Ptarmigan leaves Nilsiänkatu

posted: 09 February, 2011


It's hard to avoid getting emotional when cleaning out the project space that I've dedicated the last year and half of my life to, arguably the most seriously I've ever dedicated myself to anything.  And I keep telling myself - it's not over, it's not the end - it's just changing, evolving, developing, and reinventing itself.  

But a project space is at its core, just that, a 'space' - a term probably overused in arts and culture, to the point where it becomes devoid of meaning.  But that's ultimately all I could use to describe it, because whenever anyone called it anything else -- venue for experimental music, art gallery (ha!), art space (taidetila), or even just culture space --  those terms felt too restrictive.  At its core, Ptarmigan was just a space (tila) - 150 square metres in a exciting, developing (yet still off-the-beaten path) neighborhood of Helsinki - but a space that filled some sort of void, at least to many people.  So when that space is abandoned, it's hard to avoid shedding a tear.   


Img_0475 Tonight's not been fun, and I'm not even close to being finished (but I'm taking this opportunity to write here and procrastinate somewhat). All of this evening's mundane acts -- sweeping the floor of my personal studio for one last time; taking down the projector ceiling-mount and getting fiberglass drop-ceiling shards in my hands; filling yet another box with keepables and writing the always-redunant "MISC. STUFF" on it in Sharpie -- feel like some eulogy of action.  









Action was the point of Ptarmigan, I guess.   Our logo, at least on our website, privileged the fleecy feet of this wonderful Northern bird (a name we chose basically at random, though the hilariousness of Finns pronouncing it PUH-tarmigan, as Finnish has no silent letters, is never-ending).  Andrew Paterson asked me once why we used the feet, and I said 'Because we do things, not just talk about them.'  Although, that was arrogant nonsense I made up on the spot - there was no executive decision to decide such a philosophy (and wings would have been a better metaphor anyway).


When you have an arena, there's no limit to the amount of shenanigans you can cram into it. Two years ago, I couldn't have even imagined all of the wonderful things we managed to do here.  Rather than blabber on about it here, you can look at our event archive.  Our annual report, which I wrote to ape the corporate style, actually makes me proud; the people who have supported this space and put their energy and efforts into it have been the most amazing thing of all.  


And now, it's a time to celebrate.  We?re not really closing; we're technically expanding, with a  satellite location opening in Tallinn, Estonia in the next few months.  Ptarmigan in Helsinki, due to financial issues, is going to exist as a mobile arts centre at least temporarily; it will cease to be a permanent address and become a floating idea, and a residency-centre-without-a-centre.  But hopefully not for long.

I'm going to be writing much more detailed thoughts about the Ptarmigan experience elsewhere, soon, so I'll save this for  my cleaning-related emotions.  I've spend an enormous number of hours between these walls, and felt for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, like I was contributing to something.  It's a bit different than moving out of a flat or graduating from a school, but since the projects will (hopefully) persevere, tonight is really just an exercise of pure drudgery. 

Thanks to everyone who has been part of Ptarmigan - volunteers, performers, artists, and audience.  I could name names but it's really Tara Pattenden, Ptarmigan's co-founder and Creative Director who deserves the most credit.  I know we won't be the only Helsinkians that will miss this physical space, but to quote the Photon Band, "the future's only just a second away."