Marge Monko. Untitled (Schwarzenbergplatz) I, II, 2013. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Marge Monko

Estonian artist Marge Monko explains “How to Wear Red”. Exhibition at MUMOK 0

Marge Monko “How to Wear Red”
MUMOK, Vienna
October 25, 2013 – February 2, 2014

While Ieva Epnere from Latvia and the four other finalists for the2013 Henkel Art.Award (Central and Eastern Europe's foremost art prize) await the jury's verdict this December, Vienna's MUMOK Museum of Modern Art is showing the works of last year's winner, Estonia's Marge Monko, in the exhibition “How to Wear Red”. The three-month-long exhibition at MUMOK is one of the components of the Henkel Art.Award, along with a solo show and a seven thousand euro monetary prize.

Red Dawn (Punane Koit), 2013. HD-Video / HD video, 4:10 min. Courtesy the artist asked Monko to give a short commentary on her choice of theme for the exhibition, as well as on the works on view and how she thinks the Vienna public will respond to “How to Wear Red”:

The title Re Dawn was also used for my exhibition at the Tartu Art Museum last summer. While visiting Tartu in early spring in preparation for the exhibition, I dropped by a department store, which is when I overheard a conversation between two young women. They were discussing which colors they can and cannot wear. Certainly everybody has some colors they prefer, but I had never considered some color to be a total "no" for me. The issue of wearing a certain color seemed like a good metaphor for making a statement. Concerning colors, I also noticed that the color red somehow pervades most of my works, whether directly – as in the video "Red Dawn" and the red-hued poster "I Don't Eat Flowers", or metaphorically – such as referring to social democracy or the Soviet past.

Free Love, 2013. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Anu Vahtra

In the exhibitions linked to the Henkel Art.Award – namely, at the Tartu Art Museum and at MUMOK – in addition to new works, I'm also showing some already existing works. That was suggested to me by the curators, Rael Artel and Rainer Fuchs. Although I always prefer to show new works, I understand that it's important to show the old ones as well, in order to create some context and to introduce my practice as a whole. For both exhibitions, I made one context-related work – the one for the Tartu exhibition is titled Free Love, and was inspired by an article in a local newspaper from 1905 that spread gossip about politically active school girls. This work is also going to be displayed in Vienna. 

For the exhibition at MUMOK, I made two light boxes depicting day- and night views of the Soviet Army monument at Schwarzenbergplatz. This place grabbed my attention already in 2004, when I was studying there. The monument is located behind the fountain. Up through 2009, the monument was undergoing some reconstruction, and there were no lights on during the nighttime, which made the monument basically invisible when observing from the central viewpoint. The monument consists of a pedestal on which there is a vertical figure of a soldier holding a flag, and behind it, a semi-arc colonnade that imitates ancient architecture. I assumed that not illuminating the monument might be a way for the Viennese to express their attitude towards the Soviet legacy and the memories connected to the Soviet army – which stayed there for another 10 years after liberating Vienna in 1945. 

I Don’t Eat Flowers, 2011. Plakat / Poster, 59,4 cm × 42 cm. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Marge Monko

I'm quite happy with the choice of works for the MUMOK exhibition, and I'm looking forward to see how they interact in the space. For me, working with the museum's professional team has been a valuable experience. I'm very thankful for their support! There is also a catalog that has been published for the exhibition. The idea was conceived by Rael Artel, and the project was completed thanks to the support by the people at MUMOK.