Part One of Four
Kaiku is an audio-visual project which was started in 2012. The project combines words, images and video with original compositions and natural sound recordings from the Baltic Sea area. This is the first article in a four-part series documenting the work behind the project. The series consists of the following instalments; Hunting for an Echo, Natural Light, Sonic Visualizations and Catching the Sound.
Hunting for an Echo
I was brought up on a small island in Finland called Kemiönsaari, in the village of Taalintehdas. My upbringing put me in a unique position to learn from the natural world, and it gave me a respect, wonder and curiosity towards the planet we live on. My family owned a small boat and in the summer we would head out to the sea and visit many of the small islands in the archipelago. As soon as I felt the granite of the island under my feet I was free to adventure. Together with my younger sister we would stamp our feet to let the adders hiding in the heather know that we were coming. I remember the excitement I felt scavenging the shores of the islands for treasure. Sometimes I would find a skeleton cleaned bare by the sea and would take it home with me for further investigation. At times I followed my father for fishing trips around the island. In the evenings we set a small bonfire by the shore, played cards or listened to the marine weather broadcast in the cabin of our boat.
The Kaiku project was born out of love for the landscape I was brought up in. Its hope is to inspire people to see the beauty around us, to live in harmony with our surroundings and to see that more is sometimes less. So little is needed for happiness. We know now that the planet and its recourses are not without an end. The protection of the natural world and the wildlife is not just a matter of conserving a species but the key to the survival of our own. We are all linked.
I started to write the Kaiku book, the backbone and the skeleton of the project, on the last day of 2012. It would take me three years to finish the text and illustrations for it. The story takes place on a small island in the Baltic Sea and follows a forest dwelling, potion making, rock painting Shaman, who acts as a narrative link between the villagers and the natural world. The heroine of the story is Aino — a girl living at the edges of the only village on the island. Separated from the community she spends her time alone, accompanied only by a white bone flute. The third character is Kaiku the mysterious echo who lives alone on the north side of the island, in abandoned lighthouse. Without the power to speak or make a noise Kaiku has developed a fascination for all sounds, which she collects and keeps in the lighthouse. The story takes place over the course of a year and depicts the four seasons presenting their different challenges and rewards to the people of the island. Kaiku is also a story about loneliness and solitude, both for good and bad. The book has no dialogue, sound and music are important ways of conveying feelings both in the narrative and in the project as a whole.
In the Kaiku project my vision was to combine traditional storytelling with modern narrative techniques. After I had written what became the manual for the project I started to visualize it to help the story come alive. In the Summers of 2014-2015 and the Winter of 2015 I lived on three small islands; the remote, silent island of Kökar (part of the autonomous Åland archipelago with 254 inhabitants); the small, 0.77 square mile, barren, lighthouse island of Bengtskär; and Kemiönsaari, the island I was brought up on. These three islands provided me with the audio-visual material to start my project. ‘Hunting for an Echo’ documents my time on these islands.
Kaiku is an ongoing project which will be completed in 2017. For news, events, new works and to follow the progress of the project please visit www.millakoivisto.com The Kaiku book is available to purchase. You can also follow the project on Twitter.
Milla Koivisto is a photographer, filmmaker, writer, sound artist, environmentalist and the author of Kaiku. For more of her work, please visit www.millakoivisto.com.