Illumination - Spring 2013

Artist Unbound: ‘At the Pole of Heaven’

Cherie Sampson

Cherie Sampson discusses the creation of ‘At the Pole of Heaven’ during a recent interview with Natalie Feibish, Illumination's web editor.


This performance for the camera was created on Lake Mekri (Mekrijärvi) near Ilomantsi, Finland inspired by the creation myth described in canto 1 of the Finnish epic poem, The Kalevala. The figure represents Ilmatar, the water mother/air maiden who plays an important role in the creation myth in the first canto of the 'New Kalevala'. The three ladders allude to the tripartite earthly/cosmic symbolism in the ancient rune poems of Karelia, the cultural area at the border of Finland and Russia. The birch itself, a tree associated with lamentation in old Karelia, comprises the ladders, standing as yet another archetypal symbol: the world tree. Connecting physical existence and body with the celestial domains, the world tree is traversed by the ‘traveler’ as a conduit between the worlds, a means to re-member our seemingly disparate origins and place in both the 'mixture of mud and water' of the earth and the 'beautiful and comely stars of heaven…'

Video performance, sculptural set, audio track and post-production work by Cherie Sampson. Thanks to: Laura Jetsu, Mekrijärvi Research Station staff, Ilomantsi. Papu Pirtola; Yrjö Sepänmaa and the University of Eastern Finland. (Traditional tune and lyrics, arrangement and vocals by Cherie Sampson. Performance piece for the stage originally designed in collaboration with Deanne Warnholtz-Wortman in the U.S.)


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