teisipäev, 1. oktoober 2013


Library of Rogaland Kunstsenter 
Anders Härm: Presentation of the Estonian Dream Festival of Contemporary Art 
Johannes Säre: Artist Presentation

14:00 Hå gamle prestegard Vernissage of the Exhibition I Don’t Eat Flowers! Artist Talk with Liina Siib
18:00 Galleri SULT / Skur 6 Vernissage of the Exhibitions Milk-Method Men and Jaan Toomik: Solo. Artist Talk with Erki Kasemets and Jaan Toomik
19:00 Rogaland Kunstsenter Vernissage of the Exhibition Little House in The Periphery
20:00-02:00 Tou Scene OPENING PARTY 
20:00 the Bar opens 
20:15 Audio-Visual Show by Bordos Art Works (Screen City Festival) 
21:00 Opening Ceremony 
22:00 Live Concert by Chungin Han Minjujui 
23:00 YouTube Disco Estonian Dream with DJ Ill Curatore

11:00-16:00 Studio at Øvre Strandgate 66 (during R-Open) Erki Kasemets Workshop/Performance Structor 5. Bring an empty milk carton with you!

 Rogaland Kunstsenter
18:00 Kristina Norman: Artist Presentation

11:00-19:30 KINOKINO Screening Program Little House in the Periphery Artist Talk with Kristina Norman and Meelis Muhu

Rogaland Kunstsenter
Guided tour of the exhibiton "Little House in the Periphery" and introduction to the whole project of "Estonian Dream" at Hå gamle prestegard, galleri Sult and Skur6, by Kristel Talv.

Rogaland Kunstsenter
Guided tour of the exhibiton "Little House in the Periphery" and introduction to the whole project of "Estonian Dream" at Hå gamle prestegard, galleri Sult and Skur6, by Kristel Talv.

