Reijo Kela created the Silent People as a part of his dance performance.

The artwork truly indicated how versatile the maker, dancer and choreographer Reijo Kela is as an artist. Visual arts are often incorporated into Kela’s dance performances; there are often handmade art pieces in them.

The Silent People was made to be part of a dance performance, but is now an independent art piece. It tells about Kela’s views of people, society and the passing of time.

Reijo Kela was born in Suomussalmi in 1952. After finishing school, he moved to Helsinki and graduated as a laboratory technician. He was an eager gymnast and runner in his youth and all he wanted was to use his energy for something new. Then Kela found modern dance. He has studied modern dance in Finland and in New York in the United States. 

At the beginning of his career, he danced a few years in productions of Dance Theatre Raatikko. For most of his career he has been a freelance dancer and choreographer.
Reijo Kela’s career as a choreographer and dancer began with his uncontrollable physical energy. Dancing was his way of venting physical energy and it also lead the way to spiritual expression. New meanings were always attached to Kela’s dance performances.

The Silent People was created as an anonymous art work in 1988 when Reijo Kela planned his dance performance Ilmarin kynnös at Suomussalmi. He had an idea for the ending of the performance: what if all the unemployed people of Suomussalmi would rise from the field. There were over 900 unemployed people at Suomussalmi at that time. If all of them would have been called to work in the production, it would have cost tens of millions of Finnish marks. Kela also doubted the willingness of the unemployed people to participate. Therefore, he started to create the idea of these hay- or peat-headed, scarecrow-like figures.

Reijo Kela has created several unique dance performances during his career and his home town Suomussalmi has been the stage for these performances many times. The shortest of his performances so far lasted 1.5 seconds and the longest 164 hours. Improvisation and cooperation with musicians has become a more central part of Kela’s work as his career has progressed.

Kela lists his most important art pieces accordingly:

  • Tanssia Teille (“Dancing for You”) performance for one viewer in 1983
  • Ilmarin kynnös (“Ilmari’s ploughing”) performance in Suomussalmi (1988), which was essential for the creation of the Silent People
  • 164-hour long performance City Man (1989) that was performed in a small glass house in the city centre of Helsinki
  • The performance Uhrituli (“Sacrificial Fire”) on the sandy esker of Suomussalmi.
When the Silent People celebrated its 20th anniversary, Kela created a performance with the same name with his close partner, art professor Heikki Laitinen.

Pictures below.