Jaan Toomik "How the West Was Left" August 24–30, 2017
Curated by Anders Kreuger
Temnikova & Kasela gallery will open the autumn season with what might be called a ‘double feature’ or a ‘two-as-one’ exhibition. Two artists, both of the generation that emerged in the mid-1990s and both among the most accomplished and most widely acknowledged from their respective countries, are showing work that gives viewers new access to their oeuvres, new insight into their thinking and their working methods.
Kuidas lääs oli vasak (‘How the West Was Left’) is the title that Jaan Toomik has given his presentation, in black box built for the occasion among the stalls at Tallinn’s Central Market, of several of his shorter videos. They turn endurance performance into poems in prose or musical scores for lived reality, but whether Toomik has observed or staged these situations becomes immaterial. His protagonists – more often than not no-longer-young male characters who may or may not be him – make tangible an unease that festers under the surface of a society bent on normalising. The double-entendre of the English translation is also there in the original, as a question to self: What has changed since everything changed? It goes without saying that Estonia views the world of the last 25 years through a different optics than Russia, but what is the human condition of that difference
Algunas Canciones Lindas (‘Some Beautiful Songs’) is a title borrowed from an old LP of Cuban popular tunes performed in a soothingly pared-down style. Olga Chernysheva uses it as a connecting device for her presentation, at the Temnikova & Kasela gallery, of some 30 lens-based works, mostly analogue and digital photographs. They communicate some of her core concerns – the productive tensions between images and stories, the typical and the unpredictable, the one and the many – but have not, until now, found their place in her different series of works or even been shown in public. Chernysheva both affirms and challenges the Russian belief that visual art should be used to illustrate social processes, to ‘paint modern life’ as Charles Baudelaire would have said. What is the best way to bear witness, through engagement or through detachment? We should always look for the little cracks between what is being said and what meets the eye.
While Chernysheva achieves coherence by offering ‘pages from an album’ rather than making a unifying topical claim, and thereby bores even deeper into the collective psyche she portrays, Toomik’s selection is more representative of his public persona as an interdisciplinary artist whose engagement is in his detachment. His decision to screen his videos at the old-school marketplace – a rare reminder of pre-post-Socialist life in this city – highlights their withdrawal from the social scene that conditioned them. Yet it also ‘returns the gift’ to reality, restoring it to itself in distilled form.
Jaan Toomik (b. 1961 in Tartu, Estonia) is an acknowledged Estonian painter, video and performance artist, who lives and works in Tallinn. Having gained recognition as a painting student in the late 1980s, his practice shifted towards installation and performance art after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Toomik gained international recognition primarily for his video works such as ‘Dancing Home’ (1995), and ‘Father and Son’ (1998). The artist has exhibitied widely, both at home and abroad, where he has participated in the first Manifesta (1996), 4th Berlin contemporary art biennial (2006) and represented Estonia at the Venice Biennial twice, in 1997 and 2003.
Subsequent travels to international art events helped shape his role as an international art star at home, as well as gaining him long-standing supporters abroad. His famous videos, like ‘Way To Sao Paulo’ (1994) shown at the Sao Paulo biennial that year, and ‘Dancing Home’, first screened in Helsinki at ARS’95, laid the foundations of Toomik’s practice which proceeded to trace and transcend both geographical and autobiographical borders. The artist’s most successful and well known work ‘Father and Son’ was made in 1998 and portrayed the artist skating naked on the frozen Baltic sea to the soundtrack of his then 10 year old son’s religious choir singing. The video belongs to several private and museum collections, including Estonian Art Museum, Tallinn; Erika Hoffmann collection, Berlin; Stedeljik museum, Amsterdam; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Ludwig museum, Budapest.
Toomik’s recent solo exhibitions and screenings include: Film and video retrospective, 63rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (2017); ‘First Slumber’, Tallinn Art Hall Gallery, Tallinn (2016); ‘Smells Like Old Men's Spirit’, Temnikova & Kasela Gallery, Tallinn (2015); 84 HRZ Gallery, Munich; Werkstattgalerie, Berlin (2014); Galleri Sult / Skur 6, Stavanger; Orton Gallery, Helsinki (2013); ARTRA Gallery, Milano; Pop/off art Gallery, Moskow (2012).
Exhibition was supported by EV100