All exhibitions are open until


Estonian Dream is a small festival of contemporary Estonian art, which is comprised of four exhibitions, a screening of documentary films and other events: musical and artistic performances, meetings with artists, etc. Estonian Dream is a collage of exhibitions and events, which has been compiled through an active dialogue with local institutions hosting the festival. On the one hand, it is based on the experiences of the Stavanger “artivists” with Estonian art and, on the other hand, with the curator’s experience with the Stavanger art scene, the local institutions, and artists.
The title “Estonian Dream” is borrowed from one of Flo Kasearu’s videos, which is being shown in the exhibition Little House in the Periphery, at Rogaland Kunstsenter. The main character of the video is an Estonian immigrant living in Texas, who posts videos on YouTube under the name Texasgirly1979, and whose material comprises this work. Kasearu’s montage video is hysterically funny, sad, tragic, and at the same time as dramatic as a soap opera. The main character’s relationship with Estonia, her former homeland, is sentimental and idealistic, while her charming superficiality and gaiety hides a tremendous loneliness and homesickness that is aching in her. The festival’s relationship with Estonia is rather critical, but here too, one can find drama, tragedy as well as comedy.
Estonian Dream is not a typical “national presentation”, which always has certain traits of cultural imperialism and pretensions of representability. Instead, it tries to focus critically on the nation and the state, along with its official Estonian Dream. Hopefully, through the Estonian “case”, the festival will develop into an examination of the phenomenon of Eastern Europe in the post-communist era more generally. There’s also no sense in totally renouncing the idea of the format of national representations.
We are providing a discoursive survey of recent developments in Estonian contemporary art and documentary film, which is, however, clearly defined by the critical focus of the festival.
In one way, the project constitutes a short-term intervention in the peaceful life of Norway’s oil capital, but on the other hand, it’s an Estonian invasion of Estonia. This is Estonia placed under a magnifying glass, and this is an Estonia that differs significantly from the official Estonia(n Dream), which
is often presented to the world as a green, high-tech, progressive and capable little country. Even if this self-image is not entirely wrong, there are still great shortcomings in it – topics that tend to be avoided. In Estonia, as a former Soviet Republic and post-Communist state, history-based national confusion (tensions between various ethnic groups and different interpretations of history), neoliberal economic policies, conservative cultural policies, and chauvinist attitudes to relations between men and women, impact the present and the future, as well as the approaches to oneself and others. By dissecting this particular Eastern European country, which is typical on the one hand, and somewhat exceptional on the other, we will try to arrive at politics via poetics.
In the 1990s, Hasso Krull characterized Estonian culture as a culture of interruption. What he meant was that certain developments in culture have never been realized, since they have been disrupted, which has in turn established a new dominant developmental trend. According to Krull, these alternating interruptions have been one of the main characteristics of Estonian history since the 13th century; whereas, the last negative interruption was Estonia’s forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, and the last positive interruption was the restoration of independence in the early 1990s. For many old school dissidents, exile Estonians and probably many politicians, this last interruption was the end point of history – eternal harmony had arrived with the restoration of independence.
In the course of rashly reconnecting with Europe, both the good, but especially the bad, aspects of Western society were adopted. A new Eastern European identity and vision was not born, nor was the vocabulary for its academic and philosophical treatment. A relatively primitive scheme of thought was established, in which leftwing ideas, social and collective values were bad (as if the Soviet Union and leftism were one and the same thing) and capitalism, rightwing ideas, and neo-liberalism were good. Estonia still has the reputation of being an industrious pioneer in Europe, who always, diligently, does more than is required of it, by being as neoliberal as Great Britain, on the one hand and, on the other hand, being more precise than Germany in fulfilling all euro directives; at the same time, when many other Western and Eastern European countries only chuckle
at the attempts of euro officials to measure all of Europe with the same yardstick. It is only in the last few years, that this fixed idea is startingto abate. Thus, Estonia is really starting to correspond to the slogan – “Estonia – Positively Transforming” – which the Estonian government ordered at the beginning of the century, for an obscene amount of money, from a British advertising agency, in a project managed by the wife of our current president. However, the change is not quite what the people who ordered the slogan had imagined. The unhurried culture of suffering – such a typically Estonian behavioral pattern – is starting to be replaced by a culture in which people are aware of their rights and are ready to defend them. This is really a positive change.
In Estonia, the contemporary critical art discourse developed in the early 1990s and caused a great deal of confusion, because this art had very little in common with the art that people had been used to seeing during the Soviet era, which was labeled as “alternative” or “dissident” art. As mentioned above, for many people, “rebelling” was quite an incomprehensible activity, because during the era of Independence, of “postmodernist pluralism”, when “everything was allowed”, there was supposedly nothing to “rebel” against. Jaan Toomik, whose depressive, existential works seemed to be located between different worlds, as far as the author’s position was concerned, produced as classical psychological art on the one hand; while on the other, he worked with performances, videos and installations, which were new and never-before-seen tools for a Soviet artist. Toomik created powerful and poetical, somewhat uncanny images of anguish and nightmares, but also of momentary mitigations and salvations. These images projected onto a background of new social circumstances, made them into an embodiment of new and “distasteful” contemporary art, which constantly and inconveniently reminds people that far from everything is infinitely rosy in this “brave new world”. In some sense, this is symptomatic of all of Eastern Europe, where the top artists of the first decade of this “new and bright” era of freedom created very nightmarish, corporeal and physical art – Katarzina Kozyra in Poland, Oleg Kulik in Russia, Eglé Rakauskaité in Lithuania, Jaan Toomik in Estonia.... Five of Jaan Toomik’s video installations, produced over the course of three decades, are exhibited in the Skur6 – starting from Dancing Home, which was created in 1995 and resulted in his international breakthrough, and ending with a totally new work, which was completed especially for this exhibition.
The exhibition called I Don’t Eat Flowers! at Hå gamle prestegard includes another chrestomathic Eastern European work of art – Loser, by Kai Kaljo, from 1997, which rather directly points out some of the strange by-products of this achieved freedom. Kaljo stands in front of the camera and speaks, accompanied by the canned laughter that we know from countless comedy shows. She says that she is 37 years old, and works at the Academy of Arts for $ 90 per month, and that the most important thing for an artist is freedom, and that she is very happy. In some sense, with this short, only 11⁄2-minute-long video, Kaljo is able to splendidly conceptualize the paradoxes of Eastern Europe at that time. The topics of labor, the body, and gender, and their relationships, are the central themes of the exhibition, which, besides Kaljo, includes works by Marge Monko, Liina Siib and Anna-Stina Treumund. In 2011, Treumund paraphrased the Loser, by recasting the roles of Kaljo’s video. If Kaljo’s main character was a female artist that portrayed herself, then feminist lesbian artist Treumund casts herself in the role of a homophobic Estonian boor. In some sense, this paraphrasing also characterizes the critical turn that occurred in society itself, where, compared to the 90s, these themes started appearing in the media and started manifesting the public’s interests, despite the increased popularity of conservative views in Estonia. Just like elsewhere in Europe, Estonia also has not been untouched by this.
If the 1990s of Estonian society were characterized by the ultra liberalism – in the extremely permissive context of cowboy capitalism, the attitude towards sexual minorities was also comparatively liberal – then the 00s were characterized, primarily, by a constantly deepening national conservatism, accompanied by all the attendant problems – from homophobia to intolerance. The shifts in national self-awareness are the focus of the exhibition titled Little House in the Periphery at Rogaland Kunstsenter, as well as of its direct counterpart – the short retrospective of Estonian documentaries at KINOKINO. The artists participating in the exhibition include Flo Kasearu, Kristina Norman, Johnson ja Johnson, as well as Johannes Säre and Kristiina Hansen, all of who have dealt with these topics to a greater or lesser extent.
The title of Little House in the Periphery is borrowed from the tiny installation by Säre and Hansen, which in turn, paraphrased the legendary TV series Little House on the Prairie. Under the cover of a sentimental plot and tremendous amiability, this TV series was moralizing, conservative and didactic, and taught the viewers all the right values of a true Christian. The exhibition probes topics such as memory and identity politics, its shifts and strategies. The same motifs are also central to the retrospective of documentary films at KINOKINO, where all selected films deal with similar issues. The connecting link between the two events is Kristina Norman. She is participating in the exhibition with a video installation called Common Ground, that deals with the problems of refugees, which is currently a hot topic in Estonia; and with a full-length documentary called A Monument to Please Everyone, which deals with the complicated political-technological issues surrounding the erection of the Estonian War of Independence Monument. In addition, films by the most important documentary filmmakers of the last decade will be shown, including Andres Maimik and Rain Tolk, Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma, and Meelis Muhu. Jaan Tootsen’s documentary New World, which observes the activities of a small group of activists in their attempt to establish a new community center, will also be shown.
The exhibition series is completed by Milk-Method Men at Galleri SULT, with the participation of Kaido Ole and Erki Kasemets. Both men arrived on the art scene at about the same time in the early 90s and have therefore been at the forefront of the local art world for around 20 years. Every day, Erki Kasemets has sewn a new button on his jacket, and every day he has painted a picture on a milk container, which can bee seen at this exhibition. We could also view his work as a subjective yardstick of Estonian history. Kaido Ole exhibits five paintings of a series of 28, the recurrent theme of which is the wheel, where all the depicted systems try to remain upright.If Kasemets uses his art to measure his own life, Ole depicts the world’s fragile balance, which can collapse at any moment.
Alongside the festival’s exhibition and film program, the viewer also has the opportunity to participate in conversations with the artists, and inErki Kasemets’s participation performance. Gaypunk artist Chungin Han Minjujui will be appearing live at the opening of the exhibition. As the curator, I hope that visiting this festival will be just as interesting, pleasant and intellectually satisfying for the visitors as it was for me to compile this program. Welcome to the Estonian Dream!

