Irma Optimist has for a number of years been a prominent figure in Finnish performance. She has adopted Optimist as a last name to counterbalance the Finnish melancholy. She has presented over 160 performances since 1989 in Finland, USA, Japan, Canada, Germany, Austria, Poland, France, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, Israel, United Kingdom and Ireland.
Irma Optimist is working at the Turku School of Economics and Business Administration as a senior lecturer in Mathematics (PhD), specialized in chaos theory.
Irma Optimist’s performances intend to disturb the logic of science. Part of her work is aimed at disentangling formal language and, in Optimist’s own opinion, a performance is, first and foremost, an intellectual process. Using optimistic mathematics, she wants to restore the symbols of food, love and sexuality, since the body has exploded due to the demand for desire, utility and energy. She is a real person, as well as a woman, who wants to show that her brain is as important as any other part of her body. She believes that her image is something of a combination of the soft and the hard, a bit of both. What she wants is to emphasize both of these sides in woman.
Her performance is influenced by time and space, by the temporality of presence, and its female optimistic lifestyle contradicts the static idea of art. Her performance lacks an absolutely fixed point. As a non-linear system it exists in the interaction between the artist and the audience; the relationship is complex. Western culture has sublimated itself through science, but Optimist’s performance reduces science back to corporality. She restores brilliant visibility or transparency to the politics of identity. What Irma Optimist looks like and what she is doing are just as true as her own self.
Interviewed by Johnny Amore in Helsinki