The Creative Europe project ‘Urban Travel Machines’ at Tartu international literary festival in Estonia

Eleven Aalto Arts students and VCD Lecturer Tarja Nieminen participated in the Tartu international literary festival Prima Vista from 9th to 13th May 2023. This year, the festival theme was “The Impossible Dream” inviting audiences "to think the role of imagination and the ability to imagine and picture things seemingly behind the horizon of familiarity and feasibility, especially in our present time of crisis and conflict". 
Maja Jantar's rehearsal at Tartu Planetarium
Photo: Teele Lember. The Aalto Arts students working on the Tartu planetarium show with sound poet Maja Jantar were Eerika Jalasaho (MA New Media Design and Production) and Pietu Arvola (MA Sound Design in New Media).

The festival featured poets, authors, critics and translators from all over Estonia as well as from other countries. The programme offered events for children, for the young, and the adults. 

On 12 and 13 May 2023, the Aalto Arts group and the five European poets selected by the project presented at Tartu AHHAA Science Centre Planetarium five different full-dome 360˚ slam poetry performances in four separate shows. 
The performances were originated in a creative workshop Performance Driven Visuals held at Aalto ARTS in December 2022. In the workshop, the poets worked in teams with the Aalto Arts students creating their own immersive worlds and specially designed movies. In addition to five poetry performers, seven tutors from Antwerp, Warsaw, and Aalto University along with 15 Aalto ARTS MA students participated in the workshop.

The participating poets were Giovanni Baudonck (Belgium), Eleonora Fisco (Italy), Sergio Garau (Italy), Maja Jantar (Finland) and Jaan “Luulur” Malin (Estonia).
In addition, the Tartu planetarium shows included poetry performances by Estonian poets Sveta Grigorjeva, Sirel Heinloo, Irene, Teele Lember and Joonas Veelmaa, created in collaboration with Üllar Kivila and the planetarium.
“The Creative Europe funded UTM Urban Travel Machines project is bringing together the worlds of poetry and immersive technology to create an unforgettable cultural experience. This innovative project aims to revitalise the literary sector in Europe by combining slam and sound poetry, cutting-edge technology, and the expertise of four scientific planetariums in Tartu, Vienna, La Coruna, and Brussels, where the final project results will be shown in 2024”, Philip Meersman, the head coordinator of the UTM project, sums up. In Tartu, Meersman also gave workshops in immersive poetry performance techniques for two groups of local poets.

“Whilst the visuals and sounds used for the poetry of the international poets were created in teams per poet by Aalto students, creating new immersive worlds and specially designed movies, the Estonian poets have worked with one of AHHAA’s planetarium technicians, Üllar Kivila, who experimented with the limits of what this intimate planetarium is able to do.” Philip Meersman continues, “and I wish to acknowledge the time, work and zeal all partners and their staff have put into this project to make this first showcasing of results a success.”
The poets are thrilled at participating the project. “The collaboration with the students, though to me they are my colleagues, was smooth and on equal basis. It was clear from the start we were all artists that brought in their speciality into the project, enriching it and finding common ground between us. It was easy to tune in with each other”, Maja Jantar, a participating sound poet, summarises. “It was a true joy to see all the immersive visuals and poems grouped into an event”.

“The planetarium in Tartu turned for a couple of days into an U.T.M., Urban Travel Machine that is: a dark womb and a bright starship, a cosmic trip and a microscopic awe, alphabetical-constellations-sound-explorations and caleidoscopic-cathedral-like-morphing-vetrate”, Sergio Garau, the Italian poet states.

“It was the first time I performed a poem in a Planetarium, and the dozens of seats immersed in the dark matter of the imagination and musication of the Aalto students enhanced the perceptivity of the spectating passengers and of the evocating poets”, he continues.

