Meet ArtEx participant Heiki Riipinen
The theatre director and performing artist Heiki Riipinen’s (32) meetings with ArtEx mentor Christian Lollike were both challenging and instructive.
Text: Lene Christensen Photo: Agnete Brun
“It’s been good to have a mentor whose overall artistic approach has been different from mine. This has evolved into exciting conversations with different angles of approach”, says Heiki.
Christian Lollike is artistric director of the Sort/Hvid-teatret (the Black/White Theatre) in Copenhagen, and Heiki speaks warmly about their ‘disagreeing in a good way’, since it was this very range of opinions that gave more room for development, personally and professionally.
“I have been very pleased with my mentor. “
A broad repertoire
Since mid-2021, Heiki has been part of Talent Norge’s elite programme ArtEx, which allows twelve selected talents access to mentors, coaches and a broad professional network.
Versatility is a keyword for Heiki’s artistic activity.
“In my applications I usually write that I alternate between being a director, an actor, a playwright, a dramatist, a drag queen and a curator. In English I usually say that I’m into experimental, existential entertainment”, says Heiki laughingly.
Being part of the ArtEx programme has contributed to opening doors thereby getting into contact with a number of people in the industry. For instance, through his mentor Christian, Heiki has been introduced to several theatre managers in Denmark, where he has been based during the last couple of years.
“There are many things I can thank Talent Norge for. They’ve been a connection to home while I’ve been abroad, thereby contributing to my staying in touch with Norway and Oslo”, says Heiki.
Wanting to find peace with my coach
Heiki comes from the small village of Siljan in the county of Telemark (in Norway). His Finnish father and his Danish mother were travelling fairground workers. While growing up he travelled around with the fairground and as a grown-up he has lived, studied and worked in a number of countries. He has a diverse CV, which includes several years with the performing arts collective ‘by Proxy’ and a stint as theatre manager in Odense (in Denmark).
“I’m now focusing on being a director. I’m stradling independent theatre and institutions.”
He is currently finishing a master’s degree in direction at Den Danske Scenekunstskole (The Danish Performing Arts School) in Copenhagen, and from April on he will be cirty artist at Ibsen’s House in Skien, Norway. In that same month, the cult classic “Plan 9 from Outer Space” will premiere, and he will be the director of the performance at Oslo Nye Centralteatret. .
Add to that a position as house director at Berliner Ensemble in the German capital from the autumn onwards – and we will definitely have passed the definition of a hectic life.
During his last months as an ArtEX participant, Heiki will spend his time with his coach finding peace and quiet amidst all his projects.
“I’m probably a bit restless. I haven’t lived in the same place for more than a year to six months at a time”, says Heiki.
Meeting places for everyone
For a performer in an uncertain industry security and a network are important things. Heiki also points to how much Grenland Friteater means to him. This is where he debuted as an actor when he was 17 years old.
“They have embraced me ever since. They have my back in everything I do.
Social identity and group formation are important keywords in Heiki’s works. Who is inside and who is outside?
“It’s important to speak about noone standing alone”, says Heiki.
He considers the theatre as being an ever more important democratic venue in our digital everyday lives. That is why he likes choosing formats and places that make people from all walks of life come together.
During ‘Skeivt kulturår’ (the Gay Cultural Year) last year he started the event series Skeive Motstandsbevegelser (Queer Resistance Movements), which included a traditional Sami costume workshop with non-binary Sami participants at the Skien Kunstforening’s (the Skien Art Society’s) premises.
All the movements lifted up queer identities other than the white, gay man. When we talk about queer aesthetics he is often the person who is centre stage. But queer aesthetics is so much more than a pink feather stole, says Heiki.
“In light of what happened during Pride (two killings and several casualties outside a gays restaurant in Olso during the Pride parade) it is even more important that those of us who are gay and active in the gay community insist on being intersectional and alliance-building people.
Programme of Excellence in Performing Arts and film (ArtEx) is an interdisciplinary talent developing programme which is to help top-level artists to further develop themselves artistically and build an interesting and sustainable career. Through the programme you will become part of an extensive national and international network, you will get to take part in interdisciplinary professional gatherings under the auspices of Talent Norge. A support network will be available to you throughout the duration of the programme, consisting of a mentor, a coach and a place on Olympiatoppen’s health service. You will also get an individual scholarship that is to be used for professional development in consultation with your mentor.