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Liina Siib. From series: A Woman Takes Little Space. 2008-2011

Just an Arm’s-Reach Away 1

Anna Iltnere

Tallinn-based artist Liina Siib (1963) will represent Estonia at the 54th Venice Biennale with the art project A Woman Takes Little Space. The project is comprised of a series of photographs, featuring woman in spatially and financially limited work conditions, where the discernible despondency is overshadowed by a greatness of soul. In the exposition there will be also videos, and a piece showing women in a new suburbian home conditions.

Liina Siib studied graphic art and photography at the Estonian Academy of Arts, where she earned a master’s degree in photography in 2003. Siib has had thirty solo exhibitions in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Germany, Belgium, and France. Her work has been included in several museum collections, including the Estonian Art Museum, the Tartu Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm and Neues Museum für Kunst und Design in Nürnberg. Siib is also co-editor of the periodical Estonian Art and vice rector of the Estonian Academy of Arts. Following a competition between fifteen works, Siib was chosen to represent Estonia at the 54th Venice Biennale with the project A Woman Takes Little Space (Naine võtab vähe ruumi, in Estonian). On the first floor of the Palazzo Malipiero, home to the Estonian exposition every year since 2003, the artist will set up an apartment featuring six conceptually linked room installations with photographs and video works. I met Siib early one morning in Tallinn in a large, empty café.

Which factor is more important in your art project: gender or space?

Hard to say—both are closely linked. I’ve noticed that in pictures where a woman is the author, space is almost always present. Perhaps a woman is historically linked to it? If I didn’t pay attention to this before, now I observe it with interest.

When and where did you begin this photo series?

A few years ago I read in the paper that there are significantly less older men in Estonia than older women. Many men die even before reaching retirement age. There was a strange turn in the article, which was also captured in the heading: “Does poverty lengthen your lifespan?” Which points to the fact that women in Estonia are paid less salary than men. That was in 2007. The topic of a woman’s working conditions began to gnaw at my brain.