Anders Härm


Vernissage: SATURDAY, October 26 at 19:00 
Open: October 27 – December 1

Rogaland Kunstsenter / Rogaland Contemporary Art Centre
Tue-Fri 10:00-15:00, Sat-Sun 12:00-16:00 
Nytorget 17, 4013 Stavanger, Norway 

Kristiina Hansen & Johannes Säre, Johnson ja Johnson, Flo Kasearu, Kristina Norman

The title Little House in the Periphery is borrowed from Johannes Säre and Kristiina Hansen’s micro installation of the same name, which, in turn, refers to the legendary TV series Little House on the Prairie. As a cultural product, where Sentimentality is cleverly united with the Didactic and Moralizing, this series unavoidably feels like the transference of Biedermeier-like bourgeois values to mid-20th-century America. The installation, which was created as a paraphrase by Säre and Hansen, is an excellent metaphor for contemporary Estonia – a splendid and small, but quite provincial country, which paradoxically is a diligent student of global neo-liberalism, while simultaneously being quite a sentimental and xenophobic, yet not especially religious, but doubly conservative country. The growing populist nationalism, which is accompanied by a hatred of strangers and by racism, affects Norway just as much as Estonia, and is becoming a problem throughout Europe. As we all found out several years ago, die Zeit der Multikulti ist vorbei. Naturally, multiculturalism in the meaning of the Post Modernism of the 80s is over, but does this necessarily entail the return of nationalism and xenophobia?

Nationality and identity are really among the primary keywords of this exhibition. One of the central ethnic conflicts of Estonian society is based on the differing approaches to history and attitudes toward Estonian history of two communities – the Estonians and the Russians. Estonians generally believe that the Soviet Union occupied Estonia in 1940, and first forced the Republic to accept the military bases agreement, and thereafter, supported by their armed forces, carried out a coup. However, many Russians believe that Estonia joined the Soviet Union voluntarily in 1940, and that the Soviet armed forces liberated Estonia from the German occupation in 1945. In 2007, these differences of opinion culminated in the so-called Bronze Night riots, on 26th and 27th April, at the statue of the Bronze Soldier, where the “Eternal Flame” had burned previously, and which the Estonian Government wanted to move, from its location in the city center, to the Armed Forces Cemetery. (This conflict is very thoroughly examined in the documentary Alyosha by Meelis Muhu, which will be screened in the frames of the film program Little House in the Periphery at the KINOKINO.)

The artists Johnson ja Johnson have employed sculpture for opposite reasons in Paldiski, a formerly closed military town that is located about 50 kilometers west of Tallinn, where half the population is Estonian and half is Russian. When the Johnsons went to Paldiski for the first time in 2006, the studio museum and person of Amandus Adamson, a sculptor from the turn of the 20th century who hailed from Paldiski, seemed to form the main signifier of identity and provided a significant common ground for
the diversified population. Adamson’s work was known, recognized and respected by both the Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking residents. With the help of a copy of an Amandus Adamson sculpture, which the artists hope to erect in Paldiski, and which the residents chose themselves based on a survey, the Johnsons want to achieve the following goals: “To create a common identity for the multicultural and multinational population, and to produce motivated participants involved in the decision-making process, to expand the space for negotiations between individuals and
the society, and to create a discussion and dialogue platform. The chosen and erected Adamson sculpture is not only an aesthetic object and the eventual final goal of the project, but since the beginning, has been a city sculpture charged with social significance.”
The artists decided to increase the self-awareness of the marginalized residents of the former military town by approaching them as a community and agitating them to work together. At the same time, one could ask whether the project can even be considered to have succeeded, because the final goal of erecting the Adamson sculpture has yet to be accomplished due to the lack of money, despite the collection boxes that have been put out in the town’s public institutions. Airi Triisberg writes the following about this: “Within the framework of the Paldiski Project, the artists set out to create a situation in which the residents of Paldiski would experience dealing with an elementary collective organization. Therefore, the project was directed more at the process than at a tangible end result (although one could argue about whether the artists could have proposed something more progressive, instead of yet another academic sculpture). Primarily, the artist duo of Johnson ja Johnson used the Adamson sculpture as a tool or trigger, that could help them create practical knowledge and experience related to the methods of implementing direct democracy among the Paldiski residents.”
In her latest film, called Common Ground (2012), Kristina Norman, who, during the last decade has traveled similar paths as the Johnsons, and who has dealt with the relations between the Estonians and Russians living in Estonia, painfully and strikingly juxtaposes the stories of different generations of refugees, their fates and attitudes toward the countries where they have applied for asylum. The protagonists of Norman’s film are Estonians who fled to Sweden in 1944-45 in the final years of WWII in order to escape the Soviet Army; and the people, from very different countries, who are applying for asylum in Estonia, and are currently housed in the Illuka refugee camp in a far corner of Eastern Estonia. They all think that they have a strong case, and that Estonia should definitely grant them asylum. It has often been said that Norman is very skillful at politicizing historical memory and spatial experience, and while here it may not be as obvious as in some of her other works, then in Common Ground as well, the artist nevertheless reaches a convincing synthesis.

