David Ferrando Giraut. Film still from Catoptrophilia, 2013

“Archeological Festival” exhibition in Tartu 0

An express-interview with Maria Arusoo – Curator of the exhibition and Director of the Center for Contemporary Art Estonia

“Archeological Festival_ a 2nd hand history and improbable obsessions” 
Tartu Art Museum, Tartu (Estonia)
June 20 – August 24, 2014

“Archeological Festival_ a 2nd hand history and improbable obsessions” is an ecology of disintegration that results in a form of exhibition that is composed of narratives that provide entry points into two parallel chapters. It contains a concrete obsession with the “askew” situation of the present, with all its transmutations, and a parallel preoccupation with the nature of representation – the complex relationship between the world and an image of the world. The exhibition travels through many layers and deconstructs physical and mental space through the archeological method of trying to get closer to the question of how we can depict the world, or whether this is even at all possible. The dialectics between outside and inside, between the real world and the museum world, are important for its conception. 

The Archeological Festival deals with the notion of memory, history and revisiting histories. It works with the relationship between place and memory, and the effect that spatial displacement has on personal identity. It aims to oversee the awkward transition between artefact and cultural, or artistic, meaning. 

In its ephemeral way, the exhibition stages a collapse of past and future that excavates the archaeology of the present. 

Dénes Farkas. Subsidences, 2014

Could you please tell us, in your own words, what inspired you to develop the concept for this exhibition?

This exhibition had been settling in me for a rather long time. It started around three years ago, with a growing interest in modern ruins, decay and the aesthetics of decay, but not in a nostalgic way; rather, I was drawn to these sort of falling-apart moments, when something that was considered concrete is collapsing and becomes askew, or queer. 

From those fragmented thoughts and the reading that I had done, I decided to do something with them. 

The concept has moved away from the initial plan by quite a bit, but I think that the overall sense of what I wanted to achieve has remained.

“Archeological Festival_ a 2nd hand history and improbable obsessions” deals with the notions of memory, history and the revisiting of history. Why do you think it is essential today to talk about these concepts and the relationships between them?

I think that this exhibition is really close to real life – the leaning, precarious and liquid presence of today. 

It stages a collapse of the past and the future that excavates the archaeology of the present. 

It brings together many objects belonging to different and distant historical moments, but whose complex set of symbolic functions are, in a way, intimately connected. I am interested in challenging the potential to move away from certain preconceived frameworks, and to allow ‘other’ histories to enter, maybe personal histories, maybe something else. I think that these notions are especially important in the context of the Tartu Art Museum, and in a museum context overall, but this exhibition is absolutely not just a reflection of some issues concerning art institutions; it's more of a touching upon something really human which, somehow, never loses its relevance. I am not interested in trends, but in research and dialogue. 

What was the approach in selecting artists for this exhibition? 

In this case, it started with rather abstract research; I sensed where I wanted it to lead, and finding the right tune for dialogue became the basis for it. Basically, it was a trip – a mental and physical trip full of special encounters which, at first, seemed to belong to totally different contexts, but then, over time, it started to form a complete picture of different approaches to the same issue. 

A few years ago, Cyprien Gaillard visited Estonia and we went on a road trip in which we visited “tunes” and weird locations in forgotten places; and this became one of the starting points for the show. From then on, various fragments started to gather together – talking with David Ferrando Giraut about his research and his new film; listening to some concepts that Paul Kuimet was developing; walking to deAtleiers and seeing a beautiful piece by Simon van Til; meeting Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson and having a really great discussion; everlasting love for Elmgreen & Dragset's witty transmutations; crazy ideas by Kaisa Eiche & Urmo Mets; an inspirational conversation with Triin Tamm and her experiments; uncanny film works by Salla Tykkä; the sounds of Minerva; the depth of Farkas; thinking about the amazing works of Anu Vahtra and just simply wanting to see more of them. So, it was a collection of different encounters happening in different ways; sometimes starting from a specific work, sometimes from having open discussions. 

I think that all of the participating artists have a really high sensibility and openness – one could almost say they have a fragility about them. 

This exhibition has lots of entry points, and each artist clearly has his or her own vision, but all of the works are so strongly in dialogue with each other that they almost become as words in one and the same poem.

I always have been interested in creating new modes between already existing works and new productions. It is really inspiring and intriguing to create new contexts and narratives with works form different time frames. Paul Kuimet and Dénes Farkas, with their new productions, have really strayed away from what they usually do, and it is so exciting – it is like entering some unknown phase. And at the same time, Mare Vint’s drawings and lithographies from the seventies and eighties being in a dialogue with Gaillard's video work, is just so exciting for me.

Could you please tell us about the way in which the exhibition is arranged?

It is played out throughout the three floors of the Tartu Art Museum as separate chapters of the same book, but not necessarily following each other.

The first floor focuses more on the archeological method and approach, the second floor strips down the museum itself and reveals what it consist of, and the upper floor is sort of a final letting-go and a dissolving back into art.. the epilogue. Becoming. 

Along with the exhibition, there is a publication consisting of visual essays, poems, a novel, and thought fragments in which the protagonist is the leaning house. 

Could you please sketch out the exhibition’s unified feeling? 

Fragmented and complete. Ephemeral and present, but nevertheless, it is not full of contradictions.

I sense a sort of poetry in the exhibited works; they provide many entry points. The viewer is invited to travel into the museum-scape and to strip it down.

At the moment, I think it feels like a late summer breeze that carries both freedom and melancholy with it; but now I'm sounding too romantic, and also, tomorrow I might think in a totally different way and see it as a calculated deconstruction of walls, floors, ceilings, and layers of visual representation. Nevertheless, each time I enter it, I travel.