The victories and losses of the ironical discourse
A number of strong players are forever lost to art, due to the fact that the above-described strategy of the worm holds not only in criticism (read by very few), but also in practical art itself. In other words, in most cases contemporary Estonian art appears stupid to the potential audience. And not only to the general public, but also to intellectuals who are not connected with the art world.
A group of people gathered at Kuressaare Secondary School No 2 at the end of the 1980s, who not only played and wasted their time, but also spent it creatively. The Ei-no Club, born on the initiative of Ilmar Raag, now a film critic, could be considered as the inspiring force of their activities. The club organised disco festivals that strongly resembled performances, and Dadaist art exhibitions. The above-mentioned group did not belong to the club, but they participated in its events. Video became the main outlet of the group, as a practically unsupervised video circle existed in town, which still had the minimal amount of necessary equipment for such activities. Kalle Käesel, now a TV producer, tells about one of their most brilliant undertakings: “mainly we found inspiration in half-completed buildings, such weird places. We wandered around in such houses, and did all kinds of tricks. We had a very special method of processing our material. We taped everything at double speed, then slowed it down, and filmed everything again from a black-and-white TV set, cut and pasted and supplied it with Peter Gabriel’s music. The result was rather cool. “Karpov vs. Kasparov”-- we inserted takes from a chess game too.” If such a screenwork had survived, it would be a hit at any event of video art. And so would another system put together by Kutt Kommel (now majoring in theatre studies at the EHI), which could be exhibited as a video installation and interpreted as a reflection of media society. He joined a video recorder and a TV set in such a way that the TV showed what the camera recorded, and the camera recorded what the TV showed. The result was bubbles floating on the screen, just as in the mass media. The group found some acknowledgement at Estonian, Polish and Austrian amateur film festivals. They also experimented with live shows, making entertainment shows for the local Kadi television station, and doing spontaneous live shows now and then, which was possible due to the fact that a member of the group worked at the television station.
Significantly, none of these people had ever studied art. Secondary school students were simply, and quite irresponsibly, making media art, completely skipping the stage that still fills the curricula of all children’s art schools – realist and surrealist gouache paintings made with trembling hands and pathetic undertones. “I’m sure we were quite ironical too; we surely understood how stupid it all was. But actually it was good,” recalls Käesel, commenting on their motivation. In addition to those already mentioned, Oliver Maaker16
, Marek Allvee (both work in computer graphics), Tauno Peit (now a television cameraman), Urmas Reinart (now an IT specialist), and Taave Tuutma belonged to the group. The latter is also the only one of them who is presently an active artist. Käesel says: “we are men from the country, having both feet firmly on the ground. We all chuckled when Tuutma had his next exhibition. It was irony, and self-irony as well.” Tuutma’s work carries the same ironical attitude (originating from those Kuressaare years of 1989-1992) towards the art world, society and himself. We need only recall his project “The Foundation for Supporting the Richest Persons of the World”, which is an ideal commentary to an emerging 20:80 society, or his successful manipulation of the target group, titled “Young Estonian Artists Talking About Art Critics” – an amazingly large number of critics reacted to it, as the exhibition had touched them personally.
Now and then the boys from Kuressaare presented their works under the group name “Virgo Intacta”, which really turned everything upside down, considering their irony. On the one hand, they were really virginal, as they knew nothing about the theory and practice of contemporary art. Tuning in to Estonian art would hardly have given them anything, because the critics of the time were rejoicing over the fact that paintings and works of graphic art could be much larger in shape than they used to be. But “Virgo Intacta” could tune in to a unique information source-- Kuressaare had the first cable TV in Estonia-- and the seeds of a visual information deluge, disseminated via satellite television, bore fruit. Unfortunately, this fruit has mostly been lost to the art world. But maybe this is good. 16
Oliver Maaker still participates in the art scene, in 2000 he participated in Audi’s group exhibition “Investeering puravikku” (“Investment in a Boletus”) at Tallinn Town Gallery, which was aimed at mocking the art world. A Troxx’s Internet home page, http://www.hot.ee/troxx/ hosted by Maaker can be considered as Internet art.