The two works by Flo Kasearu that are included in this exhibition – the photo series titled Re-Enacting Revolution (2010), which was created together with Tanel Rannala, and the video titled Estonian Dream
(2011) – are both examinations of certain identity shifts or even false identifications. Rannala and Kasearu took the photos for their series in 2008 – 20 years after the memorable year of 1988. The “night song festivals” that developed spontaneously in that year gave their name to an entire movement – the Singing Revolution. If this was a grassroots anarchistic self-organization, an act of civil disobedience and of people’s free will, then the Märkamisaeg4 event that was meant to commemorate the former, was a canonical celebration organized by the government – the manifestation of a dominant identity model. In the context of Negri and Hardt, these events could be approached based on the opposite concepts of constitutive and established power, where the former can be understood as an opening up of possibilities, of playing out particular situations, and the creation of multiple opportunities and the latter only a practice directed at the reproduction of itself and the preservation of the status quo.  At the same time, it must be admitted that the latter, massively financed state event, which was definitely filled with much more pathos, was just as well- attended as the “original” that was replayed 20 years later.

Although Kasearu named the photo series Re-Enacting Revolution, a revolution is actually impossible to re-enact like some 18th century battle. If the original was a manifestation of freedom, a manifestation of the insubordination of the people, then the re-enactment of a revolution is inevitably a crystallized manifestation of the dominant order and power. And therefore, equating the original and the re-enactment can be called a massive, false identification. After all, what is the real difference of the Märkamisaeg from the October Revolution demonstrations during the Soviet period?
A similar identification shift is also central to the Estonian Dream video installation. The main character in Estonian Dream is a YouTube heroine and Estonian girl who posts videos under the pseudonym Texasgirly1979. She is married to an American, and apparently, has been living in the United States for a long time already. Kasearu used the postings on her video blog as the basis for the video, and made a relatively funny and embarrassing, but also dreadful, portrait film. We see how the heroine intensively sympathizes with the Estonians that are kidnapped in Lebanon, as well as with her dogs that win medals at various dog shows. She is completely alienated from the world and living a safe and rosy fairy tale, with which she surrounds herself on a daily basis, in order to hide her true feelings. As Rael Artel pointedly noted, she has totally accepted, and has been absorbed by the American Dream, and now her onetime dream of life in America has been replaced by a strange “Estonian Dream”.6 She has clearly an inadequate – idealized and naïve – relationship with her homeland, and actually, a tragic yearning for her home shines through. However, her means of expression are hopelessly Americanized, and cannot hide the actual loneliness radiating through her postings. Kasearu’s video does not try to put her down, but rather attempts to create an intriguing and empathetic portrait based on her own material.
The Little House in the Periphery exhibition may even not be dealing as much with nationality and identity as the topics surrounding it – conflicts, interpretations, false interpretations and false identifications, which could cast doubt on the seriousness and totality of the construction. The program of documentary films at KINOKINO on November 9th is also directly related to the exhibition. 


SATURDAY, November 9 11:00 – 19:30

KINOKINO – senter for kunst og film
Olav Kyrresgt 5, 4307 Sandnes, Norway 


The Estonian Dream documentary film program is comprised of five films, which are divided in turn into two sets. All of them provide an insight into Estonian society in a way, and deal with the issues of nationalism, political or social activism, as well as memory and identity politics. The films chosen for the program have all passed the test of international festivals and present five different “cases” which, based on the example of Estonia, help to explain contradictions in post-Socialist societies, which the people in the former West may find difficult to comprehend. The program also provides a cross-section of Estonian documentaries during the last ten years, by introducing a significant portion of Estonian filmmakers through individual films.

Despite the fact that the two first films – Esto TV’s Choose Order and Jaan Tootsen’s New World – deal with the problems of political and social activism, they are in some sense total opposites. If Jaan Tootsen’s film observes the activities of grassroots activists in a Tallinn neighborhood, which is called New World, and examines their efforts to cultivate a sense of community and establish a community center under the “nurturing” conditions of neoliberal capitalism, and a tangle of mutual relationships; then ESTO TV deals with the cultivation of a totally different type of activism. ESTO TV, with its Sasha Baron Cohen influences, is embodied as a “hunter battalion,” as they have called themselves, in order to support the new conservative political power in the 2003 parliamentary election with pro-fascist slogans like “Choose Order” and “Zero Tolerance”. ESTO TV’s act of over-identification with their rhetoric vividly brings forth the symptoms of the party’s political parlance, which advertises itself as a new and honest political power, but is rather reminiscent of one particular historical political power.

Memory and identity politics can be considered to be the central keywords of the second set. Disco and Atomic War focuses on pop culture, and primarily on the role of Finnish TV in the formation of the world perception of the Cold War era generation. Among other things, Kiur Aarma and Jaak Kilmi’s film also reveals the instructions for making your own decimeter antenna, and the destructive effect of the Dallas TV series on the youth of Soviet Estonia. However, Meelis Muhu’s Alyosha and Kristina Norman’s A Monument to Please Everyone deal with the problems of memory in the contemporary Estonian society. Alyosha observes the tensions between two different memory communities – the Estonians and the Russians – which had grown into street riots by 2007, and the symbolic center of these tensions, the so-called Bronze Soldier statue on Tõnismäe Hill.

The people nicknamed the statue Alyosha, and during the Soviet period, an eternal flame burned in front of it to honor the Soviet soldiers that were killed in WW II. The sculpture, which was a reminder of the Soviet occupation for Estonians and of the heroic fight against fascism for Russians, was caught between two different memory cultures. On the other hand, A Monument to Please Everyone speaks about the campaign, which started simultaneously with the process to remove Alyosha, to install a War of Independence Monument in Tallinn’s Freedom Square, only a few hundred meters from Aloysha’s former location. It also observes the populist political-technological agenda of its installation, primarily through two very young engineer-architects, who, by accident, succeeded in winning the competition.
The film program is directly related to the exhibition of the same name, taking place at Rogaland Kunstsenter.


