Nearness, a lecture performance by Anni Puolakka and Jenna Sutela, premiered at an intimate setting of the Old School in SoHo, New York, as a part of the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY biennial festival in May 2013. The Finnish Cultural Institute in New York introduced the festival’s theme, Untapped Capital, to Puolakka and Sutela who ended up creating a stimulating performance underlining the importance of physical presence and re-thinking the notion of networking.

Puolakka and Sutela’s take on networking is an immediate and material one, minimizing premeditation and endorsing change. Each attendant of Nearness became a part of the multisensory performance through the gowns that linked the attendants together with each other and their surroundings. The gowns also turned the participants’ bodies to surfaces for visual projections. The interconnecting gowns were designed by K. I. Kinnunen who currently works for Balenciaga in Paris. The performance concluded with a tea ceremony by New York-based Lily Stroud.

Anni Puolakka produces visual and written work with a focus on the political, urban and poetic. Having a background in graphic design, her current projects engage with asylum seekers in Helsinki as well as subtle modes of debate within and for the public space. Jenna Sutela’s writing and curatorial projects seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments – most recently, the physical nature of information networks and the relationship of art to work. Her background is in media studies.

IDEAS CITY is a biennial festival in New York City that includes conferences, workshops, a Street Fest around the Bowery, and more than one hundred independent projects and public events that are forums for exchanging ideas, proposing solutions, and accelerating creativity. For the IDEAS CITY Festival 2013 edition, which centered around the theme of Untapped Capital, participants focused on the resources that are under-recognized or underutilized in cities worldwide.

After its New York debut, Nearness continued to Toronto. Its second edition took place on May 14, 2013, as part of No Reading After the Internet event at Art Metropole. More recent manifestations of Nearness have been witnessed in Helsinki in December 2013 and in Amsterdam in May 2014.