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A Flash of Dissident Genius in Estonia

The Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), Tallin, Estonia

1,615 words

When You Say
We Belong to the Light
We Belong to the Thunder

July–October 2019

First of all, the actual building and location of the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia has a great, youthful, Do-It-Yourself aesthetic. It’s informally known as the EKKM (cool). Its entrance is a dirt trail (keeps the art snobs away). It’s located in a small cluster of falling down Communist-era factory buildings (awesome). It’s free (yes!), and its “staff,” if you could call it that, is the art-school dropout kid who runs the café, through which you have to pass to get into it.

There were some art weirdos hanging around the café when I arrived, so I already liked the place before I even got into the museum. I figured out which door lead to the art and went inside. According to the introductory text on the wall, the exhibit was called When You Say We Belong to the Light We belong to the Thunder, which was borrowed from a Pat Benatar song from the 1980s. There was even a video of Pat singing the song on MTV, on a small monitor across from the text. (If you didn’t know, Benatar is currently a cult hero to hipster college-age feminists.) The video was a nice touch, I have to admit.

The text introduction went on to describe the art that followed as representing “the psychological reactions to climate chaos and the geographical imagery used for how we imagine inhabiting the world.” There was more stilted prose, but I will spare you. Near the end there were the usual mentions of “inclusion,” “diversity,” and my new favorite term: “environmental racism.”

It is interesting to see how fast the artistic community in a country like Estonia adopted Western-style Left-wing artistic rhetoric. This country just got done with brutal artistic repression thanks to the Communists. That was just thirty years ago; their parents still remember it clearly; their aunts and uncles still have their bootleg Sex Pistols cassettes; and here they are, putting similar mind-control restrictions on themselves and their fellow creatives. Only art that addresses our issues will be allowed.

The problem is, what if a talented young artist doesn’t feel like addressing “environmental racism” right now? What if he or she wants to talk about something else? Too bad. This is what we are talking about. If your art is about something else, you won’t be in the exhibit. And your refusal to participate will be noted.

So I went in. The first piece was a transparent plastic suit, that stood up like a person, with real shoes where a person’s feet would be. This suit had a skeleton of a dead animal at its feet, I guess to qualify it for the environmental theme.

The next piece was bad video of something on fire.

The next piece was a wall-sized projection of a 37-minute video showing different native fishermen on the Amazon river, catching fish and then comforting them as they died.

Yes, I know. Very strange. The piece is called “Fish.” You watch an amateurish video, of a real native Amazonian kid, paddling his primitive canoe through the jungle. He catches a big fish, wrestles it into the bottom of his boat, finally subdues it, and then as it breathes its last gasps, he holds it to his chest, talks to it, strokes it lovingly, and comforts it as it dies.

I was like what the fuck? I kept watching. A very old fisherman guy, boney and naked, does the same thing. He catches a fish, lets it flop around for a while, and when it is near death, he holds it like a child and whispers to it as it dies.

Later another patron, someone familiar with this piece, told me this wasn’t real. The artist told the fishermen to do that. It wasn’t a weird earth-centric ritual that Brazilians actually do.

Okay, so then, what was the perspective of the piece? Was it supposed to be funny? Was it sincere? It didn’t seem possible that it could be a sincere expression of sorrow for the fish. It was too weird!

What it looked like to me was a mockery of the theme of the exhibit. It was showing the absurdity of trying to “love” the earth and to “love” all the chickens, pigs, and fish we have to kill to survive. The artist, Jonathas de Andrade is Brazilian. He’s represented by a Brazilian gallery, not a New York gallery, which is significant. Who knows what goes on down there. The real Brazilian art people probably hate the powerful New York super-progressive gallery establishment. Brazil might even have, gasp, non-leftist artists!

I was very excited by this piece. To me, it felt like a giant fuck you. It made me think: are the real artists starting to rebel? Are they beginning to throw wrenches into this politicized “artistic community” everyone has to bow down to? This piece was crazy. And the wildest thing was, the fish in the video were really dying. Right in that moment. And the fishermen were really holding them, and stroking them, and whispering to them. This was an extremely moving act to see, faked or not. It really made you think. Whatever else it was, it was excellent art. The artist’s name was Jonathas de Andrade. He’s from Brazil.

I moved on, climbing some rusty outdoor stairs to the second story of the dilapidated building. Here there were some elaborate text pieces that didn’t make sense. One of them was about the development of Nationalism. I tried very hard to figure out what it was saying (beside that Nationalism was bad for the environment). But it made no sense. Translation problems. And this kind of stuff typically doesn’t make sense anyway. Fucking visual artists trying to do political text. Good luck with that.

So then I went into a dark room where there was a voice talking and a light bulb hanging over some scribbled-on playing cards. The voice text was whiny and inane. It was an American artist. It sucked.

