Beat to the Balance introduces participants to a ritualistic, healing sauna practice which consists of leaves bathing with branch bundle (vihta or vasta) of different tree species. The attempt is to make more perceptible the interdependence between tree communities and humans and to facilitate empathic communication in between them. It can happen in the steam (löyly) of sauna where the water is the carrier of aromatherapeutic touch of trees. In the sauna with trees, self-care can transform into ourselves-care, (s)kinship that could be one of the building blocks in the new, possibly emphatic and eco-balanced narrative of the human.

Since 2015, Beat to the Balance project rhizomes from building sauna with recycled materials and community sweat baths to foraging tree twigs and other plants as meditation, collaborative ritual creation, steam performance, video art and and sweat prints and so forth. It is forever changing becoming transcendent space, beings and encounters. It is inspired by intuitive interspecies communication and bringing traditional knowledges such as plant medicine and sauna worldviews of the Baltic Sea area into the mixtures of contemporary post-human discourse, new materialism and hydro-feminism.

The crisis of humanity consists of eg. climate disruption, extinction of species, pollution, outrageous consumption of natural resources and the social causes and affects of these. In this crisis, among the skills humans need to become aware, (re)learn and embrace is an ability to nurture deeper connection and emphatic communication with other species & entities in the ecosystems we live within. Tree communities have always stood close beside humans, as co-species. From the human perspective, trees’ consciousness is based on the simple idea that individual is very relational. The interdependence in between trees and humans can be made tangible with eg. ritualistic tree healing, especially inside a sauna that is a ritualistic and social space by its’ very nature. Sauna is often described as a place to find our spirit and to melt into our environment. The leaves bathing creates an overall conscious touch, enables the healing power of different tree species and opens the locks of trauma we carry due to the exploitation of the Earth.

According to civil rights activist Audre Lorde, self-care is not self- indulgence but self-preservation and as such, an act of political warfare. In a steam bath (sauna) with trees, this self-care transforms into ourselves-care, and (s)kinship that is even a stronger asset than warfare; it’s among the building blocks for the narrative of humanity. It’s caring and collaboration without status.

Beat to the Balance nourishes respectful attitude towards ourselves and trough that towards everything around us. It seeks to find a deeper connection to the ecosystem we live within trough the experience and understanding of humans as rational, emotional, spiritual and physical beings.

During 2015, Mari Keski-Korsu studied to be a professional whisker under the guidance of Lithuanian whisking educator Rimas Kavaliauskas who has been teaching whisking over ten years in the Lithuanian Bath Academy.

The first Beat to the Balance was organised in Scottish Sculpture Workshop during Camp Break down Breakdown in July 2015. The project was supported and in collaboration with Frontiers in Retreat -program.
The next Beat to the Balance was in Astrid Noack’s Atelier in Copenhagen in Autumn 2015 in collaboration with Danish Sauna Society. In autumn 2016, Beat to the Balance happened in Pixelache Festival 2016 – ‘Interfaces for Empathy’. In April 2017, Beat to the Balance happened in context of Climate Whirl event Forest / Climate / Time.
In summer 2017, Beat to the Balance was in Edge Effects -event in Glasgow and in Kuusamo Folk Healers’ Gathering. Nordic Matters festival invited Beat to the Balance to London, Southbank Centre in December 2017. In March 2018, Mari joined Contemporary Wild (Asnate Bockis and Willem van Doorn) to organise a Birch Bar and Backyard Sauna in Printroom, Rotterdam during Museumnacht. Beat to the Balance happened in Art Ii Biennale in summer 2018.

* Whisking is a special sauna action, treatment or ritual, which reminds us patting, clapping, maybe beating, whisking, brushing of person’s body with a whisk (vihta/vasta) made of different tree species’ twigs. It’s a special form of sauna massage, which requires the presence of hot steam and whisks. During whisking various movements are being performed – from waving and gentle touching to drumming, stroking, splashing and even striking.

See more images in Flickr.

Selection of Beat to the Balance art works

Participatory performances
Art Ii Biennial, Ii, Finland 2018
Think Like a Forest -Interdisciplinary course and camp (TEAK), Vallisaari, Helsinki, Finland 2018 Spring Celebration/Museum Night, Printroom, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2018
Nordic Matters Festival, Southbank Centre, London, UK, 2017
Edge Effects, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland, 2017
Kuusamo Folkhealers’ Gathering (Vastavoima), Kuusamo, Finland, 2017
Pixelache Festival 2016 – Interfaces for Empathy, Helsinki, Finland, 2016
Astrid Noack’s Atelier, Copenhagen, 2015
Camp Break Down Breakdown, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Scotland, 2015

Sensorial Ecologies course for MA in Visual Cultures, Curating and Comtemporary Art, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, May 2022
Vastavoima, Vekara Varkaus festival, June 2018
Think like a Forest -course with with John Jordan and Isa Fremeaux, Theatre Academy, Helsinki, Finland, May 2018
Beat to the Balance workshop for MA in Ecology and Contemporary Performance, Theatre Academy, Helsinki, April 2018
Earth Observation Source Workshop, Hyytiälä Forest Research Station, Finland, 2017
Forest – Climate – Time, Beat to the Balance workshop with Climate Whirl, Helsinki, April 2017

Mari Keski-Korsu teaches traditional sauna healing methods for several groups, especially within traditional sauna healers organisation that she initiated together with Maaria Àlen. She has also presented her art works in multiple sauna related events and conferences both in Finland and abroad.


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