Director Anna Nykyri: “Empty space is an opportunity for art and adventure”

Director Anna Nykyri: “Empty space is an opportunity for art and adventure”

Director Anna Nykyri and her team’s short film In-between is about empty cities caused by the pandemic. She tells us more about the project.

In-between is a short film that explores the effects of movement restrictions in three different cities: Helsinki, New York and Mexico City. How did you get the idea for the film?

This is my third collaboration with curator Andrea Valencia. We share an interest in empty city spaces, the experiences they produce and their choreographic environments. When we saw the Together Alone open call, we immediately decided to conjure up an idea together and invite an artistic team to work around it.

Circumstances of the pandemic are different in each of the cities. How is this depicted in the film?

The most obvious difference in the filmed material is that you can see only a few face masks in Helsinki. There are a lot of people on the move in New York, most of them wearing a face mask, depending on the borough. In Mexico City, streets are almost empty, apart from numerous police patrols, workers and residents of poorer boroughs. People in Helsinki keep a wider safe distance than people in New York.

Did you have any challenges or surprises during the project because of the different circumstances in the cities?

The safety of camera operators has been top priority in the production. It has been easy to film in Helsinki. Our camera operator in Mexico City was questioned by the local police about the reasons for filming. It’s not illegal to film on the streets there, but in Mexico the police are not the same as in Finland for example. Being interrogated by the police there can be a threatening experience, and the legal system cannot be trusted.

What kind of thoughts has the project raised?

Planning and realising the film has been a strongly emotional experience for the whole team. Feelings keep changing daily from sadness, anger, loneliness and longing to extreme happiness for just being able to work together. I also miss being back in Brooklyn, where I worked in 2017. At the same time, it’s clear that I’m privileged to live in Helsinki working on a grant provided to me by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. I’m also really happy that I have the chance to work with such an incredibly professional team. 

What kind of thoughts do you hope this film raises in viewers?

I hope that in addition to documenting the situation, we will be able to convey a small slice of the sense of being together as a community. We aim to bring these distanced, isolated cities and their people closer together. I’m happy if we can reach even a tiny glimpse of it.

Many cities have made changes in their infrastructure because of the pandemic, for example in the form of new cycling routes, and there’s been talk about the diminishing role of city centres. How do you see a post-pandemic city as a space?

I hope that future city spaces are safe places for everybody, but also that they could act as stages for free art.  Empty space is always a possibility for art, a chance for an adventure. In my own neighborhood in the centre of Helsinki I wish we had more street art: especially murals, graffiti and dance in different forms.

Social interaction is restricted at the moment, but simultaneously our shared global situation brings us closer together. How do you see the future of post-pandemic collaboration?

Naturally, we have to find new creative ways to support collective working. We already have great resources for remote working in the arts in Finland, so at least unnecessary flying can be left out.

Film released on 27th June on Anna Nykyri’s website

Text: Annika Pellonpää      Photo: Griselda San Martín

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