reede, märts 20, 2009

Aeg egotripiks : preview

Ernest Truely artikkel, mis ilmub järgmise nädala Sirbis.
Siis eesti keeles, loomulikult.

Animal Collective/Slow to Join the Global Pack

By Ernest Truely

Animal Collective opened March 11 at the historic Tallinn Art Hall. It is a group show featuring work by 16 artists from Estonia and abroad. The curatorial statement is about human and animal behavior as it relates to social order, power and control.

Sandra Jogeva, at age 32 took on her first major curatorial role. The daughter of the well known Estonian painter, Malle Leis, Ms. Jogeva has exhibited her own art work throughout Europe and the U.S. She recently published a novel, frequently publishes art criticism and a blog. Sandra Jogeva’s name alone is featured on the Animal Collective exhibition poster.

This practice of highlighting the personality of the curator may have begun in 1988 with “Freeze” exhibition at Saatchi Gallery curated by Damien Hirst which launched the Young British Artists. In the 1990’s the role of the curator was assumed by artists like Hirst, who gave themselves prominent position within their curatorial projects. In the 90’s the curator sometimes seemed to overshadow the artist in the gallery context.

Ms. Jogeva took an active role in the design and ultimate presentation of Animal Collective. The exhibition features three installations conceptualized by Ms. Jogeva and her curatorial choices overshadow the context and intentions of many of the individual artists included in the exhibition.

Ms Jogeva made a decision to display only three dimensional works of art in the gallery. Paintings, photographs and prints were housed together in a storage room away from the public view. You could make out the subject of a super realistic painting by Katrin Pile and another painting by Estonian Krista Sokolova but most of the works were concealed or remained in their original packing containers, having been shipped from abroad. From within the gallery the viewers could observe the assembled artworks on a video monitor. Ms. Jogeva used the individual works of art to construct an original installation which speaks of an increasingly digitized world where real life is mediated by technology and video surveillance is a means of power and control.

Ms. Jogeva has her cell phone, conspicuously tethered around her neck. She has the tendency to call someone who may be only a few paces away. It may be a symbol of modernity, popularity and conspicuous consumption that she is often represented in promotional photographs speaking on the cellular phone.

Artists working within the context of Estonian artist collective Non Grata have made several live performances in spaces separated from the public who are allowed access to the performance by video monitor or sometimes by the presence of a peep- hole, the kind used in the front door of a home to see who is knocking. Estonian art reverberates with the shock of cultural isolation.

Ms. Jogeva used other artists work in another untitled installation of her concept and designed by Tunel Saar, displaying representations of the flat works which were printed as postage stamps. When viewers enter the installation space sensors activate a fan which circulates the stamps in a black box with a glass window. The blowing stamps frustrate our ability to see the images printed on them. The artists are unwitting collaborators in this installation that distances their art works from the gaze of the viewer.

The real significance of the art works which may be in their scale, textures, materials and colors are printed in small format of the postage stamps. It may be a glimpse of the Soviet experience of knowing about contemporary art mostly through smuggled exhibition catalogs instead of viewing the real works.

One day a single currency, the Euro, will unite Europe but postage stamps will remain particular to nations. Yet post office branches are closing in Tallinn because in a world where communication is increasingly digitized the postal system has become more irrelevant. The stamps, however, are a regional vestige of national identity in Europe.

The third installation by Ms. Jogeve is a floor to ceiling cage, half a meter deep, containing five live parakeets. Ms Jogeva has a history of using live animals in her performance works. In “Wooligans” (2006) at Tallinn Art Hall in Tallinn she filled the gallery with live sheep. She has also produced a few versions of “Ecological Paper Shredder for Destroying Secret Documents” featuring a live gerbil first presented in Tallinn Art Hall in 2007 and later that year at Grace Exhibition Space in New York.

Anthony Faroux’ installation is presented behind the birdcage placing it within its’ own cage. Mr. Faroux reflected on the institution by filming the skylight of Tallinn Art Hall during the set up of the exhibition. The films were then projected in the installation and suggest the forms of struggling organisms. Mr. Faroux surrounded himself with broken Soviet furniture. During the opening, he moved around the space, tending to the installation and occasionally playing the grand piano. The artist wore a dark suit and white shoes and appeared to be less like a lone wolf and more like another caged bird, deprived of its freedom to be admired by curious spectators.

Upon entering the exhibition hall one may first notice a 430 liter fish tank containing two large fish and a scale model of a wood house. Created by artist Tanel Saar, the model is an accurate architectural representation of the Non Grata School in Parnu, a reference that is only understood by cultural insiders. The work acknowledges the influence of Non Grata on contemporary Estonian art practice and the positioning for dominance, prestige and power within the Estonian art world. The fish tank is a vacuum, to the fish it is their world, to outside viewers it is a finite box.

In comparison to Damien Hirst’s 4.3 meter tiger shark floating in a glass tank of embalming fluid, “The physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991), the 30cm live fishes in Mr. Saar’s work, “Alpha, Beta and Gamma” appear bite size. Mr. Saar claims the existence of a third fish that was eaten by the remaining two before the exhibition.

In Estonian society I frequently hear the phrase “alpha male” used to describe men who are physically powerful and beautiful. In post-industrial times there is a different standard for male prowess which has since been defined by a man’s social status and connections, wealth, intelligence and the ability to manipulate systems. The powerfully built, handsome male is more often the servant of the well connected clever individual.

“The weakened companions are abandoned, feeling meanwhile a christian guilt doing that. There is a permanent inner conflict - people put down and are ashamed of their collective instincts, urging rather to give an expression of themselves as lone wolves.”

From the curator’s statement by Sandra Jogeva

Ms. Jogevas curatorial decisions may be a demonstration of realigning systems of power. Ms Jogeva chose to give and take power based on her assessments of the distribution of power in history to the present. She is consistent in describing the artists in the context of their groups and removing their art from theoretical criticism. While artists may have the power to transcend ideology and physical characteristics in the context of Animal Collective each artist was clearly framed within an assigned type based on gender, genre and affiliation.

A body of work by Finnish artist Jenni Juulia Wallinheimo, 10 assemblages arranged in an installation is given prominent display without obvious intervention by the curator. The content of the work is about the experience of the artist with a physical condition resulting in frequent broken bones and her small size. The installation includes a sound piece and a model carousel referencing carnivals, circuses and the “freak shows’ which often accompany those forms of entertainment. Ms. Jogeva exhibited Ms. Wallinheimos’ art about her handicap. Ms. Wallinheimo is presented as an activist using art rather then in a strictly fine art context.

The public is slow to recognize the disabled body of the artist speaking about universal themes. This position is usually reserved for the able bodied white male. In Animal Collective the little, female artists whose work is about the experience and gaze upon her body is given prominent display. The work by the “alpha male”, the tall and powerfully built Norwegian, Kjehl Kausland, whose photos and videos relate to the experience of male beauty and heroism, is deliberately given poor treatment, revising the perception of Darwinian survival of the “fittest” and the social order of art world politics.

Ms. Jogeva asserts her power as curator to balance and reorder distribution of power. Animal Collective gives context to a new system which empowers underrepresented individuals within the art world. It is a significant exhibition as an example of Young Estonian Artists asserting themselves as a powerful part of the contemporary art world.

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