20190808

Participated on my second Performing the Fringe walk/un-conference last weekend in Vilnius. The project is organized by curators Inga Lace & Jussi Koitela. On site we were also hosted by Ula Tornau from the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC). Hooked up with old friends I met in Stockholm (Andrej Polukord, Flo Kasearu, Jon Benjamin Tallerås) and I was introduced to new friends Lara Almarcegui and Michele Matyn. The visit was eventful and tightly scheduled. Upon arrival we gave short introductions to our work and sociologist Siarhei Liubimou presented his research. He had identified that soviet nuclear power-plant workers form tightly related groups and resemble an ethnicity. The workers are highly specialized and under the states protection. They can carry out their entire working careers in relation to different power-plants, live in semi-closed communities and their offspring often continue the work.

Liubimous talk on how people moving daily between European cities for work, can be understood as the core of the emerging pan-European population, offered an interesting framework for viewing how the temporary Performing the Fringe artist-network is organized: Our group was brought together trough synchronous movement, which was steered by abstract spatial targets (instead of articulated aims). Example. In Vilnius we attempted to reach a TV tower by foot and in the process the entire landscape we passed, merely facilitated our joined movement. Our movement made the city into an abstract surface, which I believe we read primarily in relation to our joined movement. Relationships in the group were informed by the landscape but not defined by it.

The next day Lina Albrikiene took us on an emotional walk in her childhood surroundings. Later she took us on a walk in Lazdynai, a district supposedly modeled after Tapiola (I made a video about their relationship 2012). Kipras Dubauskas took our group under the city, we walked a kilometer in old rainwater tunnels. Some parts of the tunnels were build using bricks and others were made from newer materials. It was a time-trip of sorts – The city felt like an organism. We visited Delta Mityba in the evening for the exhibition and eating. We were kindly hosted by Robertas Narkus who gave us a tour of the space and shared his experiences in combating gentrification. The next day Vitalij Cerviakov took us on a toxic-walk to the “most polluted” parts of the city. As we walked the landscape revealed itself like a narration. A notable vista opened when we approached new grave yards, which were situated between a barren wasteland and an Ikea, our movement felt like a movie. I think that the banks, national internet server facilities and parliaments are more toxic then the route we took. Our group talked non-stop during the trip (expect on the latter walk which was a silent) and we spend the nights visiting art events around the city.

Through Cerviakov’s toxic-walk, I arrived to the understanding that the contemporary art we saw in the city was trying to develop a narrative or some other reasoning, to explain the current state of affairs. Experiences of city habitats and creatives are not commonly known and people we met exhibited a strong desire to share their story or present how they had come to terms with the post-state of affairs. I could feel the weigh-of-the-west forcing people to articulate their desires (even though most desires are best left unarticulated, this does not mean unexposed). It felt like artists were defined by this forced-reasoning-process, either trough their protest against it or skills in aligning with it. Nostalgia that looks to a future, which failed to arrive is a viable form of protest: Some future communists want only wool shirts, yogurt and to share the faint heat of their shelters.

Watched Rocky VI (1986) by Aki Kaurismäki after the trip and understood better: Beating the referee and the audience is the only way to win and winning is nothing. I was very inspired by the event and I’ve scribbling notes frantically since my return. The project will continue 2020.

Performed at Lal Lal Lal: Neptunalia 2019 at Tenho two weeks ago. Got on stage with Regular Dog, Pauliina Haasjoki, Reijo Pami, Sara Milazzo, Arttu Partinen & DJ Paukku. I presented a mineral water lecture which I brightened up using live fizzy water sounds (used an amp I build earlier). Ended my talk by preparing a batch of faux s.pellegrino using chalkstone from an ammonite fossil (talk notes in Finnish). My talk resonated particularly well with Haasjokis geological-poetry. Pami used a bucked of water as a sequencer, Partinen played moody ambient using cassettes, Milazzo had an array of tech on stage which she used to probe the dynamics of space and deep water exploration. Regular Dog was cute – Bought their cassette.

