The Revisitations
posted by Till Bovermann on 1 November 2023

From 26.8.2023 to 16.9.2023, I had the pleasure and huge privilege to be an artist in residence at the Biological Station in Kilpisjärvi for the Kilpisjärvi Science trails project of the University of Helsinki. This text is about revisiting microworlds, the first of three blog entries about my time in Kilpisjärvi. Read about Revisiting Microworlds and livecoding in the first post, and Impacting, infrastructure and dynamic field recording in the second post.


As the only artist in a team of researchers, I got selected to contribute pieces for one or more trail stations. Unfortunately, the project had already ended before I began my residency. As a result, I had to make some improvisations for my contributions. Fortunately, I had plenty of material about microworlds, the planned theme of my contribution from my visit in 2019. This means that you can already find three stops about microworlds in the Kilpisjärvi science trail app.

A field recording session.

Microworlds are relatively small habitats like rocks, small ponds, or streams that gather a large variety of plants, mushrooms, and small animals. Back in 2019 on an Ars Bioarctica Residency, I recorded them and improvised with them on my live coding setup. After an extensive work phase in February 2023, I released three pieces that now can be listened to in the science trail app (or download the pieces on bandcamp):

  • breathing,
  • rotting, and
  • emerging.

The circumstance that I already did my share for the Kilpisjärvi science trails meant that I was able to be free in my way of being and working during this year’s residency. I came here with what I would call half-a-plan, the luxurious possibility to dive right in to the many layers that are Kilpisjärvi and my history with it, and the curiosity of someone urging to come back to Kilpisjärvi to learn more about its complex interrelationships and, maybe, add a little bit of something to it as well.

Re-visiting Microworlds

An obvious part of the residency was therefore to re-visit the Microworlds I identified in 2019 and contemplate their current situation, as well as my relation to them.

Through an interview with Terike Haapoja, I stumbled upon the notion of “speaking nearby” by Trinh T. Minh-ha. To Terike, it means to: 'speak of my experience in relation to the experience of the other, finding resonances and points of contact, and also to do the work of deconstructing the apparatus from within, and to find and think of solutions and questions that emerge out of the terrain I myself am standing on.'

I can strongly relate to this. Part of my artistic practice is therefore to approach a theme with a certain carefulness. My intention hereby is to give space for thoughts to emerge, to contemplate and to create together with a partner, rather than imposing my own concept onto a, possibly unwilling, opponent.

Another process I became interested in when it comes to artistic research is to follow a certain pattern of approaching.

As Antye Greie and myself wrote in our article on Instrumentality in Sonic Wild{er}ness, I like to dive into an exchange with the site by following the steps of

  • Meditation is a strategy to get into an attentive mind-space. Meditate to be in the moment. No purposeful listening is needed. Select a spot where you feel safe, as meditation practice relies on trusting the surroundings. Meditate in the Land, meditate the Land.
  • Contemplation means getting to know what is already at the place where you plan to play. Contemplate the Land. Practice passive and active listening to get an idea of your surrounding.How do you anticipate it to affect your performance?
  • Taking action means playing, making music. Make use of the Land as material and playing partner. Express your mood and incorporate what you found while contem- plating. Improvise, recognise the Land as your playing partner.
  • Reflection means to consciously take the time to revisit what happened. To give afterthoughts, observations and new ideas a dedicated space to form themselves. How did the Land affect your playing? How did your playing affect the Land? How are you feeling? Are things different than before?

In this light, I re-visited four of the microworlds: Rock and Water, Moss and Water, Fallen Tree, Ice-age pond and Boulder in riverbed.

Rock and Water

View to Rock and Water (2023)

If I allow myself to have a favourite microworld, then this is it. This is probably the reason, why it is one of the featured microworlds in the Science Trails.

Over the last years, I kept on coming back in my thoughts to this wonderful place, a miniature world in itself, a small-scale mirror-object to Saana with its on small pond, distinct vegetation due to different microclimates around the central boulder. Naturally, it was the first of the microworlds I re-visited on my first hike this year.

I lay on rock.

I lay on rock. The Rock. Positioning and adapting my body to the stone. I wrote down my first thoughts:

how are you
there are you
i remember you different, somehow; rounder,

shallow in your waters.
but it is surprisingly deep
so close to the stream.

your vegetation is less, somehow.
was it a hot summer?

a frog jumped within the stream I am sitting at.

Positioning and adapting my body to the stone.

Moss and Water

When seeing Moss and Water (Breathing) again, my heart jumped a bit. Back in 2019, it was the first proper microworld I added to my map. Being in the center of a swamp, it is difficult terrain. As last time, I now also spend a lot of time carefully finding my footings to not sink too far and, more importantly, to not disturb the place too much.

A slippery slope.

At Moss and Water, I also found traces of ongoing scientific research: a small white mushroom-shaped data logger belonging to, as I found out later on, two geographers. They happened to be here during the same time as myself. You can read more about it below.

Fallen Tree

When I tried to find Fallen Tree this year, I completely failed at first. I remembered that, back in 2019, it was difficult to locate it for the second time. This was two days after our first encounter. This year, it took me a second try on another day, and the careful analysis of the photos I took in 2019 to finally find it.

It is full of juniper and fallen trees here. How am I supposed to find the one I am searching for?

