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Detail of Maarit Murka’s work ‘3You’. Ülemiste City, 2016

Tallinn Art Week - Not a Posh or Elitist Event for a Closed Group 0

Q&A with Andra Orn, one of the organisers of the Tallinn Art Week

- Tallinn Art Week -
June 11 - 18, 2016

The second week of June will see the debut of the first ever Tallinn Art Week. Its coordinators, the NOAR art platform team, have planned it as a programme of playful and lively activities. Not content with waiting for the public to visit its events at museums and art galleries, the Tallinn Art Week is prepared to go out in search for its audience at the city’s most popular meeting places; besides, as part of a special architectural outdoor project, everything that is usually shown indoors will now be brought outside. Furthermore, continuing its mission of making the Estonian art scene accessible to everyone, the NOAR team is offering an opportunity to take a look inside the studios of Estonian artists – a most intriguing peek behind the scenes of the art world.

Read in the Archive: NOAR | Objective: A Unified Art Platform for the Baltic States and Finland

In June 2016, Tallinn Art Week takes place for the first time. There is a lot of significant art week events on the international agenda. What makes Tallinn Art Week one-of-a-kind?

Tallinn Art Week will give both the home audience and foreign visitors a comprehensive overview of what is happening on Estonia’s contemporary art scene. It is a great way to experience the unique artistic energy here. It is important to us that the festival is playful, broad-minded and open to anyone who is curious about art, not a series of ‘posh’ or elitist events for a selected group.

Performance Explosion! June 16, at Telliskivi Creative City, Red Hall and courtyard

We can promise many great art experiences across a wide spectrum, ranging from paintings and photography to intriguing street art and powerful performances. It is also mixing the local and international energies in site-specific settings. For example, in the context of the ‘Performance Explosion’ lead by our notorious artist group Non Grata, you can see top performance artists from around the world. And of course, Tallinn´s Old Town and the creative districts of Kalamaja and Telliskivi are just perfect to visit in June!

Read in the Archive: Baltic Art Superstar, Where Are You? (Commentary by Al Paldrok, the Estonian artist and leader of the performance group Non Grata)

Many events in the programme are set in the public space, outside any institutional framework. What are the biggest challenges you face going outside?

We go outside literally, so the biggest challenge for many events is the weather. We open on 11 June at Tallinn´s Freedom Square, which will be filled with diverse forms of art for this occasion. During an all-day public event, visitors will be able to see recent works by both established masters and emerging talents, introduced by galleries and art organizations.

The largest artwork will be the open-air architectural solution that holds everything else together, created by KUU architecture bureau and Estonian Academy of Arts. This way of exhibiting art really breaks down the boundaries of different spaces, the gallery room and the public space. What should be inside and covered, is now outside and in open air. Well, we, of course, do have a plan B in case it rains, but we really hope it will be a nice and sunny day for the opening of the art week.

On the same day, playful art happenings and thought-provoking discussions will take place on the stage. The discussions revolve around the central topic of the boundaries of literature/theatre/art/design, etc. Are there really any borderlines nowadays? What happens at the intersection points of art, architecture and design? How can functional design combined with art contribute to our everyday life and what role does ‘art for art’ still have in this context?

How ready is today's viewer for getting to grips with art in the public space?

There is a lot of talk about public spaces nowadays. I think it is important to realize that all places where we spend our time have an effect on our lives. In case of public spaces, the requirements related to lighting, furniture, etc. play a central role, but sometimes the main idea seems to get lost. I believe that it is important to create surroundings where we feel ourselves comfortable, spaces with good and creative energy. And this is not so much about technical requirements. It is more about the personal, human touch, no matter if we’re talking about a home, a workplace or public space –  and this is the difficult part.

Art is very personal, and this is why everyone has so many different and strong opinions defining what is and what is not art. We are still quite used to see things done in ‘ordinary’ ways but art doesn’t do that, so it might scare people. But there is no need to be scared, and the right piece of art that works in symbiosis with its surroundings makes a huge difference.

 Work in process. Maarit Murka. ‘3You’. (Ülemiste City, 2016)

A new piece of art by Estonian painter Maarit Murka and graffiti artist Sänk is being created on a wall near the Tallinn airport. It is estimated to be one of the biggest in the Baltic region (about 1640m2). Could you elaborate more on its idea and aesthetics?

As I said earlier, public spaces can be a really touchy subject; people get very emotional about these things, and you can never please everybody. It is strange how people who make decisions about decide what will be in a public space, get scared of how public will understand the artwork and for these reasons choose something that may be quite far from art. I´m convinced that people will understand – don’t underestimate them! Even if you choose something really simple, it will still not satisfy everyone; people are just different and have different expectations.

Creating public space is quite a responsibility and we don’t take it easily. Because there already is a large-scale mural in Ülemiste City nearby, the new work had to be thought through very well. I´m really satisfied with the outcome.

Maarit Murka is one of the best known young artists of Estonia, mostly famous for her masterful photorealistic paintings. Murka’s paintings are often cinematic in their visual language. Her works do not seem to be independent entities, leaving an impression of being stills from a longer narrative, so the viewer can put the movie together on his or her own.

The artwork created on the wall of an old soviet-era warehouse in Ülemiste City is called “You Are Not Alone”. The mural depicts a girl wearing a helmet, floating in space above the Earth, and another figure that flies a paper airplane, with a number of different shades of blue painted on the background. The point of departure for the artist’s concept was the airport, because it is our window for communication with the outside world. She wanted the visuals to be playful and childlike – hence the paper plane, not a real aircraft. ‘Only the sky is the limit’ – the artwork conveys a really positive and hopeful message that everything is possible if only you know what to wish for. Murka started with the sky and moved on to the space (perhaps not such a distant dream anymore nowadays). The motive of a helmet makes the artwork more impersonal, so that anyone’s specific identity will not dominate. It is also a symbol of people living in a bubble; we interact via different types of media all the time but forget to communicate directly with people next to us.

Jaanus Samma. Public Toilet (From A Chairman’s Tale series), 2015. Pigment print, 120 x 92cm

What are the highlights of Tallinn Art Week’s programme – ones that absolutely should not be missed?

The opening day, 11th June on the Freedom Square, of course, for all the above-mentioned reasons. Also, the Performance Festival on 16 June is guaranteed not to leave you feeling indifferent. It will be huge fireworks of powerful performances featuring artists from Estonia, US, France, Chile, Uruguay, Russia, Mexico, etc. There are also lots of great exhibitions with special tours. To name one, Jaanus Samma’s exhibition “NSFW. A Chairman’s Tale” that represented Estonia in Venice Biennale 2015 certainly deserves a visit.

Read in the Archive: Jaanus Samma on his “NSFW. A Chairman’s Tale” Estonian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale

The exhibition tells a fictive story of a successful chairman of a collective farm who is sent to prison in 1965 for homoerotic behaviour. It is essentially a fictive opera in the form of a multimedia installation with videos, and found objects displayed alongside archive materials. The public programme concerns human rights on a broader scale. And last but not least, you can also discover our young talents by visiting the graduation exhibitions of the Estonian Academy of Arts. A selection of best works can also be seen at the art platform, together with the works of talented graduates from the other Baltic countries. This is related to another initiative that we are coordinating, the Best Young Talent of the Baltics competition, which takes place for the first time in 2016 as a joint project by NOAR, the art academies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation.