What are the common threads between the experience of Soviet-era refugees from Estonia and a generation born after independence? How fragile is the environment that we take for granted? What do playfully abstract feminist utopias share in common with nonrepresentational visions of unidealised bodies? Can we learn more about our dreams by collecting them, similarly to an archive that holds together diverse creative experiences?
Bringing together artistic positions of different backgrounds and generations, and using diverse mediums for expression, this exhibition focuses on artists that share the experience of working across borders, whether they are temporal, geographical, societal, or bodily ones.
Australian-born, Tallinn-based artist Aksel Haagensen has created an installation that speaks to his mixed heritage and reconnects to his place of birth, while processing the historical events that led to his family’s exile. Haagensen’s lament on the devastation of his childhood landscape during the fires that engulfed Australia in 2020, is echoed in Jaanika Peerna’s performance across the ocean in Brooklyn, which asks us to consider the slowly vanishing glaciers melting into the air before the eyes of this generation.
From the perspective of the late-Soviet era communities, Ann Mirjam Vaikla has created a powerful monument, together with the Polish artist Szymon Kula, dealing with the remnants and utopias of a not-too-distant past fading away under the varnish of capitalism. Lilli-Krõõt Repnau focuses on feminist utopias and also dystopias inspired by a series of articles on the topic of women’s emancipation commissioned by the local activist and publishing collective Feministeerium.
Who are the women in the historical photos looking back at us in Aleksandr Osvald August von Turro-Lebardov series of postcards entitled 1st? The viewer is invited to pick up a postcard and send it to a friend or relative, discovering that each is a portrait of an almost forgotten woman in Estonian society who was the first in her field, dominated by men. A similar archival impulse can be seen in The Box, an installation conceived by Evelyn and John Grzinich, founders of MoKS (Mooste), that pieces together the activities of a contemporary arts organisation that, by all accounts, should have never happened.
What possibilities may these visions and historical recollections bring to help the viewer imagine how things could be different? Liis Marleen Verilaskja proposes that we join her on a very personal journey through her dreams, creating an installation that lets the viewer experience their elusive nature. Physical contact has been a key topic of the pandemic year, and Siiri Jüris looks at precisely that in her painting: the touching of bodies, the material textures that a body consists of echoed through waves of colour and paint. Her work conveys a striking intimacy that is powerful and layered, inviting the viewer to mentally step inside the frame.
Throughout a period of deep uncertainty and isolation, the artists presented in this section of the Spring Exhibition, have nonetheless found inventive ways to relay thoughtful messages about what makes us who we are, and offer glimpses into how to reconsider some key elements of our past, present and potential future(s).
Staging a spirited rendezvous between artworks produced in conversation with or as a result of encounters between disparate realities and realms, between theory and practice, memory and forgetting, this exhibition invites viewers to consider bodies, borders, and belongings through the artists’ fresh, perceptive lenses.
Organised by Corina L. Apostol