Its surrounding was different than I remembered but the tree itself is remarkably the same. It is surprising, how little change I was able to perceive in its decomposition process after these four years: The bark is still curled the same way and there is not less of tree, somehow.

It is not only the decomposition process that hardly evolved but also the growth in and surrounding the Fallen Tree. There are e.g. bilberries growing from it; I can recognise the same bush I photographed last time and I do not see a lot of a difference. They must have new leaves, naturally, possibly around 15 per branch per year? So there should be some change but I can’t really see a big transformation, a transformation that would make me understand that there are four years in between.

Fallen Tree (2019)

Fallen Tree (2023)

This seems to be a typical phenomenon in around here: Natural change and growth is extremely slow. The old trail up to Saana, now closed since more than 10 years, still looks as eroded as on the day it was closed to hikers. The prison camp on Saana fell that looks like only some years have past since the huts were broken down for building material.

It makes it all the more challenging to see the relative masses of tourists climbing Saana (20.000 p.A. according to a plate), and, new to me this year, the appearance of recreational and unhindered cross-track cycling on fat-tired ebikes through the fell.

Ice-age pond and Boulder in riverbed

Ice-age pond and Boulder in riverbed (Emerging) are relatively close to each other. I increasingly see them as one entity (or several thousand, depending).
Do you know the feeling that everything is smaller than you remember? This is what happened to me when I passed by the Ice Age pond and the Boulder in riverbed. I realised the two microworlds are very, very close to each other, much closer than I remembered them to be.

Boulder in riverbed (2023)

Memory is a strange thing. Back in 2019, I had the recorder set up on the Ice Age Pond and did some live coding performance at Boulder in riverbed.

Maybe my memory warped because I spend so much time with the recordings of 2019. Back then, it was quite challenging because there was so much noise in the recordings and so little signal of what I was playing. I seemingly connected this to the distance between the two places. I found out now (again, I guess) that the “noise” was caused by a small waterfall that is directly in the same line with where I did the recording.

Yes, I did some 3D-scanning. Left the Boulder in riverbed, right the Ice-age pond.

Sonic wilderness live code sessions

Relatively late in the residency, I decided to not only re-visit microworlds but also re-visit my Sonic wilderness live code practice. Certainly, my interest and ideas for aesthetics and use of equipment changed over the last years. In addition, I had the chance to extensively listen to all the recordings I made during my microworlds residency and analyse them for their (bad) quality (despite high-quality equipment).

Sonic wilderness live code session at Moss and Water…

This year then, I reduced the speaker setup to one slightly more potent one, while at the same time altering the setup in such a way that I played very quiet with speaker and microphones close to each other. This way, I was able to not only capture a high-quality signal from my performance, but also the small sounds of the environment I was playing in. Additionally, I recorded the direct sound of my performance, sometimes even as multitrack files, in the laptop.

…at Rock and Water…

I am very curious how this collected material will behave, once I start to edit it seriously. My initial peeking into it was already promising.

…and at Ice-age pond.



All in all, the last three weeks were a wonderful experience with lots of encounters with human as well as non-human entities. I was happy to find so friendly and helpful people here. My special gratitude goes to my housemate Susanna, who is responsible for the cleaning at the station. Her friendliness and heartiness combined with the Finnish attitude to give space spread a wonderful atmosphere over my stay. Her cakes were the best.

Additionally, I’d like to thank the rest of the house crew for their moral and concrete support; there was always a smile to exchange, namely Kalevi Laurila (caretaker), and Mervi Haapala (kitchen staff) and crew.

Writing wrap-up reports is hard.

Furthermore, I would like to thank Silja Veikkolainen (field team intern) for her patience by which she endured my strange questions, Maija-Susanna Sujala (field team) for her pro-active support in my field research babysteps, Hannu Autto (service coordinator) for his networking support and general friendlyness, Oula Kalttopää (field team) for his practicality and helpfulness, Anu Ruohomäki (research coordinator) for her curiosity and lifeliness, Julia Kemppinen and Pekka Niittynen (geographers) for their openness and honesty, and Pirjo Hakala (station manager) for always making the impossible possible.

Apart from the direct contact to people related to the biological station, I was very happy to receive support and valuable insights into how to live and work in Kilpisjärvi by nature photographer Merja Paakanen. Particular thanks go of course to Leena and Oula Valkeapää without whom I would never even had the chance to begin to grasp the many layers of political and (other-than-)human influences involved in the region.

From the Bioart society, I would like to especially thank Maija Fox (former intern and helping hand), Lisa Kalkowski (producer), Milla Millasnoore (communications), Piritta Puhto (managing director), Erich Berger (former director), and Yvonne Billimore (current artistic director), I cannot stress enough, how valuable their work is in general, and how much help they are in terms of producing residencies and activities related to the Bioart Society in general. You are awesome.

From the team of the Kilpisjärvi Science Trails project, I would like to thank Ditte Taipale and Sini Bäckström for their remote support and general friendlyness and helpfulness. It was very nice working with you on this project and I am grateful for the trust you had in me and my artworks.

Finally, I would like to thank Anu Pasanen who thankfully drove me from Rovaniemi up to Kilpisjärvi, Mila Moisio, without whom I would have never even have known about Kilpisjärvi in the first place, and Anja Riese for her unconditional support and general wonderfulness.