THE WHITE CANARY; THE SERVICE YEARS
A group of cyclists arrive at the Hanasaari Cultural Centre outside Helsinki where they are met by a guide. The group is taken for a walk in the area surrounding the Centre, during which they are told about its history. They make a stop by the water to look at a parachute caught in a tree. One can still see the insignia of the British Crown as well as the year 1943. The guide goes on to tell the story of the events of one early morning toward the end of the Second World War when a small fighter plane was seen going down in a streak of black smoke. The pilot who disappeared was known as “the White Canary” and this flying ace had a motto; “let’s meet for a drink and a smoke,” which is manifested in one of the few surviving photographs of the pilot. The guide also recounts the legend of how pilots who crash and disappear at sea are said to be the origins of mermaids. While the guide is telling this story the group is gathered on a cliff overlooking the water and a mermaid swims into view. With a silvery fish tail the mermaid is still wearing the pilot’s helmet, a mustache and the cocktail dress of the White Canary.
In a performance where myths suddenly become real and present, I use a layered and overlapping gender presentation to surpass established conceptions of who can be what and who can do what. The performance also suggests gender as a role that is interchangeable, as the character is a woman dressed up as a man dressed as a woman in a male profession becoming a female figure—the White Canary is a woman, dressed up as a man, dressed as a woman and taking the role of a (male) ace pilot in the Second World War who subsequently becomes a mermaid.
The events of the First and Second World Wars are becoming distant history and yet my grandfather served as a Swedish border guard during the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-40. The performance connects to the shared past of Finland and Sweden and suggests that not all tales are myth. The duration of the piece is 25 minutes.