun worship theory.
Most common sauna type beside earth sauna is the forest sauna. That is where most of the modern Finnish saunas are based on.
Ever since there has been people living in Finland there also has been saunas. Ancient Finns had animistic/shamanistic world view. According to animistic world view everything in nature has it's own soul and spirit. In Finland nature and four seasons are constantly present in the everyday life. Sauna is relevant during each seasons and especially around major holidays like Midsummer celebration and Christmas.
Imagine a person who lived in ancient Finland. When he wanted a build a house for himself first he build the sauna. Building a house is very time consuming and very sweaty thing to do. This person could live in the sauna until the house was ready.
Ancient Finns also gave birth in the sauna. It was very common that coming mother and her midwifes might spent several days living in the sauna, even weeks while preparing coming mother for giving birth.
Sauna was also related to death. If person died his or her body was washed in the sauna and body was also left to stay in the sauna until the burial.
There is also lot's of Finnish folklore and myths related to sauna:
According to Finnish Anthology Kalevala first cats were born in the Sauna
"Birth of the cat"
(c) Niina Niskanen
"I know of the cats origin the incubation of Greybeard The cat was gotten on a stove as a girls nose a hares head a tail of "Hiisi's plait of hair" claws of a viper a tail of snakes venom Feet of cloud berries the rest of it's body is of the wolf's race"
Graybeard refers to a Finnish elf who blew life to the cats on a stove.
There is lot's of elf mythology in Finland.
I have a separate blog post about which you can read here.
One of myth tells that person who build the sauna or first time went to the sauna became the guardian spirit of the sauna, sauna elf.
Beside giving birth sauna was also related to death. Bodies of the deceased were washed in the sauna and there they also waited to be buried. In many ways sauna was seeing as a portal between the visible world and the invincible spiritual world.
According to the animistic world view of the ancient Finns human beings had three souls (I will make separate blog post about it at some point). One of the soul was called löyly. Löyly represented life inside the body; breathing and other body functions. Löyly is one of the oldest words in Finnish language still used by modern Finns but now löyly represents the steam rising from the sauna stove. Word is very similar in other Finno-Ugrian languages.
In hungarian language löyly is called lelek and in mari language löyly is called lel.
Perhaps the biggest part of sauna in shamanism has been it's relaxing and healing affects. That are still recognized today.
It has been scientifically proved that going to sauna can release stress, steam breathing helps with allergies, being in the sauna can ease physical pain in the body and help with sleeping problems.
Since I live abroad sometimes I've come across with people that have lot's of weird prejudices about sauna. Especially the fact that Finns go to sauna naked confuses people for other cultures.
Sauna however is foremost an asexual place. For some it is place for social events and some enjoy just being in their own company.
Since there is sauna in majority of Finnish homes it can be very private place as well. In bathhouses and swimming halls it is not recommended that people were swimsuits in saunas because they release toxic to the air. Then again Finnish swimming halls have separate saunas and showers for men and women. There are also public saunas in Finland. Many times you can find them around summer in the public beaches and other places. In public sauna swimming suits are of course mandatory.
Majority of saunas in modern Finnish homes are electric ones. You can also find smoke saunas and wooden saunas. Especially in the summer cabins and country side.
One of the major elements in Finnish sauna culture is vihta (western Finland) or vasta (eastern Finland). Vihta/vasta is bouquet made from tree branches. Originally vihta/vasta has meant broomstick made from leaves. I'm going to use word vasta now since that's the one I usually use.
Traditionally Finns tap them selves and each others with vasta when they are in the sauna. This also goes way back to the shamanistic practice. Vastominen was a magical process where person could clean their body from sickness and bad thoughts. Also if family wanted to have lovely scent to the sauna vasta was left to stay in a bucket filled with water over night and the next day this water was poured to the sauna stove. Sometimes people also might throw bucket of beer to the stove and get very earthy scent from that as well. Vastominen also has scientific influences on one's health since it increases blood flowing faster in one's body.