ESTO TV’s mocumentary
Choose Order, 2004
dir. Andres Maimik 1 h 8’

A sensational Estonian film from 2004, the satirical documentary Choose Order speaks about the so-called New Policy that, on its way to power, uses the longing of the people for an iron fist. The scandalous media unit Esto TV establishes a pro-fascist hunter battalion that starts implementing the slogan — Choose Order — promoted by the party in power at that time. On their mission shock reporters Ken and Tolk visit the power centers of Estonia and the European Union, keep an eye on the activities of the Prime Minister Juhan Parts, reveal the conspiracies of the opponents and eliminate human garbage from the streets of Estonia as well as Europe. Like a razor blade across the eyeball, Esto TV invades the hidden layers of Estonian society to reveal our everyday xenophobia, racism and intolerance. One Country, One Nation, One Leader!’

New World, 2012
dir. Jaan Tootsen 1 h 24’

How to create an urban living space? How to change the world/your neighborhood? How to make a revolution? This film is about the New World Society, a citizens’ initiative in Tallinn, Estonia. The New World is an observational documentary. It follows the main characters and examines the dynamics of their revolution from the very beginning – four years ago. We see euphoria, passion, compromises, frustration, hurt feelings and broken hearts. It is the anatomy of a revolution.

13:45-14:30 LUNCH BREAK


Disco and Atomic War, 2009
dir. Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma 1 h 20’

This is a story about growing up in the Soviet Union. The film tells the story of a strange kind of information war, where a totalitarian regime stands face to face with the heroes of popular culture. And loses. It was a time when it was possible for erotic film star Emmanuelle to bring down the Red Army and MacGyver to outdo an entire school administration. It is a film about a generation, who was unknowingly brought to the front line of the Cold War. Western popular culture played an incomparable role shaping the worldview of Soviet children in those days. Finnish television was a window to a world of dreams that the authorities could not block in any way. Though Finnish channels were banned, many households found some way to access the forbidden fruit

Alyosha, 2008
dir. Meelis Muhu 1 h 7’

Most monuments erected during the Soviet regime were taken down after Estonia regained its independence in 1991. The Bronze Soldier Alyosha, located in the center of Tallinn, remained in its place. For Estonian nationalists this monument was the symbol of the Soviet occupation and marked the beginning of Stalinist repressions. However, for many Russians the monument was one of the few remaining symbols that connected them to Russia and their Russian identity.Alyosha, the documentary, brings us the people who gathered around the Bronze Soldier between 2005 and 2007 and whose behavior created a new line in our cultural memory. What mattered were the rituals around the monument, not the monument itself. The differences of opinion about history resulted in tragic conflicts and the relocation of the monument.

A Monument to Please Everyone, 2011
dir. Kristina Norman 1 h 27’

In an atmosphere ripe with nationalism, two young engineers are commissioned by the Estonian Ministry of Defense to erect the country’s most important monument – a statue commemorating the War of Independence. With strong political and social pressure, the heroes find themselves in many tragicomic situations and a constant series of ordeals. All of this paints a colorful and unique picture of the creation of a symbol during a time of financial crisis in Estonia.

Talk with the directors Kristina Norman & Meelis Muhu 


Vernissage: SATURDAY, October 26 at 18:00 
Open: October 27 – December 1

Exhibition is operated jointly by Tou Scene & Galleri SULT, entrance from Galleri SULT
Tue&Thu 12:00-19:00, Wed&Sat 12:00-17:00, Sun 12:00-16:00 
Strandkaien 61, 4005 Stavanger, Norway

What was of political importance in the art of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Estonia? If I am to address a case where personal history, transitional politics and creative ambition have come together, I can think of no better example than a set of works by Jaan Toomik.
Hanno Soans

Jaan Toomik can rightfully be considered a staple of Estonian contemporary art. He came to the fore in the late 1980s, and since the mid-90s, has been one of the most noteworthy and internationally recognized Estonian, and maybe also East European, artists. He has participated in the São Paulo Art Biennial (1994), Manifesta (1996), Berlin Biennale (2006) and naturally also the Venice Biennale, in both the national pavilion (1997) and also in the curator’s exhibition (2003).

Five video installations that span three decades are exhibited here, starting from one of his most famous work, Dancing Home from 1995, and ending with a new video that has been completed especially for this exhibition. However, the current show is not, and could not be, the “best of” his works. However, at the same time, an attempt was made to provide at least a cross-section of his work, even if it is not an exhaustive survey. Although both painting and sculpture/installation is part of Toomik’s arsenal, he has completed two short feature films and next year his first full-length feature film should reach the screen. However, he has garnered most of his fame with the short installation videos that are built around one fascinating image.

Already in 1994, Eha Komissarov wrote that permanence and repetitiveness, as the medium-specific traits of videos, are keywords that “Toomik develops, by dealing with movement in some way.”7 In Dancing Home (1995), we see an artist in the stern of a ferry dancing to the rhythm dictated by the engine. The monotonous pulsating of the ship’s engine, Toomik’s dance and movement are connected here at very different levels. This video is not about leaving or arriving anywhere, except for in the
title; this video has no beginning or end. Such fragmentary, pure images and performative gestures with no beginning or end, with no dramaturgy, pervade Toomik’s work. The Italian curator and critic, Marco Scotini, has pointed out the connections between
Dancing Home and another video at this exhibition, namely, Run (2011), where we see the artist dashing through old aircraft hangars, and which also depicts movement: “Both works are metaphors of an existence that is autobiographical, singular, unrepeatable but – at the same time – generic, common and anonymous.

