project image
Annette Arlander

first performed on February 4, 2012
the roof of a bunker in the southern part of Harakka Island, Helsinki, Finland
performed 40 times during 2012


Helsinki, Finland


During the year of the dragon, 2012, I called the dragon once a week from the roof of a bunker built after the Second World War for dismantling mines on Harakka Island in Helsinki. The roof would be a good landing platform for a small dragon, not for a creature the size of a helicopter. I call the dragon by ringing a small green ceramic bell bought outside a temple in Kyoto, Japan. I record the performance on video and make notes in a blog in three languages. I planned to begin at the Chinese New Year on January 23, but the first performance was delayed due to the thawing season.

“Calling the Dragon” is one part in a series of twelve one-year projects performed for camera on the same island. The series, which I began in 2002, is based on the Chinese calendar and its cycle of twelve years, with each year named after a specific animal. Every year I have looked for a new perspective on landscape, a new aspect of the environment and a new kind of relationship between the human body and the place. My working method utilizes the traditions of performance art, video art and environmental art, moving in the borderland between them.

The dragon is the only mythical creature among the animals of the calendar representing creative (masculine) power or good luck. In European mythology the dragon is a horrible monster, something the hero must face in combat in order to win his princess. A dragon can also mean the border between the known and the unknown, as in old maps: “Here be dragons.” That is why I feel a dragon is something only I can call.

Approximately once a week I repeat the following action: wrapped in a green scarf I climb up on the roof of the bunker and call the dragon by ringing the small bell in four directions, beginning by facing north; I continue facing east, then south and finally west and the open sea. In each position, I ring the bell first from the left, then from the right and lastly from behind the camera on tripod in the center. So far nothing resembling a dragon has responded to my calls, although the helicopters frequently flying over the island seem to appear in response to the sound of the tiny bell.