Koitajoki Watershed Artist Residency

Nuin-Tara Key

Thomas Miller

American artist Thomas Miller will be exploring the conservation work being undertaken by the Snowchange Cooperative to restore and revitalize culture and ecosystems along the expansive Koitajoki river system in Eastern Finland. Miller is interested in documenting the ‘visual histories’ of traditional knowledge, peatland ecosystem restoration, community life and traditional music, as well as the personal stories of those involved in restoring the Koitajoki. For example capturing what the landscape means to the fisher people who use traditional nets to harvest local whitefish, local musicians, hydrologists, caterpillar operators, and the recently established River Guardians, a group dedicated to the protection of the Koitajoki river.

During his resdiency, Miller will have the opportunity to visit the villages of Ala-Koita, Hattuvaara, Ilomantsi and Ryökkylä, and will reside in a traditional pine log cabin in Jaakonvaara, (established 1923), which neighbors an old growth forest recently protected by Snowchange. This quiet, rural setting, with spring-fed water and no internet connection will allow the artist to slow down, disconnect, and reflect on our human connection with nature why these regions need to be restored.

Inspired by his time in the region, Miller is planning to create portraits of these communities, along with original pen and ink drawings, music, and short films highlighting restoration activities which will be overlayed onto a map of the river system. The residency will culminate in a touring multi-media exhibition ‘Portrait of a River’, mapping the cultural and ecosystem revitalisation efforts in Koitajoki, and the interconnected nature of Snowchange’s work.

This residency is a part of a broader initiative for Snowchange with the making of a feature-length documentary, ‘Seining for a Song’. A film about the culture, myths, history, and ecosystem restoration of the degraded Koitajoki river which will premiere in the town of Ilomantsi in the Koitajoki catchment.

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About the Artist

Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller is an artist, musician, filmmaker, and writer. Through his production company Pretty Good Productions, he has directed the feature documentary films Puruvesi (2017) and Jukajoki (2016), the three-part climate change series Our Place on Earth (2017), more than twenty short films, including For All of We (2015), In-Between (2017), and mystery/comedy mini-series, Honest Abe: The Backstory (2019). Miller leads a community-led storytelling project with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and has taught classes around the world on filmmaking theory and technique.


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