Sequences of behavior and forms of life, which, however normal and banal, are not necessarily limited by a biological condition but preserve the nature of ethical possibility. In other words, they are such that they call into question living itself”. As Scotini says, Toomik’s art is performative in nature – presented only here and now, in the first person – but at the same time, he never stages identity, which is constantly rebuffed, nor affiliation that is never achieved: “The manifestation of the the presence of one’s own body as a common body, ordinary within undefined collection of eventual acts reffers to the ritualistic nature of gestuality in order to bypass the rigid dichotomies of active/ passive, individual/ collective, psychic/ physical...” 

Toomik’s art delves into the deep layers of psychological experience, often extracting subconscious fears and dread, for example, in the video Seagulls, the central motif of which is an autobiographical image of the artist moving at the bottom of a pool, in a wheelchair. His only remaining connection with oxygen is a rubber hose, through which he is trying to communicate something that is almost impossible to understand, but which seems to be a poem where the word “kajakas” (seagull in Estonian) is often repeated. Toomik himself has commented on the video as follows: It is actually based on a nightmare I have had. The video expresses those frustrating physical restrictions often experienced in dreams (the inability to run fast, etc.) and clearly represents the struggle to communicate... Perhaps, it also expresses the fear of getting old or becoming handicapped and less physically capable, while still needing to express oneself.”

Toomik’s videos are often based on poorly worded corporeal or psychological experiences, but as images, they are often such that the viewers can recognize themselves. Leap or Run, which is dedicated to Toomik’s brother, who died young, are installations with autobiographical associations that are important for the artist, but as images of a performative gesture / experience they become associated with the viewers in a very different way. And this allows us to interpret them as socio-political, rather than existential gestures, which project social conditions more than the context of personal traumas.
There is some kind of industrial motif in all the works in this exhibition – be it related to sound or image, or a combination of both, like in the Dancing Home video. It is interesting to observe how this technodelic element, which is foreign to biological being, is constantly changing in Toomik’s work – either in the domesticating or repudiating phase, sometimes in harmonious unity, sometimes emphasizing inhumanity in the imagined situation of being. 


Vernissage: SATURDAY, October 26 at 18:00 
Open: October 27 – December 1

Galleri SULT
Tue&Thu 12:00-19:00, Wed&Sat 12:00-17:00, Sun 12:00-16:00 
Strandkaien 61, 4005 Stavanger, Norway


artists: Erki Kasemets & Kaido Ole

The life of Fred Trumper, the main character in John Irving’s novel The Water-Method Man, which, in any case, was not the simplest due to significant shortcomings in his personality, was complicated even more by a certain urological problem. Namely, he had an extraordinarily narrow urinary tract. The doctor says that there are three ways to solve his problem: to give up alcohol and sex; to undertake a very painful operation to expand his tract; or to drink large amounts of water before and after having sex, in order to expel the bacteria that has collected in his urinary tract in an extremely painful way. Naturally, Trumper chooses the path of least resistance – the water method –, which is actually the most painful. In any case, when thinking about the work of Kaido Ole and Erki Kasemets in the context of this exhibition, this novel immediately came to mind. I don’t know if they are connected to Irving’s character by anything besides the systematic complication of their own lives, but the exhibition was named The Milk-Method Men in the spirit of this book.

Every day, for over twenty years already, Erki Kasemets has decoratively painted a milk carton. He is probably best known for such works that document his personal everyday life. He also has another project, in the course of which he has sewn a button onto his jacket every day. The installation exhibited in Galleri SULT is actually comprised of a microscopic part of his painted milk carton collection. In this regard, art critic Ave Randviir has pointed out that Kasemets is not motivated to create art from trash by the fear of an ecological catastrophe, or by the need to criticize consumer society and capitalism, but by a need to “celebrate” each day, to preserve time and memory, but also, to daily formally address and make a compulsory bow to the art of painting In other words, this is an attempt to get a hold of one’s life by some method – the milk carton method. He calls the entire project his LIFE-FILE, which is said to end only with the death of the artist.

In the context of the given exhibition, the connections between milk cartons and capitalism cannot be avoided. Namely, Kasemets was able to start painting milk cartons only under the enriching conditions of capitalism – because in the Soviet Union milk was only put into bottles, the English way. At that time, Kasemets would also not have been able to create his large murals out of tin cans, which he did in the 90s, because soft drinks and beer were previously sold only in glass bottles. Therefore, in some sense, it can be said that by celebrating each day, he also celebrates independence and capitalism, freedom and trash with the private painting ritual that he has invented for himself.

Kaido Ole is also represented at this exhibition with only a small part of the still lifes he has completed for his last solo exhibition called Handsome Hero and Plenty of Still-Lifes at the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn. Of the 28 paintings, only a selected group of five is exhibited here. The entire series is pervaded by the image of an ordinary wheel from a piece of furniture or a shopping cart, based on which, all of Kaido’s fantastic objects, systems and abstractions seem to be barely staying together and upright. The fragility of the objects unavoidably projects as a metaphor of our world and our lives. It seems totally impossible that such combinations, which clearly ignore the law of physics, would not fall apart, and although the pictures do not allude to this directly, it seems like they will start to do so right after the artist has fixed them on the painting. The series of Ole’s still-lifes are like a balancing exercise, an attempt to somehow keep together a world that might crumble at any moment.

The artists are united by a methodical and strongly conceptual, in some sense even obsessive, approach to painting and the tools of painting. Neither of them wants to “create pictures” or “simply paint,” but rather to try and resolve the assignment of “Life” or “the World”, and they find that painting is the best available tool. 


