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Around that time, your works constantly featured a geometrical figurine – the ball-head – what did it signify?

Its meaning only came later… But at the time, I understood these issues quite simply – if I am an artist – a painter, I have to think of what to put in the picture. I need some sort of form. But – is it something abstract? Or is it representing something? I tried to choose some form where the context was minimal, or it fit in with my feelings; that I could say: Yes, it belongs to me. That figurine was the most neutral one – I created it and it belonged only to me; I felt independent enough to be able to hear what I was saying. Everything else was overloaded with previous meanings, like huge apartment blocks filled with things… I built a small, private house, something small enough that I could handle it. And on a very basic level, I felt that I liked to do this. This level of doing is very important, because painting is very physical. I felt that it was something for me – I really like it, I can believe in it. If you enjoy it, then the energy moves in both directions. 

Untitled CXXVI. 1999

And all of the stories in these pictures are very formal. I took them from the life going on around us; they are just a narrative to hand to the viewer, because many people think that the narrative is the most important thing – that the work has to talk about something, that there has to be a story. They spend some time looking at the work and at the same time, they feel how it is done, and then they can forget the story. The important thing is the position, or the way in which they were made.

Is the story important for you?

It is nice to work out some narratives. But they are very basic ones, we all know these narratives. It is hard to say aloud something new.

You like to play with banal narratives, or stories, that everyone knows.

I don't try to find the most typical ones. They are familiar stories, but they have nuances that make it a pleasure to keep creating them.

So, in your art, you are more concerned about thinking about art itself, and not reality? Are you trying to include any social positions in it?

Not directly. I think that, as a social person, I’m already doing some kind of social art. I know that there is social art which is much more connected with real social problems, but this is a different angle. I’m quite social already, even if I do try to stand a bit more in the background. I try to do everything in the most correct way, in the sense that I really believe in what I’m doing. This is also a very social behavior. I don’t believe in a difference between art and life. It is strange nowadays – no one wants to know anything about contemporary art, and it becomes some kind of ghetto. But inside myself, I don’t feel any difference. What is the difference between someone driving a tram and someone making a video? Making and doing real things in everyday life? This is the congruence between your dreams, your ideas and your everyday activities. Driving a tram is also a very conceptual act, I think. You just have to feel it – if you are doing it you have to do it in a most focused way. It has to be done by me.

Is that why you paint instead of make videos?

Yes. But that is just my cage. If I had to do something else, I would still do it with mindfulness, the same as in art. And I would have to analyze it, the same as in art. If someone asks – what are you doing and why?, you have to be able to answer, because it is not happening randomly. It is your own choice. And art is something that looks so useless that it needs even more of an explanation as to why do you do it. You can do whatever, but why are you doing these things?

I think that everything is art, it just depends on how it is done. You have to keep this philosophical dimension to everything in the background. Because it is your life. So that at the end of your life, when you make a list of everything you have done, you can answer when somebody asks: Why did you do this? Until then, you can just say: Oh, it just happened, that’s fucking life. I had to do it and had to earn money somehow. Maybe tomorrow there will be something special, but today, I have to do these things. What philosophy? Fuck philosophy. This is life. Of course my life is very sad, and so on, and I don’t know why. But you have to choose these things, and wherever you are standing, there's not such a big difference. I’m doing paintings, but sometimes I‘m doing something else – videos or performances, or driving the car, meeting friends. Everything can be quite philosophical and can give reason to think: Why me, and now, right here?

Kaido and Marko. 2002

You have collaborated quite a lot with Marko Mäetamm, with whom you did the John Smith project, and with other artists as well. Is the collaborative aspect important to you?

With Marko it was very simple – we are friends. It was just a pleasure to do something together, and we easily created some ideas. That was also the strength and weakness of this project.

How was your collaboration in this project organized? Artists usually are quite individualistic and independent personalities. When collaborating, you have to step behind individual ambitions.

It was just a friendship, which is almost like love. If there are these positive emotions between people, you don’t start to think about your own ego and how to divide the work, just – hey, let’s do it!

World of Gods II. 2002

The John Smith project had a very clear beginning and a very clear end. At the beginning, there were paintings done together; later, the story of this person grew more layers – there was this living person with his own biography, his diaries, etc. Did it develop step by step by itself, or did you create the concept and then move on, following this concept?

It was quite a childish thing altogether. Therefore, it’s good that it had a clear beginning and an end. It started out as a joy, and then it became very serious. We started it without any big plans. We had our studios together and we often met, created some ideas, just having some fun conversations, and so on. Then we realized – oh, so many good ideas, maybe we can do something together about this? We did the first paintings together, and in one year we had already won the competition for the Venice Biennale. But we were not prepared at all. Of course, we prepared the project for Venice, but it was still sort of just for fun. Now I understand that it happened too fast. We didn’t even have enough time to understand what was going on. Then there was this project – two guys and John Smith, we were already some sort of group. – “Oh, boys – when is the next John Smith coming out!?” – Then there was a need for a long-term concept, a plan for how to continue with it. We either had to take it seriously or it would becomes pointless. Maybe that was when we realized that we were not interested in it anymore. >>