In the old days people did lot's of magic during Midsummer. Making sauna to the midsummer sauna was also folk magic. Different trees had different meanings so the person could pick tree branches from those trees that he or she wanted to have power. For example vasta made from oak tree leaves was believed to bring wisdom and knowledge, different kinds of flowers in vasta was great for love spells. If person wanted to stay in good health all year around they should pick branches from blackcurrant bushes.
Vasta is not only Finnish or Slavic thing. Native Americans also use vasta's in their sweat tents and in the anciet Maya culture Mayas used vasta's in their sweating rooms. Interestingly enough vasta's of the Mayas were made from corn leafs.
Watercolor and white charcoal on cold pressed acid free watercolor paper
I was truly devastated last week when I heard that one of my favorite actors of all the time Alan Rickman had passed away. Often he played the villain but what I heard he was truly a kindred spirit in his personal life.
Captain Brandon in Sense and sensibility, Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Severus Snape in Harry Potter-films and tons of other great roles he played.
I was actually working with this portrait of Snape when I heard the news.
Incredible depth he brought to the character of Severus Snape.
Mulan is Disney animated film released back in 1998 and it's Disney classic number 36.
China is in the edge of destruction. Tribes from the north are about to attack and their fearsome leader Shan Yu wants to concur all China. In peaceful Chinese village young Mulan is on her way to meet the matchmaker. Meeting does not go so well and Matchmaker believes that Mulan's is bringing only shame for her family.
Mulan is sad and disappointed for herself. Her father tries to comfort her. At the same time Emperor's console arrives and announces that one man from each family should join the army and defend China and the emperor. Mulan's father Fa Zhou who served in the army in his younger years sees that it is his duty to defend his country. Mulan knows her father is old and sick and he wouldn't survive. Father and daughter have an argument and during the night Mulan cuts her hair and steels her father's armor and joins the army as a man called Ping.
In the morning Mulan's family notices that she is gone. Mulan's grandmother prays family ancestors to protect Mulan. Ancestors decide to send family's guardian stone dragon to protect Mulan. Mushu who used to family's protector dragon, now a cong-player, manages to break the stone dragon. Mushu takes his place and goes after Mulan and hopes that ancestors would forgive him and make him family's protector dragon again.
Mulan also has her lucky cricket Si-Ri to help her. Luck is what Mulan needs since Mushu's advice's aren't always the best ones. Recently promoted Captain Shang want's to make his troops best in all China. In the beginning Mulan gets lot's of new enemies just by being clumsy. Nevertheless she proofs to be tough and talented warrior. Mulan makes friends with three soldiers Yao, Ling and Chien Po. She has a crush on Captain Shang but of course she can not reveal anyone that she is actually a woman.
Mushu get's tired boring life in the army camp. He and Si-Ri decrease a letter where general Li (Shang's father) orders his son and troops to follow him to the mountains. Once they get their it's horrible sight. Huns have killed everyone in the mountain village and there is nothing left from emperors army anymore than Captain Shang and his troops.
As they continue their journey they get attack by the Huns. Mulan saves the troops and Captain Shang by lighting a firework that causes a snowfall. She get's wounded and once doctor examines her everyone find out that she is really a woman. Woman in the army is against the law and Shang should kill Mulan then and there. Mulan however saved his life so he spares hers. Troops leave her to the mountains and continue their journey to the forbidden city.
While sitting in the mountains Mulan sees that Huns and their leader Shan Yu are still alive. She travels to the forbidden city to warn Captain Shang. Captain however does not listen to her and Shan Yu manages to kidnap the Emperor. Mulan asks her friends Yao, Ling and Shien Po to dress up as emperors mistresses. Together they fight against huns and Captain Shang manages to save the emperor. Mulan escapes to the roof and fights there with Shan Yu. Mushu lights up fireworks and that is the end of Shan Yu. Mulan and Mush are saved last minute before whole palace is destroyed.
Emperor rewards Mulan and is eternally grateful for her for saving China. He offers Mulan a job as a royal counselor. Mulan doesn't take the offer she just wants to return back home to her family. After touching goodbyes Mulan returns to her home village. She gives emperor's gifts to her father but Fa Zhou is just happy that her daughter has returned home. At the same time Captain Shang comes to return the helmet Mulan forgot. Mulan asks him to stay for dinner and her tactful grandmother asks him to stay for eternity. Mushu is promoted as protector of the Fa's family and movie ends ancestors having a great party.
