Kökar, the silent island

Milla Koivisto is an artist, photographer and creative from Finland. After previously featuring in Wolf, Milla returns to share her unique artist residency experience on the remote island of Kökar. 

This summer I spent the month of June on the small, remote island of Kökar in the Baltic Sea. I’m a Finnish artist with an interest in the natural world, so I came to the island to work on my project Kaiku - the purpose of my stay was to compose music, collect natural sounds and to film and photograph the landscape. 

Kökar is Finland’s southernmost municipality and it has a year-round population of only about 260 people. The first thing I noticed when I arrived on the island was how silent it was. There were no sounds of machinery, of cars, not even of people. I rarely even saw other people.  The absence of all this noise made it an ideal place for me to work. With the lack of constant background noise I found myself able to hear. Everything became more alive; every sound was heightened, which made me listen carefully. The silence also gave me a space to create sounds of my own.

As I got used to the soundscape of the island I noticed that it wasn’t silent at all. Here dominated wind, the chirp of birds and the different tones of the sea.      

What fascinated me the most on Kökar was the barren landscape and the power of the ice age.  My favourite place became the western shore of the island, an area called Kalen. There the effects of the ice age can be seen everywhere. The solid, hard granite rocks are covered with scratches and on their surface you can see the movements of the ice very clearly.  

Most days I packed my flute and cycled to the shore to stare directly at the sea. Every visit was different. The mood of the sea changed constantly and this created different atmospheres and characters within the space. As I sat on the rocks I felt compelled to make music, perhaps in response to the natural soundscape roaring all around me. 

Everything became more alive; every sound was heightened and made me listen carefully. The silence also gave me a space to create sounds of my own.

Kaiku is a multidisciplinary project exploring words, image, sound and moving image. The first part of the project is an illustrated book.  Currently Milla is working on creating a soundscape for the story. More of the project can be found at millakoivisto.tumblr.com

During Milla's time at Kökar, she stayed at the Åland Archipelago Guest Artist Residence. More information can be found here. 

Words & photography: Milla Koivisto