Janne Nabb & Maria Teeri: Focal Exercises

Multimedia project, 2015

Focal exercises are a series of exercises and interventions started during Janne Nabb & Maria Teeri's first FiR residency period in Centre d'Art i Natura Farrera in the Catalan Pyrenees in April-May 2015.

High EROEI oil atomizes localities and skills (EROEI = energy returned on energy invested). Localities grow smaller, more individual, and their capacity for sustaining non-individual and multigenerational experience withers away. On one hand, localities lose their history that is connected to the earth; on the other hand, they also lose the mythical, memory-transmitted, often oral and practical knowledge connected to it. The unification of  times and places destructs the locality of localities. Due to high EROEI fossil fuels, localities are broken up, not into unique and specific singularities, but into identical, mutually exchangeable abstractions.

Suggestion for the overcoming or healing the fragmentation is a certain type of focusing. Focal practices gather human being around a focus that demands skills, traditions, and sociality. An example may be heating with wood, since it engenders a bodily and skilful gathering around a meaningful practice that can be socially transmitted over generations. Focal practices mesh the practitioners into a collective and also non-human field of  experience (1).

In Farrera, we started working with so called focal practices, concentration and focusing, methods that Salminen and Vadén (based on Albert Borgmann) have suggested to resist the destruction of localities. Focality is based on to transgenerational transmission of a certain lifestyle, so in that sense it's a bit paradoxical to go some place totally new for a short time, and try to do focal practice. Lluis Llobet, Director of CAN Farrera was a big help for us during this process by sharing his local knowledge and making things possible. Some traces of the focal exercises we went through were presented in an open studio event in the end of our stay.

Micromimesis I–II

The litter of found objects builds on dressers, shelves, and window sills of an eco-art residence as pollen does on the surface of a glass table or a windscreen. Pollen Still Life, which at first glance seems to mimic an electron microscope photograph, has been assembled from this material. Samples of the object world: ornamental pumpkins, pine cones, bones, sponges, tarlatan bundles, seedcases...

In the molecular video the combinations of holm oak cupules (Quercus ilex, Alzina) model fantastic biopolymer chains, which are shown as slowly unwrapping, rotating space structures. First we worked with material by interlocking the almost scale-like structures one within each other. Soon it was obvious that one could not build up very complex structures because of the material fragility. One 3D scanned fragment was cloned multiple times to form virtual polymer chains. In this process the 'litter' of holm oak turns out to be intangible and scale free. Biodiversity is simplified due to the removal of scale and singularity. The materiality and tangibility of the object is also lost in the process, the substance seemingly turns into an idea (device paradigm by Borgmann). The relations between things distort. The aesthetics of uniformity mimic the 3D models describing DNA mycelium, as well as the microscopic images of pollen.

Commodities of  consumption tell of the experience of oil. Plastic mass products are smooth, clean, low maintenance. They do not rot or rust, do not support bacteria. When broken, a plastic item is not typically fixed — because it cannot be fixed and because another identical item is available. [...] A plastic thing is a kind of  material universal and artifactual absolute with no connections to time, place, or user (1).


Bricolage (French for "DIY" or "do-it-yourself projects around the home"): definition "the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process". Bricolaje still lives are combinations of the materials available at the site, in this case, easel and cattle carcasses. Both the production of meat and art tourism are typical and important industries in Farrera. Easel carcasses are remnants of outdoor painting symposia and await corrective gluing. The bones have been discovered walking on meadows above Alendo and the carcass-feeding area for vultures near the peak of El Farro.

Scale models / Focal excercise I

The series 1: 1 consists of hand-drawn replicas of different imagery: two topographic maps of Farrera and the surrounding area, which include hand-written local nomenclature; a schematic diagram of Pallars Sobira area hydrology; a selection of vignettes from a book Trees of Ireland (found from the library of the center) in which the trees are the main raw material for a variety of still lives; as well as other pictures discovered from journals and magazines in our place of residence, Casa Ramon. These drawings were presented under water as seen in a dream night before the presentation.

(1) Some notes & quotes from Energy and Experience: An Essay in Nafthology by Antti Salminen and Tere Vadén

Focal Exercises, CAN Farrera