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Petteri Enroth: Notes on Präppla

Präppla performance in Vasa 2023 by Cocker, Coyotzi Borja, Daus, Grayson, Saumya, Séraphin and SOUNDS. Photo: Jaime Culebro.

Präppla was an experimental piece initiated by Pro Artibus artist-in-residence Lena Séraphin (Vasa Academill 2020-2023), and carried out with Emma Cocker, Andrea Coyotzi Borja, Cordula Daus, Ava Imogen Grayson and Vidha Saumya. It was performed at the Market Square in Vaasa on Saturday May 20, 2023.

Freelance write Petteri Enroth observed the performance and wrote about the piece:


To Amplify Being in a Place: Notes on Präppla

Three’s a crowd. This centuries old English phrase means that it is often counter-productive for a third person to be in the company of two others who share a more close relationship.

Shifting perspective from intimate settings to public ones, three’s most likely not a crowd. It can be, of course, for example when the presence of three people happens as a bodily imposing, noisy claiming of a shared space, as opposed to a barely registered, tapestry-like part of a social ambiance shared by strangers.

Being in public is indeed about the distribution and co-managing of the sensible. Hence, realizing a performative artwork in a public place necessarily entails questions of power. Power is woven into the dynamics of senses, scales, spatial distributions, atmospheres, cultural geographies, monuments, and more random things like weather, that together make up a specific moment or sequence in a shared (urban) space.

Tackling power through a public performance does not need to be a grand gesture, a heroic excavation of an artefact for our critical gazes to assess and judge. A performance can also shed a delicate light into the wavering cracks and crevices of the quotidian where power operates, inalienably, like cytoplasm that keeps the whole intact. Power does not begin and end with manipulation and oppression. It is also something much more complex and includes things like the power to do something unprecedented, to speculate, and to feel something thought forgotten.

This kind of gentle, indirect, whisper-like illumination of the intricacies and dynamics of the everyday is what, to me, Präppla did.

Präppla is a performance by the group Cocker, Coyotzi Borja, Daus, Grayson, Saumya, Séraphin & SOUNDS. It is rooted in Lena Séraphin’s postdoctoral research project Sharing Text at the Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies of Åbo Akademi University, realized during a three-year stay at the artist’s residency in Vaasa run by Pro Artibus Foundation.

“Präppla” is a Swedish word that means “to chatter”, but, as an onomatopoetic word, it also sounds like chattering. The idea that socially agreed, official meaning has a barely audible heart of sensory and bodily impressions is key to Präppla’s ethos: things and/as texts are much more alive than usually experienced.

Präppla’s roots in Séraphin’s research are so dense that it would be hard to say where research ends and performance begins. Luckily, the differentiation is unnecessary. Präppla’s two performances at the Vaasa Market Square – as part of Vaasa Choir Festival – were perhaps most fruitful to take in as elaborated, refined, choreographed field studies based on earlier field studies.

Präppla performance in Vasa 2023 by Cocker, Coyotzi Borja, Daus, Grayson, Saumya, Séraphin and SOUNDS. Photo: Jaime Culebro.

For about 20 minutes, three performers (Andrea Coyotzi Borja, Vidha Saumya and Séraphin) walked around the market square, seemingly ignoring each other, occasionally reading aloud texts from the folders they carried in their hands like tourists carry maps. The chattered, live texts formed one third of the performance’s overall score, which is based on an earlier iteration and writerly score called Acousmatic. First notated by the performers at earlier sessions at the same place, and then re-arranged by sound artist Ava Grayson, the spoken texts consisted of multi-sensory, bodily impressions of being at the market square, often highlighting the sensing body as a nexus of human and non-human, living and inanimate, past and present.

The two other layers of the score by Grayson were pre-recorded material played through speakers. The three performers carried portable speakers that played a combination of still more impressions together with melismatic, non-textual singing and chopped-up, stutter-like verbal utterances at the edges of language.

Finally, a level with a more directly material relation to the square itself was played through the four loudspeakers at the square’s edges. It consisted of field recordings and synthesizer sounds based on the square’s most resonant pitches. In the same way, then, as the performers’ written impressions – as if their ways of resonating with the place – were used in the score, Grayson had visited the square to locate these main pitches and record its everyday sounds.

So, three chattering performers carrying parts of the composition with them while the square’s speakers played yet another layer of the composition. This kind of layering amounted to a sort of amplified mimesis of being at the square, including the unpredictable, aleatoric ways in which everyday events and materials entwine, feedback, echo, remind one another, drift apart. The whole provided fleeting traces and clues of how we are constantly pierced, haunted and given life by things outside our quotidian purview in a way that makes everything an intersection of other things, varying in each passing moment.

The themes and effects were clearly highlighted by the atmospheric differences of the two performances, one at noon and one at 8 pm on a Saturday, as shoppers, coffee-drinkers and families with toddlers were replaced by beer-drinkers, teenagers and police cars.

In Präppla, three was not a crowd. In the space of the rather large market square, the performance was fragile to the point of almost being extinguished at any moment. This was not only because of the piece’s delicate rhythm and choreography, but because often wind carried away the sounds emanating from the production. A person next to me on the bench at the noon performance even uttered, shortly before leaving, “I mean there’s just nothing happening here”. I think I have an idea of the reasons behind my co-spectator’s frustration. The performances entailed a spectatorship that was more about Präppla as a contemplation of the square than a conquering of it. It was as much about speculation as it was about concretization, which, as philosophers tend to point out, are essentially co-dependent.

Petteri Enroth


Project’s website:

Präppla performance in Vasa 2023 by Cocker, Coyotzi Borja, Daus, Grayson, Saumya, Séraphin and SOUNDS. Photo: Jaime Culebro.
Präppla performance in Vasa 2023 by Cocker, Coyotzi Borja, Daus, Grayson, Saumya, Séraphin and SOUNDS. Photo: Jaime Culebro.