Legend of Mulan
Disney's Mulan is based on a Chinese poem called Ballad of Mulan from 6th Century.I have a blog text about Ballad of Mulan you can read it here.
Original poem itself is quite short but after the first literal version appeared there has been tons different versions about the legend of Mulan in Chinese literature, theater, art, comics and movies.
Disney's Mulan is pretty loyal to the original story of Mulan. Of course in the Disney movie there is lot's of new characters and humor. Still the plot and character descriptions are pretty much the same.
Disney had difficulties to get Mulan to Chinese cinema distribution. Few years before Mulan Disney founded movie Kundun that told about the life of Dalai Lama. Tibet's spiritual leader. Kundun was seen as a protest movie against China since Tibet is controlled by Chinese government.
China takes 10 western movies to cinema distribution each year. Surprisingly Mulan made it to Chinese movie theaters. Chinese reviews were very conflicted and film was seeing too much western type of movie about Mulan.
Ironically some american extreme-feminists criticized Disney's Mulan for being too submissive female character. Which in my opinion is ridiculous considering that movie takes place in ancient China where women were submissive to men Mulan being the only acception. Disney storytellers were historically accurate. This kind of behavior really makes Disney obsessive feel second-hand embarrassment.
Finding one's identity
In China Mulan has been a patriotic symbol. Ballad of Mulan is mostly developed around the idea that no matter if you are a man or a woman you can still be heroic and bring glory to your country and family. It is very remarkable as a Chinese poem and really has made a big cultural differences the way it raises questions about gender roles and identity. In a country where traditional roles of women have been shifted just in the past 50 years this is remarkable.
Disney's version is more about finding one's identity and breaking the traditional gender roles. In many ways Mulan was a groundbreaking Disney animation as well since Disney has reputation to be quite conservative studio. Mulan started this whole new generation of active and capable Disney female heroes. We could already see them in Esmeralda in Huntchback of Notre Dame and Megara in Hercules but all these characters shared the screen space with leading men characters. Without Mulan we might not have Merida from Brave and Elsa from Frozen.
Disney studios started to make Mulan in 1994. Disney animators were sent to China to research Chinese landscapes, art and architecture. There is also Chinese inventions in the animation such as paper and fireworks. Mulan was premiered in 1998 and it became huge hit. It was financially second successful family-movie of the year Bugs life going ahead.
Leading lady of Mulan is of course Mulan. We get familiar with Mulan's character straight in the beginning when she is writing cheat sheet to her hand. Mulan is very found of her family especially her father. When things don't go as planned with the matchmaker Mulan feels depressed and sad she has brought shame to her family. Mulan is very brave, unselfish and emphatic.
There is many reasons why Mulan chooses to go the army. She want's to protect her father. Perhaps after the incident with the matchmaker she doesn't really care anymore about her reputation. In the beginning of the movie Mulan tries adopt the traditional Chinese female role. When she joins the army that is when she starts breaking the gender role. In the army she finds her confidence and inner strength. With her intelligence she saves all China and it is her emphatic character that she wins soldiers, Emperor and Captain Chang to her side. In the end of the movie Mulan understands that she doesn't need to adopt traditional role of a man or woman. It is enough that she is just herself.
Mulan's father Fa Zhou is a very kind man. In the original poem Ballad of Mulan it was said that Mulan's father raised her like a son. When Mulan decides to take his father's place in the army father doesn't object but he is not happy either. In the Disney animation Mulan doesn't tell her family that she is about to leave. In both versions common thing is the warm respectful relationship between father and daughter.
Fa Zhou is famous character in the army. When he was younger he used to be a soldier. When Mulan can not bring honor to her family as an unmarried woman. Can she bring honor as a man following her father's foot steps? Fa Zhou is kind, foreseeing and wise father who tells Mulan to follow her own path.
