Continuous Past. Signs of the Soviet Era in Recent Estonian Art

November 9, 2007 – March 30 2008
Kumu Art Museum, 4th floor, project space


The reverberations of the Soviet past, which, after the fast and painful examination of the events of this period that took place at the beginning of the 1990’s, could be found only infrequently in Estonian art by the end of the same decade, has recently re-emerged, not to a massive degree, but noticeably. The same tendency can also be noticed more broadly, if we observe what is increasingly spoken about in films, theatre, literature, TV commercials and on the street.


Naturally, the relationship with the recent past has changed considerably compared to the beginning of the 1990’s, and the strategies and tactics of the artists are also different. Peeter Linnap’s Summer 1955 (1993) and Eve Kiiler’s Estonian Home (1992–1993) are among the classics of Estonian art from the 1990’s, and in their time, not only represented the discovery of archival materials, but also the emergence of artistic practices and conceptual photo art that differed fundamentally from the past. The contact with the past was more direct in these works and history more ambivalent than in many later treatments.


For younger artists, the Soviet period often represents something a bit weird and alienating, while generally evoking a secure childhood world. In their works, the symbols and narratives of greater history, which have already become hazy, are often intermingled with more personal stories; while on the other hand, the somewhat astonishing ways that the traumas of the past endure in today’s world emerge.


All the works displayed at the exhibition are based on existing materials – presenting and deconstructing them in various ways. The materials include archival photos, historical narratives and issues, monuments, heroic figures, meaningful places and events, as well as earlier works, emblems and objects. The connection of the some of the works with the Soviet era is direct, with others indirect; the eloquence of the the works depends also on the viewer’s experiences, background, memories and age. All these works are united by their treatment of historical fiction and the use of the symbols of the past in new or personal narratives, while the differences arise from whether the emphasis is on political or personal history, on the past or the present.


Artists: Peeter Allik, Kristin Kalamees, Rebecca Keller, Eve Kiiler, Katrin Koskaru, August Künnapu, Peeter Linnap, Maarit Murka, Karl Nagel, Neformat Studio, Tiiu Rebane, Silja Saarepuu, Ene-Liis Semper, Liina Siib, John Smith, Hanno Soans, Jane Suviste, Jasper Zoova, Mare Tralla, Vergo Vernik


Curator of the exhibition: Anu Allas

Designer of the exhibition: Raul Kalvo