Lotta Petronella is a filmmaker, artist and curator based on the island of Ruissalo. She is a co-founder of CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago, and she has worked with and on islands for nearly two decades. Following up her internationally awarded film Själö – Island of Souls (2020), she currently leads the Själö Poeisis multidisciplinary collaborative research project on the island of Seili. Alongside her filmmaking practice, Lotta Petronella is a devoted medicine and flower essence maker and tarot scholar.
For Helsinki Biennial 2023, Lotta Petronella collaborated with Sami Tallberg, an award-winning chef, food writer and a foraging pioneer since 2005, and Lau Nau, Laura Naukkarinen, a composer and performer who works with analogue synthesizers, acoustic sounds, human voice, electroacoustic experiments, and field recordings. Together they created a transdisciplinary artwork of healing, song, and ingestion, interacting with the diverse inhabitants of Vallisaari Island through live events and performances.
i wanted to tell you about the butterflies of the night
i wanted to tell you about the island
impossible to measure
Materia Medica of Islands is a durational, site-sensitive work. It holds within it an apothecary, a lamenting choir, nightly recordings of moths and a commemoration to the woman who secured everyone’s right to public access to the land and to forage. Together they create an oracle, a cosmology of the island.
The apothecary is an ongoing investigation and installation of medicinal plants and recipes to nurture resistance. Lamenting together is a practice of collective healing, a tradition of mourning held and performed by women.
In the garden, under a waning moon,
a choir gathers to lament
rattles of eagle ferns and pebbles
naming sorrows, embodying pain
To grieve is to (re)member
they call in the winged spirits,
the guides of departed souls
Moths have been studied on Vallisaari Island since the 1960s.
Their short lifespan and sensitivity to environmental variations make them an indicator species for climate change.
Nightly recordings of wings catching the light
their last flight
becomes the oracle
cards of endangered and disappearing species
trace nocturnal bodies
threads dyed with lingonberries
a stitch a flutter
a witness, a voice
Common weeds grow in abundance
but we are not allowed to pick them
This place is controlled and monitored
nature fenced and measured
moulded, abandoned buildings
protected by moss and lichen
attached to walls
of old bunkers
with sleeping bats
Rosa rugosa, an invasive species
grows by the shoreline
connected to past lives and communities
In 1914, a working-class widow named Ilma Lindgren fought for the right to public access to land. After a six-year legal struggle, she finally won the case securing the universal right for everyone to roam and forage in the wilds. It all started with 20 litres of lingonberries picked on an island. Learning to name and gather your own food fosters an intimate connection with place. Eating and ingesting wild plants and berries cultivates a direct relationship with the soil and the light. The root of care begins with looking after oneself and one’s community.
Materia Medica of Islands
Materia Medica of Islands is a multidisciplinary work by Lotta Petronella
Laments is created together with Lau Nau
Commemorating Ilma Lindgren with Sami Tallberg
Supported by AVEK and TAIKE
Commissioned by HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2023
Alma Rajala, Anna Jussilainen, Gabriela Ariana, Heta Pyhäjärvi, Kristina Vahvaselkä, Laura Naukkarinen, Lotta Petronella
Textile and costume design: Maedhbh McMahon
Lampshades: Limelight Lampshades
SuperCollider sound programming: Atte Häkkinen
Sound recordings: Laura Naukkarinen, Atte Häkkinen, Heta Pyhäjärvi
The work with moths is made with the guidance of butterfly enthusiast Lassi Jalonen (Lepidopterological Society of Finland)
Assistant writer & researcher on moths tarot and oracle cards: Selina Oakes
Metalwork: Peltin Oy
Psyche a 16 mm live performance film screening Produced by Ilona Tolmunen/MADE