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

Today, as a result of overpopulation, space has become a luxury item. Are you interested in the question of a shrinking living space as such?

I’m sooner interested in what a person can do with a space. How a space is formed. When I began to photograph work places, I concluded that we spend eight hours or more a day in poorly designed places with insufficient lighting, boring furniture, and impersonal “euro-style” renovations. Work places most often look awful. But we spend almost half of our lives there. 

How big is the space where you live and work?

I lived in a very narrow space for several years—a ten-square-meter studio in the Tallinn Art Hall (Kunstihoone) from 1997 through 2004. I lived in the former kitchen and worked right next to it. I got used to making due in such a small space, where everything was just an arm’s-reach away. A person adjust herself and get used to things, and no longer pays it much attention. It is how it is. Most of the women whom I photographed have a very good sense of humor. In the confines of a narrow space, they seem to have found another way to stretch out. They speak much more sincerely with their colleagues, joke around. And that’s an aspect that I really want to emphasize in my art—that in difficult conditions people know how to find the ray of sunlight. My aim is not to show anybody as a victim.

How much space will you occupy at the Venice Biennale?

Six rooms on the first floor of the Palazzo Malipiero. The walls of the first room will be covered with forty photographs from the series A Woman Takes Little Space). For a change of rhythm, I’ll also include photos where you can see a space with just a reference to its employee, without the presence of the person in the frame. Initially I wanted to put all forty photographs in one large frame, yet this turned out to be technically almost impossible, taking into account the matter of transportation. There will be a few pieces of furniture, too. The next space will be formed as a living room with a large, LCD screen television and some living room furniture. The space and photographs will reference the living model in new villages of private homes outside of Tallinn, where a woman has a house, a family, and also the burden of debt. What is more, she barely has any private space there, the title of the series is A Room of One’s Own.  This will be followed by a room with two large photographs and two beds. These will be portraits of a woman in her private atmosphere, called Apartness. The fourth room will have two screens; one of them will show a projected video of fresh bread rolls being baked, and the other will show how the bread rolls are sold at a kiosk. Then both screens will show women eating the rolls. Here, too, nothing is staged; I wouldn’t call it a documentary video but, rather, a capturing of life.