art 2001/1

Monika Järg (Estija).
Medvilnë, gobelenas, 120x560, 1999

Claus Domine Hansen (Danija).
Keramika, 10x300x400, 1998

Eija Mustonen (Suomija).
Varis, galvanoplastika, 13x10x7, 1999

Audrius Januðonis.
Mano faunas.
Raudonas molis, glazûra, 57x28x20, 1999

Things for Myself

by Pillë Veljataga

Triennial exhibitions of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian applied art were started in Tallinn in 1979. With the restoration of national independence, it became possible to invite participants from other countries and first of all from the neighbouring Scandinavia. The 1997 triennial exhibition arranged under the project of curators “Useless Things” was attended by artists from 16 countries. For the triennial exhibition of 2000, 74 participants were selected from nearly 300 applications (representing 19 countries, mostly from the Baltic region, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, also one artist from Mexico, Australia, Japan, England and Italy each). The subject of the triennial, “Possession”, was selected through competition from four proposals. The winner of the competition, a group of young jewellers “FFFF”, outlined the concept of the exhibition in the following way: “Valiution of things thorough the events deving witch they were acguired. A random find, a gift has triggered the need to possess – the passion of colleeting […] Emotional invertment into things that have been desirable since ehildhood – admired, mistified, adored. Seemingly wortheless things which shaped and, indirectly, still influence one’s word outlook”.
Did the artists respond to the proposed issue and how did they treat it? Was the idea of the curators embodied in the exhibition? To a large extent, yes. The idea of the curators was about possessed things, which implies that the authors were expected to present things rather than works of semantically unarticulated abstract form. Applied art has always been related to things (artistic and beautiful), while in this case it was expected that these would be important things worth possessing. How are they created?
First, by “playing” with the thing’s purpose, i.e. by breaking down the usual functioning context of the thing and proposing a new one, paradoxical and non-trivial. Second, treating the things that we desire as memories of a different world. A world were magic is hidden in simple things. According to J. Baudrillard, there are no more things in the man’s world of today, only simulacra, things that have lost reality and become an empty shell. In the opinion of the famous theoretician of postmodernism, the past and old things become a talisman of authenticity. The lost reality is viewed at the exhibition both nostalgically and ironically.
In conceptual applied art, as in applied art in general, the material has an important role. It is not only a material substrate from which a thing is made, but also a part of work carrying a semantic load. The more expressive the material, the better is the result. This, I believe, is proved by the works of the prizewinners of the exhibition.
Finnish artist Eija Mustonen, Lithuanian Andrius Januðonis and Danish artist Claus Domine Hansen.
I am not undertaking to judge what was the place of the triennial exhibition “Possession” in the artistic life of Estonia, how important it was for the biographies of famous and less well-known artists. I believe that the spectator, both the one who has seen much or the one who only episodically encounters postmodern art, got a lot form the exhibition.