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Archaeology and the Future of Estonian Art Scenes

Archaeology and the Future of Estonian Art Scenes

Time: 19.10.12–30.12.12  11:00–18:00
Location: Kumu exhibition spaces

As of Friday, 19 October, an exhibition entitled Archaeology and the Future of Estonian Art Scenes will be on view in the Contemporary Art Gallery at the Kumu Art Museum. The exhibition, which was compiled by four Estonian curators, provides an overview of contemporary art activities in Estonia and focuses, to a greater extent than usual, on the artistic activities in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu, and on the examination of the art institutions and groups that have influenced this art triangle. The exhibition’s intellectual cornerstone is a doctoral thesis by Hilkka Hiiop, a restorer-conservator at the Art Museum of Estonia; the thesis deals with problems related to the restoration of contemporary art. The exhibition is accompanied by a conference and public programmes.

“The exhibition plays out a possible scenario for how, under the currently prevailing conditions of pluralism, to summarise the developments in contemporary art and to involve artists and institutions that have grouped around various technologies and ideologies,” said the Kumu Art Museum curator Eha Komissarov, the originator of the idea for the exhibition.

In the section of the exhibition curated by her, Komissarov presents the Neo-Classicist trends of the Estonian painting scene. She also introduces the Tartu painting scene as an interpreter of traditions, describes the importance of the city as the initiator of contemporary art activities, and continues with the topic of intervention art. The exhibition also introduces another important element: the Köler Prize, awarded by the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (CAME), the first of which was presented in 2011 to an installation by Jevgeni Zolotko.

In recent years, tensions have dramatically increased related to the issue of the trustworthiness of art surveys and introductory art exhibitions. The exhibition’s curators believe this is due to the changes related to the means of production of contemporary art. The infrastructures of galleries, culture factories and art halls participate in the creation of art for the exhibitions taking place in their spaces.

The expansion of the art world has been unstructured and splintered; the positions of art centres and self-organised artists and art collectives are often connected to marginal subcultures or searches for local lifestyles, which the wider circle of art consumers refuses to share. The role of museums, which traditionally act as custodians and introducers of cultural traditions, has also changed and museums that exhibit contemporary art often initiate the creation of new works, which can be defined as site-specific art.

“The 20th century drastically shifted the limits of artistic creation – from a traditional field of activity involving handiwork and materials to concepts, emotions, processes and the raising of problems, in other words, to everything intangible,” said the Art Museum of Estonia conservator-restorer Hilkka Hiiop. “The ephemeral and dynamic character of the creative practices of contemporary art is difficult to reconcile with the preservation systems of traditional museums. In this connection, a series of questions arises about the conservation, collection and preservation of the ideological, contextual, associative and other levels that give meaning to impermanent creative materials and matter.”

The popular international definition of the word “scene” is derived from Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of artistic fields, in which a field is a relatively independent universe that is inevitably tied to other areas. While the English-Estonian idiom dictionary defines “scene” as a describer of a locale or situation, the word is now being employed throughout the world as a denominator for a narrower artistic field with a common ideology.

The exhibition space curated by Rael Artel, which is called Explosion in Pärnu, provides a survey in strict chronological order of the activities in Pärnu from 1993 to the present day. The 1990s and early 2000s were a time of extraordinarily intensive artistic production and exhibition: a huge number of exhibitions and events were organised. The artists participating in the exhibition include Mila Balti (1970), Billeneeve (1975), Janno Bergmann (1975), Andrus Joonas (1970), Toomas Kuusing (1976), Marianne Männi (1981), Non Grata, Pusa (1979), Tanel Saar (1979), Siram (1968), Sorge (1963), Rauno Teider (1978), Ville-Karel Viirelaid (1981) and Jasper Zoova (1975).

The part of the exhibition entitled Old News assembles a selection of Estonian contemporary art which focuses on the social realities of today’s Estonia. The following phenomena of everyday life are covered: economic boom and bust, the debate regarding minority rights, jobs and unemployment, ethnic issues that have become class issues, and consumption. The works of the following artists are on display: Peeter Allik (1966), Alexei Gordin (1989), Johnson and Johnson (founded in 2005), Flo Kasearu (1985), Marge Monko (1976), Fideelia-Signe Roots (1976) and Anna-Stina Treumund (1982).

The first scene treated by the curator Kati Ilves is The Tallinn–Amsterdam Graphic Design Axis, which examines the work of designers who are from Estonia but have been educated at Dutch design schools (primarily the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam). The exposition is centred on summarising and mapping mental attitudes. The focus is on experimental graphic design. The artists are Indrek Sirkel, Mikk Heinsoo, Anu Vahtra, Elisabeth Klement, Margo Niit, Laura Pappa, Koit Randmäe and others.

The second scene curated by Ilves is called Tartu Text Art and Psycho-Geography; EKSP, which is partially comprised of experiments in text and language, but is also an artistic scene that deals with site metaphors. This is a Tartu-based phenomenon, and many of the artists’ backgrounds are in philosophy, semiotics and the other humanities, rather than in art. The scene is characterised by active linguistic intervention, as well as an experimental approach to places, history and disciplines. Good examples include the following: Erkki Luuk’s experimental poetry, Kiwa’s language games, International Conference, Scientific Conference, which transforms ordinary profundity into the absurd, Toomas Thetloff’s Tõde ja õigus, chaneldior and Erkki Luuk’s Tammeöö.

Support for the Archaeology and the Future of Estonian Art Scenes is provided by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

On 20 December at 10 am, the Archaeology and the Future of Estonian Art Scenes conference will commence in the Kumu Auditorium. Presentations will be made by Indrek Sirkel, Maarin Ektermann, Hilkka Hiiop and others.

Admission with a museum ticket.

Archaeology and the Future of Estonian Art Scenes will be open at the Kumu Art Museum until 30 December 2012.