Leena Kela, a Helsinki based performance artist, is staging a performance during this month in Helsinki and online. During May she will abandon her own life and instead live in another apartment, in another identity, in another life:
Alter ego is a durational online performance to be seen in May during four weeks in these web pages. Performance artist Leena Kela will spend that time in the character of her alter ego Elena Elak. Elena has her own apartment, where she has her own furniture, objects, clothes and the every day routines. She has her own life.
Elena’s life will become half public, since her apartment is equipped with four surveillance cameras, through which the audience can watch Elena’s life in real time. Every day at 6pm she will have a different visitor, who will either talk with her for example about politics or philosophy or teach her new skills as baking, meditation, tap dancing or singing. Through these encounters Elena will widen her social network, learn new skills and at the same time her personality is shaped by these meetings.
Naturally she does not call this pervasive play. But I find it interesting that the webpage doesn’t mention role-playing games or larps in any way (trust me, you would have to live under a rock in Finland to not be aware of the larp scene here as it is regularly covered in the Culture section of the largest daily). Nor are other similar works mentioned (Blast Theory’s Kidnap is the first to spring to mind), but I suppose that is not done in the context of art (though this performance is her artistic dissertation in the MA program in Live art and Performance Studies at the Theatre Academy Helsinki). Instead she talks about hypnosis.
On the one hand I love it that the art world pillages games and gamers’ ideas. On the other hand I find it infuriating that they never bother to check what has already done before.
Helsingin sanomat interviewed the artist. She is quoted as saying: “This is a work where art and life get so mixed up that one does not know where they differ.” As I hail from game studies and look at this through the prism of rules, I find this statement indecipherable. If she is in character for a month continuously, isn’t it pretty clear where the boundaries of play are? On the other hand, if she slips out of role every once in a while (to, say, give an interview to a major newspaper), the boundaries can become blurred – but then she cannot claim to spend the whole month in character.