Vernissage: SATURDAY, October 26 at 14:00 
Open: October 27 - December 1

Mon-Fri 11:00-15:00, Sat-Sun 12:00-17:00 
Håvegen 347, 4365 Nærbø, Norway 
ticket: 60 NOK

'artists: Kai Kaljo, Marge Monko, Liina Siib, Anna-Stina Treumund

2013 marks the 100th anniversary of granting full women’s suffrage in Norway, and if we discount the Grand Duchy of Finland, which was part of the Russian Empire at that time, Norway was the first country in Europe to grant women the right to vote. This exhibition, titled I Don’t Eat Flowers!, is partially organized to mark this event. In many ways, Estonia is a typical Eastern European country, where many fears and prejudices continue to exist in regard to feminism, and sometimes there are even outright anti- feminist reactions. Despite the political fragility of feminism, as a position, and the constant attacks on it, through the years, several very intriguing artists have emerged who define themselves as feminists, and whose work cannot be separated from this position.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Marge Monko’s poster I Don’t Eat Flowers (2011). The poster depicts the artist in a pose that is borrowed from one of the most iconic images of a female worker – Howard J. Miller’s propaganda poster called We Can Do It!, from 1943, which became widely known in the 1980s. Although the poster probably depicts 17-year-old Geraldine Hoff, who worked in a factory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the image is also known as Rosie the Riveter. Although several prototypes have been suggested for Rosie the Riveter, this was the name given to American women who worked in factories during World War II. The poster, which was initially used to raise the morale of the workers at Westinghouse Electric plants, became a symbol of the women’s movement during the last decades of the previous century, which was used as an image to increase women’s self-awareness and self-confidence in the course of various campaigns.
In Monko’s paraphrasing, we see the artist standing in Hoff’s famous pose, against a background of the tall buildings in Tallinn’s capitalistic heart. The phrase “I don’t eat flowers!” has been added to the image, which alludes to the custom of giving flowers to women on International Women’s Day. Monko herself has directed attention to the following slogan, which was carried during a strike at a textile mill, in Massachusetts, in 1912: “We want bread, but we want roses too!” Thus, this is an image that is strongly associated with the history of the women’s movement; and working
with the history, memory, pop culture images and archival materials of the women’s movement is something that always accompanies Marge Monko’s feminist works of art.
In recent years, labor has become one of the leitmotifs of Monko’s work, which she treats from a specifically feminist perspective by creating connections ranging from Elfriede Jelinek to labor legislation. Women have often been a focal point as clearly the weakest party in these relations. In
the photo film Nora’s Sisters (2009), she links 1970s propaganda photos of the Kreenholm Manufacture in Narva with a scene from Jelinek’s play with the same title, where Nora arrives at the factory to warn the women about the factory closing. However, the latter are absolutely convinced of the protective mechanisms of the social democratic system and do not take her seriously.
The work was completed at the time when the Kreenholm textile mill
in Narva ceased operations, and the last 400 workers, of the one-time workforce of 12,000, most of whom were women, became unemployed. Monko often returns to the factory motif in her work.
8 Hours (2013) is
a series of photo collages, which are definitely connected to this motif. This time, the focus is on the Rauaniidu factory, which was called the
Red Dawn during the Soviet era. As the artist herself says, the photos originate from a film archive, and were taken between 1919 and 1934, during the first period of independence: “Compared to the Soviet era photos of the same factory, these are in a totally different idiom – they are calm and static; the workers on the pictures seem well-mannered and amicable. Yet, quite a few strikes took place in Rauaniidu, during the 1930s, to protest wage cuts and layoffs.”13 In the collages, the artist has used slogans from the history of the labor movement, and the title of the work alludes to the struggle for an 8-hour workday, started by Robert Owen in 1810, which has dimmed now, in the era of precarious work, since there are no clear boundaries between work and leisure time.
In 1997, Kai Kaljo made a video, which is one of the most famous works of East-European feminist art. Kai Kaljo stands before a camera, against the symbolic background of an easel, and speaks into the camera, with every sentence accompanied by off-camera laughter. She says: “Hello, my name is Kai Kaljo, I am an Estonian artist. My weight is 92 kilograms; I am 37 years of age but still living with my mother. I am not married. I am working at the Estonian Academy of Arts as a teacher for 90 dollars per month. I think that the most important thing being an artist is freedom. I am very happy.”
By positioning herself as an artist, citizen and woman, Kaljo was able to
fit the central issues of the entire Eastern European set of problems into a minute and a half, and to create an image that spoke to everyone, from the Balkans to the Baltics. Thus, it is no wonder that this is one of the most iconic and powerful works of art to set forth the post-Soviet situation, which, at the nuclear level, includes most of the motifs of this exhibition.
In a situation where it seemed that freedom had been achieved, people were standing empty-handed on the ruins of a collapsed society; they were working in factories, on kolkhozes, and elsewhere, for non-existent wages; and these places of employment were successively being privatized, dismantled, or were just disappearing.
At the same time, the enthusiastic, nationalistically-minded politicians demanded that ever more children be produced for the state, which could barely remain standing. During the Soviet era, there had been national apartment queues because there were no apartments; now a real estate market developed, but with the wages that were being paid, it was hard to rent, moreover to buy living space. The attitude toward women’s rights was very problematic, extending all the way to anti-feminist and ultra conservative reactions. Any kind of combative position – be it in the context of labor unions, social rights or any other field of activity – was interpreted as a Soviet legacy. While, at the same time, a certain part of the society unambiguously internalized ultra liberal pragmatism as the only conceivable position for coping in a society that was being lead mostly by the generation of those in their twenties – the so-called “winners.” 
