Scrying into a Shell

Investigating the Collaborative Surplus of Care

Listen to the podcast here


The sound of the ocean will greet you when you listen to a seashell. They say this ritmic murmur of waves is the blood that is running through the blood vessels in your ear, which echoes back to you after travelling through the interior surface. The seashell is an excellent amplifier of the noises that surround us; noises that, under normal circumstances, are cancelled out by our brain and we don’t notice them. However, when you put the shell to your ear, the brain registers that the frequency of the noises have changed and it tries to understand this unknown sound by ways of finding subtle patterns in the world around us, labelling it, for instance, as the «ocean». Nevertheless, sometimes different patterns can be found in the seashell’s resonance. This strange psychic phenomenon called shell scrying appears when listening carefully to the shell. At first, you should hear fragments of words, followed by fully formed words, and finally whole segments of a conversation. But what happens when you listen to something that at first sounds familiar, but which is essentially quite different? Do you perceive it as noise or do you have to listen carefully to understand it clearly?
  How does the notion of care resonate in the mind of the other? Scrying into a Shell – Investigating the Collaborative Surplus of Care departs from the proposition of sharing, rather than extracting from artistic and scientific practices. The project explores the possibility of creating a cognitive surplus around the theme of relational care by means of interdisciplinary processes of knowledge-exchange.

With care we understand the practice of nurturing and cultivating one another, whether this is in- or unintentionally. Relational care stems from a base of connection, interdependence, collectivity and collaboration. Additionally, relational could encline relativity. In that sense, care or caring for could be perceived not so much as a fixated notion but as something that is in flux and open for re-examination and re- definition according to the changing world we live in. Rather than focusing on the strategies of caring, or the caregiver and care recipient as an individual, we highlight what emerges between the different agents in their practice: the relational care. While bringing people together can be seen as an act of caring, as a curatorial method it can also be seen as demanding labour. Surplus usually refers to methods that tend to serve capital by using unremunerated labour to generate additional forms of value. In Tania Bruguera’s Arte Ùtil and Stephan Wright’s Towards a Lexicon of Usership, the notion of cognitive surplus can be apprehended as the excess product of this free labour emanating from actively shared knowledge. Scrying into a Shell proposes an alternative and more ethical mode of the creation of surplus by practising direct redistribution of the knowledge production generated by the participants, all working across multiple disciplines.

Instead of returning to the ways we are already familiar with, Scrying into a Shell proposes to discover new perspectives instead. Artists Riina Hannula and Minna Suoniemi and researchers Anna Varfolomeeva and Charlotte Angove share their thoughts on non- idealised practice of relational care in an on- site conversation, moderated by curator and writer Taru Elfving. Within the discussion, all the participants depart from a multivocal angle, through the various roles they each take on.

We thank Antoine Flahaut for original music and sound support, Clément Beraud for production support,Aalto Studios and HAM for technical assistance. 



Public Live Discussion
01.05.2022 - HAM, Helsinki Art Museum (FI)

The project is curated and produced by the temporary curatorial collective
Julia Fidder, Cyane Findji, Myriam Gras and Aino Kostiainen.


supported by Aalto University + HAM, Helsinki Art Museum