Kirsi-Marja in a green blazer reciting a poem in front of a blue screen
Photo: Tarja Nieminen. Kirsi-Marja Moberg presents her, Merle Karp's and Yoona Yang's design process for Jaan Malin's asemic poem Tähed ja Tähed at the Tartu Planetarium on Wednesday 11 May when the Aalto Arts student groups presented their projects.

“It's been a great learning experience to work in interdisciplinary groups, combining everyone's expertise and visions and finally discovering the outcome in Prima Vista festival in Tartu. It was absolutely fascinating to see the 360˚ projections for the first time in a dome theater. Now we are planning to develop the performances for Brussels planetarium, which offers even more technical possibilities for an immersive and unique art experience”, Kirsi-Marja Moberg, the Aalto Arts MA student in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art, states. 

“Our team's performance is based upon Jaan “Luulur” Malin's improvised asemic poetry performance. The Estonian word täht means both stars as well as letters, and this became a narrative for the project. With Luulur's improvised phones and vocal art, our audiovisual performance aims to reject verbal information and discover what lies beneath”.

"The project was a steep, beautiful learning curve: designing for 360˚ projection with our poets' message and performance in mind was challenging but rewarding. I personally gained new confidence in my ability to navigate technical challenges as well as inspiration to integrate poetry, embodied performance and collaboration into my on practice." Milja Komulainen, the MA Visual Communication Design student from poet Eleonora Fisco group, adds.

Eleonora citing her poem in front of a colourful slideshow
Photo: Tarja Nieminen. Milja Komulainen presents the dome project "Radici", for which she worked with an Italian poet Eleonora Fisco, the writer of the poem, and fellow Aalto Arts students Erika Rustamova, Liisi Sourosh and Noa Joulin.

The art universities involved in the Urban Travel Machines project are The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp — AP University College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture and Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology in Warsaw. The partner planetariums include Estonia Ahhaa, Spain Museos Científicos Coruñeses, Austria Planetarium Wien and Belgium Planetarium Bruxelles.

Project Head Coordinator:

Philip Meersman (The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp — AP University College of Applied Sciences and Arts)

Project coordinator at Aalto Arts:

Tarja Nieminen (Lecturer, VCD, Art & Media)

The additional Aalto Arts workshop tutors:

Philip Meersman (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium)

Kristof Timmerman (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium)

Jeroen Cluckers (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium)

Olga Wroniewicz (PJAIT Warsaw, Poland)

Ludwika Bialkowska (PJAIT Warsaw, Poland)

Emilia Ishizaka (PJAIT Warsaw, Poland)

Participating poet/student groups:

Giovanni Baudonck/ Belgium with

Hanna-Katri Eskelinen (MA in Visual Communication Design)

Malgorzata Nowicka (MA in New Media)

Calvin Guillot Suarez (MA in New Media)

Eleonora Fisco / Italy with

Milja Komulainen (MA in Visual Communication Design)

Erika Rustamova (MA in New Media)

Liisi Soroush (MA in New Media)

Noa Joulin (MA in Visual Communication Design)

Sergio Garau / Italy with

Jacob Söderström (BA in Visual Communication Design) 

Inka Jerkku (MA in New Media)

Iida Nurminen (Production Design, ELO Film School)

Maja Jantar / the Netherlands - Finland with

Eerika Jalasaho (MA New Media Design and Production)

Pietu Arvola (MA Sound Design in New Media)

Jaan Malin/ Estonia with

Merle Karp (BA in Visual Communication Design)

Kirsi-Marja Moberg (MA, Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art)

Yoona Yang (MA in New Media Design and Production)

For more information:

Tarja Nieminen, lecturer of visual communication at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture [email protected]

Tartu International Literary Festival

European Union logo for a co-funded project by the Creative Europe Programme of the EU

The project was co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union

Read more:

Eleonora Fisco presenting a virtual concept of the performance for Tartu planetarium.

The Creative Europe project ‘Urban Travel Machines’ explores the potential of immersive technologies for storytelling

Three art universities come together to create digitally visualized slam poetry festivals
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