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“Estonian Dream”. Festival of Contemporary Art 0

Estonian Dream. Festival of Contemporary Estonian Art
October 26 - December 1 

Estonian Dream is a small festival of contemporary Estonian art, which is comprised of four exhibitions, a screening of documentary films and other events: musical and artistic performances, meetings with artists, etc. Estonian Dream is a collage of exhibitions and events, which has been compiled through an active dialogue with local institutions hosting the festival. On the one hand, it is based on the experiences of the Stavanger “artivists” with Estonian art and, on the other hand, with the curator’s experience with the Stavanger art scene, the local institutions, and artists. 

The title “Estonian Dream” is borrowed from one of Flo Kasearu’s videos, which is being shown in the exhibition Little House in the Periphery, at Rogaland Kunstsenter. The main character of the video is an Estonian immigrant living in Texas, who posts videos on YouTube under the name Texasgirly1979, and whose material comprises this work. Kasearu’s montage video is hysterically funny, sad, tragic, and at the same time as dramatic as a soap opera. The main character’s relationship with Estonia, her former homeland, is sentimental and idealistic, while her charming superficiality and gaiety hides a tremendous loneliness and homesickness that is aching in her. The festival’s relationship with Estonia is rather critical, but here too, one can find drama, tragedy as well as comedy. 

Related Article - An Interview with Anders Härm "Behaving as a Museum"

Estonian Dream is not a typical “national presentation”, which always has certain traits of cultural imperialism and pretensions of representability. Instead, it tries to focus critically on the nation and the state, along with its official Estonian Dream. Hopefully, through the Estonian “case”, the festival will develop into an examination of the phenomenon of Eastern Europe in the post-communist era more generally. There’s also no sense in totally renouncing the idea of the format of national representations,” in the catalogue essay emphasizes curator of the festival and founding member of EKKM Anders Härm.

I Don't Eat Flowers! exposition

Photo from Liina Siib's A Woman Takes Little Space series

The exhibition called I Don’t Eat Flowers! at Hå gamle prestegard includes chrestomathic Eastern European work of art – Loser, by Kai Kaljo, from 1997, which rather directly points out some of the strange by-products of this achieved freedom. Kaljo stands in front of the camera and speaks, accompanied by the canned laughter that we know from countless comedy shows. She says that she is 37 years old, and works at the Academy of Arts for $ 90 per month, and that the most important thing for an artist is freedom, and that she is very happy. In some sense, with this short, only 11⁄2-minute-long video, Kaljo is able to splendidly conceptualize the paradoxes of Eastern Europe at that time. The topics of labor, the body, and gender, and their relationships, are the central themes of the exhibition, which, besides Kaljo, includes works by Marge Monko, Liina Siib and Anna-Stina Treumund. In 2011, Treumund paraphrased the Loser, by recasting the roles of Kaljo’s video. If Kaljo’s main character was a female artist that portrayed herself, then feminist lesbian artist Treumund casts herself in the role of a homophobic Estonian boor. In some sense, this paraphrasing also characterizes the critical turn that occurred in society itself, where, compared to the 90s, these themes started appearing in the media and started manifesting the public’s interests, despite the increased popularity of conservative views in Estonia. Just like elsewhere in Europe, Estonia also has not been untouched by this.

Installation  Little House in the Periphery by Kristiina Hansen & Johannes Säre

Flo Kasearu. Estonian Dream. 2011 

If the 1990s of Estonian society were characterized by the ultra liberalism – in the extremely permissive context of cowboy capitalism, the attitude towards sexual minorities was also comparatively liberal – then the 00s were characterized, primarily, by a constantly deepening national conservatism, accompanied by all the attendant problems – from homophobia to intolerance. The shifts in national self-awareness are the focus of the exhibition titled Little House in the Periphery at Rogaland Kunstsenter, as well as of its direct counterpart – the short retrospective of Estonian documentaries at KINOKINO. The artists participating in the exhibition include Flo Kasearu, Kristina Norman, Johnson ja Johnson, as well as Johannes Säre and Kristiina Hansen, all of who have dealt with these topics to a greater or lesser extent. 

The title of Little House in the Periphery is borrowed from the tiny installation by Säre and Hansen, which in turn, paraphrased the legendary TV series Little House on the PrairieUnder the cover of a sentimental plot and tremendous amiability, this TV series was moralizing, conservative and didactic, and taught the viewers all the right values of a true Christian. The exhibition probes topics such as memory and identity politics, its shifts and strategies. The same motifs are also central to the retrospective of documentary films at KINOKINO, where all selected films deal with similar issues. The connecting link between the two events is Kristina Norman. She is participating in the exhibition with a video installation called Common Groundthat deals with the problems of refugees, which is currently a hot topic in Estonia; and with a full-length documentary called A Monument to Please Everyonewhich deals with the complicated political-technological issues surrounding the erection of the Estonian War of Independence Monument. In addition, films by the most important documentary filmmakers of the last decade will be shown, including Andres Maimik and Rain Tolk, Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma, and Meelis Muhu. Jaan Tootsen’s documentary New World, which observes the activities of a small group of activists in their attempt to establish a new community center, will also be shown.

From The Milk-Method Men opening

The exhibition series is completed by Milk-Method Men at Galleri SULT, with the participation of Kaido Ole and Erki Kasemets. Both men arrived on the art scene at about the same time in the early 90s and have therefore been at the forefront of the local art world for around 20 years. Every day, Erki Kasemets has sewn a new button on his jacket, and every day he has painted a picture on a milk container, which can bee seen at this exhibition. We could also view his work as a subjective yardstick of Estonian history. Kaido Ole exhibits five paintings of a series of 28, the recurrent theme of which is the wheel, where all the depicted systems try to remain upright.If Kasemets uses his art to measure his own life, Ole depicts the world’s fragile balance, which can collapse at any moment. 

Jaan Toomik's exhibition view

Still from video work Run. 2011

Still from video work Seagulls. 2004

Building of Galleri SULT and Skur6

Five of Jaan Toomik’s video installations, produced over the course of three decades, are exhibited in the Skur6 – starting from Dancing Home,which was created in 1995 and resulted in his international breakthrough, and ending with a totally new work, which was completed especially for this exhibition. Jaan Toomik can rightfully be considered a staple of Estonian contemporary art. He came to the fore in the late 1980s, and since the mid-90s, has been one of the most noteworthy and internationally recognized Estonian, and maybe also East European, artists. He has participated in the São Paulo Art Biennial (1994), Manifesta (1996), Berlin Biennale (2006) and naturally also the Venice Biennale, in both the national pavilion (1997) and also in the curator’s exhibition (2003). 

Group photo with some of the members and leaders of institutions: (from the left) artist Liina Siib, Ingunn Nord Varhaug from Hå gamle prestegard, Kristel Talv from Rogaland Kunstsenter, artists Jaan Toomik and Erki Kasemets, Bente Gundersen from Galleri Sult, artist Johannes Säre, curator Anders Härm, Geir Haraldseth from Rogaland Kunstsenter, Stian Robbestad from Tou Scene