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Illustration: Sabine Moore

The Year 2013 in Review: The most important cultural events in the Baltics and Scandinavia in 2013 0

Traditionally on the eve of the New Year we have prepared a comprehensive survey of the many creative intellectuals from the Baltic States, Scandinavia and Russia by asking six questions in order to discover which exhibition, film, book, disappointment and surprise has created the most memorable impression of the year 2013. Now we can finally reveal all of our findings. During the next week they all will be presented to the readers of Happy holidays!

Marge Monko, Estonian artist

I am very happy that after 2011, the tradition of the Tallinn Month of Photography continued in 2013, though on a smaller scale. It's an international event focusing on contemporary camera-based art. In thinking of the Baltics, another thing continues to impress me – the vivacity and visibility of Lithuanian contemporary art(ists) in an international context. I don't know much about Lithuanian art politics, but it seems that this success is a result of conscious and internationally-oriented activity, on both educational and institutional levels.

Tanel Veenre, Estonian jewellery artist

Looking from my (contemporary jewellery) perspective - touring exhibition From the Coolest Corner which started from Oslo January 2013, then passed by Copenhagen and Helsinki, 2014 will stop also in Tallinn and Gothenburg.

Romas Zabaraukas, Lithuanian filmmaker

The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk, curator of Tallinn Photomonth 2013 

From a personal perspective – as my engagements with the Baltics have been very targeted only – this would be working on the exhibition Shadows of a Doubt (Tallinn Art Hall), for Tallinn Photomonth 2013.

Ieva Zībarte, Latvian architect

In 2013, I was assured several times of Estonia's wise investments in the infrastructure of education and culture. Excellent schools, universities, libraries and cultural buildings keep opening up every few months. My interest in festivals and shows is ever decreasing; I want to see improvements in art-, architectural- and design-education. In terms of Latvia, I'd like to highlight the opening of the Mark Rothko Center, and the public's introduction to the Finnish-Latgallian film director, Teuvo Tulio.

Ansis Egle, a communications professional from Latvia

In Latvia, The Latvian Song and Dance Festival – unequivocally. No matter how hard it may be to agree with one another on a daily basis, this Festival is a way for me to look at myself from a broader viewpoint, and to not allow the weight of life to get me down. I feel that these Festivals are a cornerstone of my identity. I can't sing, but I like to be there and feel the power of the words, the songs, and the communal experience.

On a local scale, I'd say that it was, once again, a masterpiece by Latvia's most modern, marketable, talented and zeit-geist-capturing artist – the exhibition 2013, at the Riga gallery Māksla XO. As an artist, Kristaps Ģelzis is like a good wine – he gets increasingly better over time. I've been following Kristaps' trajectory ever since I first saw the works he did for the Art Academy's preparatory courses. The impression of his watercolor still-life of a seagull is immutable in my mind – so simple, so clear, so talented. Even the years spent doing commercial work have not lessened his talent and ability at finding new ideas. Since his show Varbūt (Maybe), my convictions of Kristaps' universal- and, at the same time, zeitgeist-grasping-feel have only taken on a firmer hold. A master; a craftsman; talent. This show was, once again, a powerful emotional and aesthetic experience – the kind that one often has to search for far and wide. And to those who ask me about the most special art that Latvia has to offer, I always recommend Kristaps – as the brightest embodiment of the times. Neither the Venice Biennale, nor glitz and glam, are able to dampen his talent. As we are so fond of giving things a score – this one is a 15 out of 10.

In terms of Lithuania – I had hopes that in conjunction with Lithuania's EU Presidency, they would host a notable international cultural program. Unfortunately, from my point of view, it has been sparse and self-centered. It was a chance for Lithuania to show itself, but in that case, you also have to create larger happenings that are interesting to a wider and internationally-demanding public.

Estonia has a traditionally powerful pop-culture. I'm especially fascinated how the Estonian president's actions support progressively-minded social currents in various branches of today's cultural scene – from the IT industries, to even pop-music. Consequently, Tallinn's Music Week, from my point of view, is one of the best achievements of popular Estonian culture – it creates an internationally exciting atmosphere, and also supports cultural diversity. In addition, it's all done with the blessing of the nation's president – it's fantastic! I wish the men and women in our government could also be more active participants in our cultural life, and that they would create an image of an educated and exciting country. There's certainly room for growth.

On an international scale, definitely the Venice Art Biennale. This year's show seemed to reflect feelings about various things going on in the world. From the cynicism of Russia's pavilion, to the essential truths of country life – as seen at Finland's pavilion, I was enthralled by the link between content and reality.

Milena Hoegsberg, chief curator at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Høvikodden 

That artist work-grants still persist in Norway and Denmark.

Pirkko Siitari, director of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Finland)

Some events may be important to large numbers of people, while others – only to individuals.  Kiasma's project, HEIMO (Tribe), challenged to think in new ways, and encouraged the youth and young adults to become proactive and to spread the positive message in collaboration with contemporary artists. Community-based art works provided a constructive way to solve everyday problems, even conflicts.

Kati Kivinen, curator at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Finland)

The cultural highlight of my year was Nick Cave at the Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland, in August of this year. Another highlight was the Pneuma festival at the Kiasma-Theatre in Helsinki, with Mika Taanila, Erkki Kurenniemi, Mika Vainio, Tarek Atoui, Circle, and many more.

Suvi Saloniemi, curator at the Helsinki Design museum (Finland)

I didn't travel much in Scandinavia this year, but I think in Helsinki we were quite privileged to see the retrospective on Eija-Liisa Ahtila. Design-wise, people were kind of hangover because of the World Design Capital year, which took place in Helsinki in 2012.

Sune Nordgren, Swedish art curator

The new art fair called CHART, in Copenhagen; and BUFF, the Film festival for young people in Malmö, will celebrate its 30 year anniversary.

Viktor Miziano, curator, art theoretician, and editor of “Khduzhestvenny zhurnal” from Moscow

I tend to think that in recent years, actuality does not become known through some current artistic or non-artistic events.

Such moments as the one we are living right now is interesting in that they reveal the multifaceted nature of any present moment, the presence of various measurements and temporalities in it. And that is why it is difficult to refer the symptoms of time to one or even several events:  what is interesting and symptomatic is their combination, contrast and incompatibility. But such moments are productive not so much through new phenomena but rather through the revelation of what was overlooked before.  

Thus this year I discovered for myself director Ferzan  Özpetek, who has been working for a long time, and methodically mastered his entire oeuvre.

Having started working in the 1990s, he belonged to an era which indeed produced remarkable events every year, laying claim to exhaust the relevant moment with their presence. It is possible that nostalgia for actuality is one of the reasons why this hitherto unknown to me figure evoked in me such strong sympathy and interest. Incidentally, nostalgia for the 1990s recently became part of the mainstream and was particularly insistent this year.  

This is probably the main trend of the moment: it is now topical to feel nostalgic for actuality...