Li Shang is recently promoted Captain. He is strict about order and good behavior and he has very good physical appearance (which we can see in the training camp scene). Shang is also emphatic character. This shows up in the scenes where he is with his father the general and in the end of the movie when he goes to see Mulan. We also see his vulnerability when he realizes that his father has died in the attack.
Mushu and rest of the gang
Mushu brings comical relief to the story. Mushu is a former protector dragon of the Fa's family. Mushu brings intelligent humor to the movie that amuses both children and adults. Mushu wants Mulan to become successful and these two share a special bond. Mulan herself is a bit introvert character and Mushus appearance brings nice balance to the film.
Other funny side-characters are Mulan's not-very-discreet grandmother. Three soldiers Yao, Ling and Shien Po. These three always make me think of three musketeers. Three armybuddies that are closed as brothers. They all like Ping (Mulan) and accept him (her) to their gang. Best thing about these three is their different characteristics. Tiny Yao who has anger control issues, Tall and joking Ling and calm chubby Shien Po who has very Buddha-like appearance.
Shan Yu is the bad guy of the film. He is the fearsome leader of the Huns. He is a cruel man and wants to take over China and sees it as a challenge. He wants to destroy the Emperor. In his eyes Emperor challenged him by starting to build the great wall of China. Shan Yu doesn't feel pity or mercy and kills everyone that are on his way.
Animation and music
Animation style in Mulan is extremely beautiful. Animators put lot's of effort for constant quality and style that reminds Chinese visual art. Computer technique was also used in Mulan especially in scenes with huge crowds but the scenes made with computer blend very well with 2D animation.
In my opinion Mulan is Disney animation with fabulous music.
First song Honor to us all is very humorist and right in the beginning viewer realize what meeting the matchmaker is all about.
Second song Reflections in extremely beautiful and fits perfectly for the mood Mulan must be feeling at that moment.
Third song I make man out of you is amazing!
It tells how Captain Shang manages to create perfect army unit from group of lazy slackers. We can also see how Ping (Mulan) becomes respected part of the team when in the end of the song he (she) climbs to the end of the pole to get the arrow.
Fourth song A girl worth fighting for takes place when group is marching towards mountains singing about women. Time to time Mulan says things about women's intelligence and get's weird looks back.
In certain way Mulan is different compared to many other Disney princesses out there. According to her family tree Mulan isn't a princess or a royal for that matter. But term "Disney princess" is very flowing. Basically any Disney female leading character can be categorized as Disney Princess like Jane from Tarzan and Alice of Wonderland are also called "Disney princesses". Which is a bit silly but that's just people stereotyping Disney animations.
Mulan does breaks the tradition since we don't see the romance in the movie. We see the beginning of possible romance. We see how Mulan gets very found of Captain Shang but of course pretending to be a man she can not reveal her feelings to him. In the end of the movie Shang comes to Mulan's home village to return her helmet.. well helmet is an excuse to see her again and before that Emperor himself has given him some good advice. It is up to viewers imagination what happens between these two characters.
I think I watched Mulan on video (yes on video!) first time sometimes between 1998-1999. I remember always considered it as a good movie though in my eyes it didn't get to the same level with Disney's renaissance-era animations from the early 90's. But I must admit when I watched Mulan again in my winter break for this blog text, with careful eye of Disney researcher and I also did research about the legend of "real" Mulan at the same time. My appreciation for this film has risen tremendously. If I gave three stars before now it's straight four!
There is great balance between humor and drama in Mulan and neither one get's over the top.
Movie is loyal for it's original source and handles important issues that are relevant in today's world as well.
Mulan's universal theme of finding ones identity touches as all no matter who we are or where we come from.
All pictures in this blog texts are property of Walt Disney company
I don't own them you don't own them. I'm just a humble fan
I visited Tate museum in Liverpool recently and saw an exhibition called "Works to know by heart: An imagined Museum" .
This is taken from the Tate Art Gallery web-page:
You’ve arrived at Tate Liverpool in the future. All of the works of art on display are about to disappear, forever. Which works of art do you want to know by heart, committing them to memory so that your favourite piece lives on?