Thus, Loser has an autobiographical impact on many people, because they saw themselves in exactly the same way – as underpaid failures – in the context of the capitalist model of success. Fourteen years later, Anna- Stina Treumund produced a video and photo installation, titled Loser 2011, as a paraphrasing of Kaljo’s legendary work. Treumund borrowed the format from Kaljo’s video – a self-portrait, short statement, off-camera laughter. However, she embodies an Estonian male construction worker, who announces that he has three children, all with different women, a four- room apartment, a car with leather seats, and that he hates immigrants and homos. An additional three photos are part of the combination, where the same motifs are divided among three characters, all of which are portrayed by the artist herself.
If, in her video, Kaljo appears as herself and sees herself, in some sense, as the victim, but still allows herself to laugh at herself somewhat, then Treumund’s game is more complicated. On the one hand, as the representative of a sexual minority, she adopts the role of a man as a queer artist, and identifies with the normative, stereotypical mind-set. Treumund’s character believes that he is in control, and that he is the master of his life, since he has identified himself with mainstream dreams of success, which he unfortunately cannot achieve, but he knows very well who is at fault. Although the contrast is perhaps too explicit, we can say that Treumund turns Kaljo’s Loser around, in both the direct and indirect
sense, by stereotyping the stereotypical, and by letting the off-camera voice laugh at him. As Hanno Soans had said, the laughter that we hear in Treumund’s work is no longer liberating, but rather haunting: “On the one hand, the transition society has produced a large social element, an entire mass awareness, the emancipation myths of which produce anonymous, scolding laughter at the expense of those who have been cast out by society (and who are statistically the majority). On the other hand, this is a sign of a society that has adopted western-style social pragmatism, but has not adopted a system of social values.”
Treumund’s other work at this exhibition is also connected to the work of another artist, namely, to three drawings titled One, Two and Together, by Marju Mutsu (1941-1980), who was active in the 1970s. Not a single lesbian artist is known from the Soviet era (or even from earlier times, for that matter), when homosexuality was criminally punishable, and lesbian motifs are seen very infrequently in Estonian art. The rest of Marju Mutsu’s work and her personal life do not allow any far-reaching conclusions to be drawn about her sexual orientation. However, these three drawings, which Treumund restages as homage in her photo series, can indisputably be interpreted as being homoerotic. At the same time, the need for a history, to find forerunners, is something that has clearly come to the fore in recent years in queer art. There is no doubt that this written history is an attempt to regain a political, suppressed and repressed past, the proof of which can only be found by collecting oral history or researching criminal files.
If we try to roughly generalize, then Monko and Treumund are both, for different reasons, interested in history, while the focus of Liina Siib’s work is the feminine perception of space and body. The titles of the installations and photographic series exhibited here – A Woman Takes Little Space (2008-2011), A Room of One’s Own (2011) and Averse Body (2007), which include direct and indirect references to Griselda Pollock, Virginia Woolf and Jerzy Grotowski, speak for themselves. The photo series, A Woman Takes Little Space is comprised of small photos of women in various workplaces – factories, hospitals, stores, lunchrooms, schools, police stations – that were taken during a period of three years. This series points time and again to the fact that Estonia has the largest wage gap between the genders in the European Union, and to the still popular chauvinist belief that women need less pay, less room, less ... everything.15 At the same time, the poetic quality, certain sadness and the ability or inability
of the subjects to come to grips with the photographic situation have often been ignored by critics. The space in these photos is almost always defined, restricted, small, and even if there is a kind of grandeur, like in a sewing factory or bridal salon, this is illusory. In the salon, the space is enlarged by the mirrors on the wall, and a sewing factory is comprised of thousands of small sewing machine trestles, where lots of women work. A Room of One’s Own, a spatial installation with photo and video, which borrows its title from an essay with fictional elements, by Virginia Woolf, which is a feminist classic. Siib has solved the work as a living room installation, on the walls and TV of which we see views of different apartments/rooms and women... well, the women in these rooms taking up little space. The lack of private space, which belongs only to them, is something that most women continue to experience throughout their lives.
Averse Body is a video installation that has been named after a quotation by Jerzy Grotowski, who thought that prostitutes have a certain aversion to their bodies and, “that aversion, that lack of trust (or misplaced trust), causes a split personality.” This Grotowski quote motivated Siib to
create this work, because she was really interested in what the attitudes of prostitutes are to their work, their bodies, men, love, etc. The 40-minute film is comprised of anonymous interviews with Tallinn prostitutes. The installation also includes drawings of roses the artist asked all girls to make. When analyzing Siib’s work, Lithuanian art critic Agn
ė Narušytė did not see any traces of an aversion to their bodies, or any greater occurrence of split personalities than in “ordinary” women: “What the prostitutes talk about is the incessant masquerade designed to attract male attention. As if a woman has no shape, no body, before she sees herself in the imaginary eye of the other. In this prostitutes are no different than other women Liina Siib has depicted. Surrounded by things, women present their textured surfaces to the camera, their selves hidden under the protective layer of make-up, colorful clothes, uniforms, jobs, professions”.17 What is truly frightening in Siib’s work is not that the prostitutes might be different than “ordinary” women, but the opposite, that they are not different at all.
In the context of this exhibition, the curator’s own gender cannot be ignored, and it would be wrong not to mention it here. What right does an ordinary white heterosexual male even have to compile such an exhibition? How can an exhibition be organized without doing so from a dominantly
masculine, or even a chauvinist position, or – how to curate without curating? How to let the artists speak instead of speaking myself? But this is approximately the way that I have tried to compile this exhibition – to show as many works as possible from the same artists, so that instead
of the curators voice, the voice of the intriguing and interesting artists is heard. I really hope that I have succeeded.