Shouting Island, 2007

ANTI Contemporary Art Festival, Kuopio, Finland, October 2007.

On the western coast of the 10-miles-long Lake Kallavesi in Finland, and just 200 metres from Kuopio’s shore stands the tiny (80 metres diameter) Vasikkasaari Island. Since the closure of a windmill years ago it has remained uninhabited. Sheltered by the harbour, the island looks out on a vast expanse of water.

For this performance I was rowed over to the island, which was still mist-shrouded at 11am. The performance consisted in circulating the perimeter of the island to shout ‘I AM AN ISLAND!’ (in Finnish, ‘OLEN SAARI!’), at 30-second intervals over 8 hours. The ship’s megaphone that I was using, according to informed estimates that I had researched, could project a shout for about 300 meters and so would be audible to shore where its reception would take on different volumes and textures as I circled the island.

As the performance proceeded, the response to it became increasingly bizarre. By mid-afternoon, the shouting had drawn an audience of people in motorboats; a huge ferryboat came right close by, lined with a crowd peering down. Cars were parked up on the side road to the harbour, their occupants employing binoculars to pick me out on the island. At one point a helicopter circled overhead.

Ashore, I could see the festival workers arguing with the police who, as I later learnt, wanted to close the performance down: the local switchboard had jammed with callers, many of whom were concerned that an animal was in distress on the island. Unknown to me, since the morning mist had lifted, my shouting had increased to such a volume that there were telephone complaints from people 7 miles away.