20190409

Participated in the first Performing the Fringe -event or un-conference in Stockholm last weekend. The research project is organized by curators Inga Lace & Jussi Koitela and the process will continue till 2020. The project feels very similar to the Alkovi Gallery Russian-focus program and activities I’m participating in (which is convenient). We walked and talked for two days around the Hökarängen district. Our group was introduced to the area by researcher Moa Tunström and other activist/artists. We visited Kulturhuset Cyklopen, local allotment gardens which were introduced to us by Janna Holmstedt, an old (still active) graffitiwall which was introduced to us by Lina Eriksson and a horse stable where we met Svarten (horse). Activities were centered around Konsthall C, which managing director Erik Annerborn hosted us warmly. The group participating in Performing the Fringe consists of artists from the Baltic-Nordic region. I had the pleasure to meet Andrej Polukord (he also is the director of Galerie Uberall, we coined the term Easternational in a chat), Asbjørn Skou (we talked about kettlebells!), Flo Kasearu (who gave a great presentation of her house museum), Jon Benjamin Tallerås (we talked about carpentry. Tallerås shared his view that urban structures which are designed to guide our movements work because they have a “semiotic quality to them”. We could easily bypass a fence but it is intended to be read read as like a language. The fence speaks to us and says: “Don’t move from here.”) and Valentina Karga (whom I know from her work in Maunula). The group will head to Pori during the summer and my next engagement with the project will be in Vilnius.

Will Brexit break up the UK? (2019) An Other Europe Podcast. A very tight analysis of the ideological backgrounds of Brexit. Offers many useful concepts such as “structural emotion” which explains the process when politicians work to justify their feelings using rational arguments.

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Call for Action: Key Moments in Estonian Performance seminar at Kiasma by Anu Allas (Kumu) and Maria Arusoo (Center for Cont. Art Estonia) was a tad unbalanced. The presentation felt like a marketing event and suffered from technical difficulties.

Allas opened the event by explaining that Estonia was “The West of the Soviet Union” and that artists generally enjoyed the protection of the state and their experimentations (influenced by John Cage and the Fluxus-movement) were condoned and encouraged. She presented Pirita beach as an important venue and explained how the artists of the 70ies were influenced by Western art: “They just heard what artists in the West had done and tried to do something similar”.

The humorous nature of early performance art was underlined but unfortunately the political nature of this humourness was not identified as a method for organizing soviet underground art (Crusaders’ School of Pure Humour Without Joke in Prague is one example, Natalia Lach-Lachowicz from Poland an other). Allas claimed that there was no underground arts in Estonia. She mentioned artists Jüri Okas (Water Man, 1971), Siim-Tanel Annus and Raoul Kurvitz. The last two were presented as key figures of the post-soviet performance scene: “The Western art world expected that after the collapse of the soviet union these kinds of physical artist, manifesting raw creativity would emerge. They thought that this kind of expression had been suppressed by the soviet regime and wanted to witness it being liberated”.

Jaan Toomik (my guru from 2007) was mentioned as a god-father figure of Estonian contemporary art. He was framed as an “export artist”, a male hero of his time. We saw extracts from “Dancing Home” (1995) and “Dancing with Dad” (2003). I like both works (A lot of Estonian classic performance art can be found online). His work was presented as “responsive”, in comparison to feminist artist of today whos practice was presented as “reflective”. Valie Export Society was referred to but unfortunately the presentation didn’t cover their work in detail.

It occurred to me that “location sensitive art” made in post-soviet / peripheral-west countries is a perverse form of nationalism. Artist utilize western proven styles to exhibit their personal freedoms (which is often framed as creative violence against status quo). In this process their audiences can identify how these styles differ from the local culture and values and feel different (from the west) but the same (as the westerners). Post-soviet artists are celebrate for their creative independence but their value is judged based on how they received by western audiences.

Note: “Location sensitive art” came about as a concept in a discussion with Kristian. He told me about his trip to Ahmedabad and explained that locals navigate the city (and their lives) following a contextual map. Their caste, profession and religious prophecies determine what is possible for them, where, how and at what time of the day they can move. Kristian explained that westerners are “not location sensitive”, they believe that they have the responsibility to test the world.

The rest of the presentation was off balanced. Arusoo referred to Ene-Liis Semper, Flo Kasearu, Kris Lamsalu and Maria Metsalu but their work were presented in a form of a sales pitch: “She has refused to perform this work many times […] you at Kiasma are very lucky to have her here…” etc.

The history of Estonian performance art came off as a narrative on how a fringe ex-soviet society became an incubator for generic western aesthetics and styles: “Now we are equal to every other european country, many artists who work locally feel left out.. This is why there is now interest to developing collaborations with other ex-soviet countries”. Non Grata was not mentioned (as a member of the Estonian performance art family) and for some reason events between 1970-1990 were not discussed.