The exhibition invites audiences into a fictional scenario in which the exhibited artworks will cease to exist and asks visitors to memorise the works to secure their future preservation. An Imagined Museum draws on Ray Bradbury’s 1953 sci-fi novel Fahrenheit 451, a tale of a distant future in which works of literature are banned and the only way to save them is to learn them by heart.
Part of Tate Liverpool’s autumn/winter season, entitled Works to Know by Heart,the exhibition encourages audiences to take an active role in the exhibition and to form a personal relationship with the artworks on display.
To be honest with you first I had difficulties to understand the concept of this exhibition. Are they going to destroy all these artworks? then it really would be only imaginable for the viewers? Maybe not. I guess the last line tells it all exhibition encourages audiences to take and active role in the exhibition and to form a personal relations with the artworks on display.
This is the case in all contemporary art. I am first to admit I have mixed up relationship with contemporary art. Not so much with the early contemporary "masters" such Warhol, Kaddinsky and Malewitsch but with current ones and I know why that is. I should talk with them, ask about the pieces and I would understand more.
First contemporary art pieces were breaking all the rules in their time. Art not just being something visually appealing and suitable for each periods in history became a tool to comment the injustice of the world.
For example I never understood what was so amazing about Malewitsch's "Black square". It was just way later on I found out that it was his way to express his feelings about Russian society of the time and thoughts of the people in the edge of revolution. There wasn't black squares in this particular exhibition but I just wanted to use it as a model example.
Is art only relevant if we can bound it to the history of our time.
"Black square" 1915
"Black square! 1915
Oil on linen
In many ways art is connected to it's time and place of creation but the more powerful message there is to find the more it speaks for people generation after generation.
Clock and 4 works on paper, photograph and printed paper
Here is Josuph Kosuth's contemporary piece called "Clock (One and Five) from 1965
Artist has taken words from dictionaries of different countries that are all about time.
There is a real physical clock on the wall,
a photo of the same clock and prints from the dictionaries.
We are all slaves of the time. When we first get up in the morning we look at the clock.
In this modern world time is what causes all the stress. Can I make it school on time? I'm I saving enough money before retirement? I'm always at work do I have any time to spent with my child? This is what clock made me think about. Prints from the dictionaries just conformed this idealism how whole world is struggling with the same issues.
"Self-Portrait of a Business Man"
Jacket, trousers, dress shirt, silk tie, shoes, socks, underpants, passport, plastic cover, leather briefcase, printed papers and other materials
Here is self-portrait of a business man. I like this display and in my imagination Business man got tired to this extremely stressed life style and throw everything away. Another way to look at it is trough self-portrait. We can see the clothes, the briefcase and the passport but we can not see the man. Business comes before him so maybe draining materialistic life style has made the man invisible.
As graduate of art history where does my dual relationship to contemporary art comes from?
Through history artists with groundbreaking ideas and methods have always made fun by others. Impressionist were laughed at first, it took some time before Picasso's abstract pieces were understood, same with Warhol's prints that in many ways helped creating cult of material worship though his original ideas were more about criticizing culture of consuming.
I understand the concept of contemporary art with voice.
Meaning that art is significant when it raises thoughts.
Just like in the exhibition brochure excellently put it Every art is unique not because art makes as happy but precisely because art makes us unhappy, because it constantly reminds us of a better world.
Biggest trap in contemporary art is this idea of the voice. I've seen pieces from contemporary artists where I can't find the voice or anything that raises thoughts. This is why it is so hard to put a price tag on your work no matter were you contemporary artist or a fine artist or both. Art itself is an abstract concept. People can debate forever what art is good and what is not and is artist a phony or not especially modern contemporary artists who can lean on to their ideas and concepts more than their painting and drawing talents and other traditional artistic skills.
I know many people find it extremely difficult to talk about contemporary art or understand it. It's not that narrative and visual always as fine art. Contemporary artists use different kinds of materials often surprisingly with their pieces to get their message out there.
Lessons learned from contemporary art is that there isn't a lesson. There is only different ways of interpretations and challenge your ways of thinking.