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Fragment of an art work by Marina Abramovich

Contemporary Art Festival Tartu - ART IST KUKU NU UT 2011 0

The nursery rhyme-like chain of syllables, ART IST KUKU NU UT, is the name of the contemporary art festival that has gained international recognition for the second time already. This year it was opened on 15 September and will stay active for a month and a half, until the end of October, unfolding in the university and student city of Tartu. A trio of ladies constitute the organizational core of the festival: the festival's director, Kaisa Eiche, its artistic director, Rael Artel, and the coordinator for educational programs, Kristina Paju. A unifying theme was pointedly not chosen, so as to avoid the resulting bounds and restrictions, say the organizers. In lieu of a theme, the program will stay open to interpretation – everyone can look for connections between exhibitions wherever they will.

Some central goals have been stated, though, the main one being introducing guests of the festival to the classics of contemporary art. These are a daily part of life in large metropolises, infrequent in smaller cities, but in the Baltic States – extremely rare. The festival's team hope to change this unfortunate tradition.

ART IST KUKU NU UT 2011 consists of three main exhibitions:

Art Must Be Beautiful. Selected works by Marina Abramovic
Tartu Art Museum

15 September – 13 November

Curated by Rael Artel, this exhibition of carefully selected Marina Abramovic's (1946) works is one of the answers to the ART IST KUKU NU UT 2011 stated goals of introducing the people of the Baltic States to the classics of contemporary art. Marina Abramovic is a legendary performance artist from New York with Serbian roots, who started her career in the 1970's. Having been creatively active for more than three decades now, she has recently deemed herself the “grandmother of performance art”. The exhibition in Tartu has come about with support from the New York gallery, Sean Kelly.

Acts of Refusal. Fleeing, Dreaming, Repeating, Watching (Among Others)
Tartu Art House
16 September – 16 October

The contemporary art project collaborators from Berlin, THE OFFICE (including Ellen Blumenstein, who curated Iceland's pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale, and Kathrin Meyer) are organizing a group show in Tartu. It's basic idea is based on the adage by the Italian philosopher, Paolo Virno (1952), that an action of refusal, such as the act of fleeing, is actually an opportunity to change a situation that has become unbearable. The curators of the exhibition pose the question: what are other acts of refusal that could induce potential change? Attention is placed on post-socialist countries in which the social structure swiftly changed upon the entrance of Western capitalism, and which has possibly been the source of various levels of dissatisfaction among the inhabitants. In place of direct resistance to unwanted situations or processes, the curators offer a milder alternative – “stepping out of the game”, inspiration for which can be found in the works of art created especially in the framework of the theme.

Leaving Tartu
Gallery Y
16 September – 30 October

Four young Estonian artists have created an exhibition that won the ART IST KUKU NU UT competition and received a grant to implement the exhibition and display it as part of the festival. Anna Hints, Eva Labotkin, Marja-Liisa Plats and Toomas Thetloff have updated the questions: How can an artist get out of the small city of Tartu? How realistic is it, in this small and closed-off artistic environment, to find a way of rising above the rest and leave Tartu, thereby reaching the horizons of the broader art world? “We sacrifice ourselves to rise above, but despite all of the work we put in, it's like we're locked up in a basement. We longingly look at those on the other side of the window, while we ourselves stand in line, waiting for permission to leave,” so say the artists.

More about the festival: