This exhibition is the result of a collaborative curatorial connection between RMIT and the Estonia Academy of Arts. It seeks to establish links between artists working in different locations and to explore how the specific cultural and political environment of each locale operates to inform the artists’ practice. At some time in the future, RMIT undergraduates will exhibit in Tallinn and the contacts made will be expanded and explored.
Many thanks to Maria Juur who has been instrumental in selecting and collating the artwork for this exhibition as well as writing the introductory essay below. Thanks also to Kaido Ole and all the artists involved.
Dr Phil Edwards, curator
The YoungEST art
This exhibition brings you the works of those young Estonian artists who have just begun their arduous journeys of becoming new art world superstars and the voices of their generation… In Estonia it is already becoming a joke that we have at least one “New Wave” show a year. Recently there was even one exhibition called “No Wave” in reaction to, but also in the spirit of that trend. Probably the thing is that the local art world is in the process of (re)defining itself – the so-called nosy nineties with the tendency to body and video art are passé, the questions “what’s next?” and “who’s next?” arise again and again.
Alternative Nation: Young Art from Estonia is one of the possible answers to this question but it is important to keep in mind that it is first and foremost an exhibition of the Estonian Art Academy’s fine art BA students (selected by the ”divine hand“ of the curator) and as that can mainly give an overview about what’s happening at the academy just now.
If I were to try to “talk about my generation” then the fact remains that all the participating artists are children of the eighties and have received their education already in the Estonian Republic (Estonia was a part of the USSR and became independent in 1991). Concrete political issues are maybe the most visible in Loore Emilie Raav’s video “Authoritarian Liberality” where you can see that despite all the talk about democracy and civil society, political activists still get in trouble with the authorities and behind the scenes we are not that western-like at all. Raav is working in-between art and activism and draws our attention to these kinds of matters.
When it comes to the local art world and education system, interviews with the artists clearly show that young artists are very self-aware, internationally oriented (quoting one of the artists “Estonia is not a factor by any means”) and at the same time also cynical about the art world which in Estonia, being only smaller in scale, functions like everywhere else. Art academy is not a place where you learn how to make art, it is more about networking and getting to know how the system works. And a young artists needs to become a part of this system.
What ever happened to paintings?
“Alternative Nation” stole its title from the legendary MTV program that showcased videos by alternative bands. This exhibition is also about alternative “ways of seeing” and making art. Forget high production costs, the punk or DIY attitude is most visible in the work of INTER FENSTER (an artist group qua rock band) or shirts by Krõõt Tarkmeel. Dmitri Gerasimov‘s drawings mix childhood innocence with perversion but in the world where nothing is sacred (Artur Vincent Kerge‘s & Taavi Rekkar’s artist book) Anna Shkodenko is at least trying to create something important for just one person only (her mother) at the same time asking questions about art, beauty and their relationship to each other. Marju Ago & Liine Reismaa present a film about something that concerns us all: the addiction to technology and the alienation resulting from it.
We don’t know yet which artists will “make it to the mainstream”. It is complicated to put together exhibitions of very young art since the artists are still in the process of inventing themselves, and not everything will stand the test of time. But the works exhibited are certainly witty, often humorous and hopefully give at least some idea of what young Estonian art by the end of the 00s is like.
Many thanks to Phil Edwards and Kaido Ole.
Maria Juur, curator