art 2004/2

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Naglis Rytis Baltuđnikas. Starke Frauen. 2004, metalas, emalis, 40x30

Nostalgia and Cosmetics of the Superstructures 

by Eha Komissarov

The theme of the 13th Tallinn Print Triennial necessitates reconsideration of the concepts of ‘the world of graphic art’ and ‘the graphic triennials’. In the soviet period, the art triennials became synonymous with the exhibiting culture by far excelling the routines of the period. Tallinn’s event established Estonia as the leader in the graphic arts of the three Baltic countries. At the turn of the century, the triennial evolved into a huge and rather chaotic structure and needed a more contemporary shape. Thus, Tallinn’s triennials started manufacturing the image of a changing graphic art open to outside influences.
Meanwhile, however, the mega international exhibitions started dictating new rules that made the situation of Tallinn’s triennial vulnerable. Equally vulnerable have been rendered all other art events based on classical subdivision of art into branches. Yet the graphic art has found itself even more isolated and marginalized than painting or sculpture. However, the graphic art per se, with its miniature and self-focused world represents a viable medium embracing change and innovation. Probably, it is not in the graphic art, but the culture of organizing the events that is the source of the problem. The huge art events tend to function in the manner of a supermarket, contradicting the graphic art’s intrinsic privacy. It is also a challenge to the fundamental principle of presenting art to the public, the principle ‘of seeing and being visible’. However, there are examples of an different tendency, the oldest in Europe graphic art biennial of Ljubljana being such one. The examples of the small print-runs publications on display at the last Ljubljana’s event offered the viewer an opportunity to experience the incredible depth of the artist’s world. The message that an artistic could take from the event, was to make art and not technique.   
The organizers of In Exile put aside any considerations on the nature of graphic art. Instead, the participants were offered to gain the experience of a social project. In the focus were not the means of artistic expression, but how they could be applied for communication purposes. The artists were encouraged to share their views in regard of the assumption that homelessness and exile affect every human being. In the international part of the event, emigration emerged as a global phenomenon, endemic to contemporary social reality. Armed with a new pragmatism transcending the concept of the national state, the artists offered to the viewer a kind of a study of the universal landscapes of estrangement. For the first time the independent curators from the three countries shaped the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian parts. Their priority was the exhibition in its entirety and not the presentation of the graphic artists. They also preferred free artistic ideas to technologies. The arrogance of the curators generated different ideas on the state of contemporary graphic art. The curators seem to claim that it is difficult for an artist identifying oneself as a graphic artist to create something what is not graphic art. The organizers expected a dispute from most of the artists who did not make use of the opportunity to reveal some unique features of the branch of art they represented. 


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