Venla Luoma – Lighthouses in a Practice (Finland)

Tehdas Teatteri is the most important independent theatre in Turku, an exciting hub for new work and one of the main stages for new Finnish puppetry. The wild and daring Tehdas was founded over 20 years ago and is based in Manilla, on the eastern bank of the river Aura near the Föri. It is here that Venla Luoma, director of the theater, welcomes me to speak of Artistic Research, outside of the academia and directly connected to the circular processes of investigation and production that make of Tehdas Theater such a special place.

Luoma shares in our interview the history of Tehdas, and why it is different from regular theaters, which isn’t just because it is an independent space ran by artists, but also because of their intent to create a sustainable, cycle-based program that allows for rotational practices and the “recycling” of ideas, the reworking of concepts by artists and researchers who can return to these plays and modify them, expand in them and develop them not just in their stage but also afterwards in other theaters in the area to give the projects a longer life. Mental sustainability is also one of the key reasons why this theater exists, to remove the loneliness of artistic existence and provide a homebase and community, as what she calls a lighthouse of being, a key thing for artists, to be able to meet lighthouses within their practice.

“Although we don’t maybe call it as such, artistic research is inherent in the practice of this theater as a whole. We have conscious programs or residencies where people can, at the same time as they are making, also study the ways they make the work they’re making… We give opportunities to artists to return and develop their own practice in a longer period of time and in different roles… so people can also develop their artistic thinking from different angles, groups and formations… there’s fluidity in that, but yet, we’ve existed for 23 years and there are people who are still involved, so that’s kind of like one giant artistic research program in a way.”

Luoma speaks of the constant training and circular collaborative research providing not just professional satisfaction but also the encouragement necessary to keep asking questions, the bravery to dig deeper, to have the courage to stretch the limits, seek for new ways and not settle… “When it comes from within, there’s a different motivation or urge, not to settle but to constantly renew somehow the work you’re making and the ways of making it”.