In a larger lighted room, there was a painting of people in a boat, of different ethnicities, floating on a sea. I swear to god. That’s how tediously obvious these people are.

Next to that, there was another piece, that was pencil drawings of boxes. Pointless. But perhaps the artists was a golden unicorn of some kind. A trans/bi/autistic/Somalian from Iceland or some such.

Then I encountered something that caught my eye. It was a video of a Japanese politician giving a speech in front of the Japanese parliament. He was apologizing for the atrocities of World War Two. That seemed strange. I checked the placard. It said the artist was James T. Hong and the piece was called “Apologies.” The video, I noted, was eighty-five minutes long. “Okay,” I thought. “I’ll watch two minutes.”

When the Japanese guy was done, one of Popes came on. He too was addressing some large body. He was apologizing for the sexual sins of the Church. This footage looked like it was from thirty or forty years ago. Next came more old footage, a youthful President Reagan apologizing to the Japanese for their internment during World War Two. Then came Henry Kissinger apologizing for something during Vietnam. Then a German leader apologizing for the Holocaust. Then a contemporary American General apologizing for the inadvertent death of nine civilian children in Afghanistan. Then back to the 1960s, to an American politician apologizing for the slaughter of Native Americans. Then a young Serbian leader apologizing for atrocities during their war. Next, a woman apologizing to a stadium of people who were adopted (?) and assuring them they were loved. Then a woman apologizing for some catastrophic medical screw up. Then Bill Clinton apologizing to United States soldiers who were given syphilis as part of a medical experiment. I swear to god! I am not making this up! And this is like ten minutes in. The whole piece was eighty-five minutes long.

I started laughing. Right there within the hushed quiet of the “environmental racism” crowd. It was hilarious, and at the same time also totally subverting the sentimentalist intent of this very exhibition. It showed the insincerity of the politicians and the pointlessness of the morality they were expressing and appealing to.

Later, I came back to watch a little more of “Apologies.” (more Popes, more world leaders, then an old Russian guy in the 1970s saying that “apologies make a country weak”—whaaaaa???? Lol.)

I loved this piece. It should make Hong a star in the art world (it probably already has). On the placard it said he was Taiwanese but he’s probably American (gotta get those diversity points). Googling him I couldn’t find “Apologies” but it’s probably somewhere on the internet and would be worth a watch.

There was more crap after that, including—God help us—some sort of quilt or blanket or “craft art” showing a tree of life, with all the words we like to say nowadays making up the roots and branches: “oppression,” “resistance,” “colonialism,” “respect,” blah blah blah.

Still, two outstanding pieces, in this funky little “museum.” That puts this show in the top 10 percent of most art crap. And it was free. The main thing, it was fun, despite its firm intention not to be fun at all. Thank God for the mad geniuses who sneak their non-conforming perspectives past these useless Communists. I don’t know how these artists define themselves politically. But whatever they are, they’re definitely aware of the stupidity around them, and are taking bold shots at it.

7 Comments

  1. GnomeChompsky
    Posted October 9, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed the article, Estonia should play on its strengths (including icon painting), am sure there are others. IMHO, they are

    Estonia has, or used to have great animation productions, pre-USSR breakup, a mix of somewhat arty and works for children, after, a mix of despair, degeneracy, brilliance, and charm. I used to see them at a very small kinema, part of an International Animation Festival that does not seem to have been held of late.

    The first time I attended the festival, it was at multiple venues, a big event. It became more and more narrow, until in the single small kinema. I check every year, but it has not been held for some years.  

    My favourite was done by hand directly on film, MYK, (as that part of CYMK, still hand -drawn, frame by frame, I have only seen a video version, so I would guess that they drew on the film and then used digiital processing to make it MYK).

    As far as animation, the Estonian studio (was and still is spelt something like Eesti Studio) was the main centre in the USSR (except Russia itself, have seen many examples that are great from there, too, sure, some pure propaganda, but not all, even the propaganda ones are generally of interest).

    I am irritated at myself for not recalling the title of the hand-drawn on film masterpiece, was trying various search terms, it is one word, and really worth viewing, as is much Estonian and Russian animation, so if you have not, a general searich on those terms, I would expect, bring up many interesting videos.

    The Russian version of The Snow Queen, for example, is magnificent, what is Jew-run Disney corpse’s ‘Frozen’ but a sick, parody isn’t even the word, just sick joke.

    I was amused much earlier tonight (well, early last night) to read on the Stormer that an effigy of Greta Thunberg was hanging in effigy under a bridge somewhere in Italy.

    I thought that the article would be especially LOLworthy, but the artictle was precision-blocked, I hadn’t noticed the trend before, as Greg says, Weev has done a sterling job to keep the site on-line, but someone else somewhere seems to be precision-blocking transfer of particular articles. I really noticed this time (seen the phenom. before, didn’t really notice which articles had been precision-blocked, but this was too obvious).

  2. ia
    Posted October 8, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Another great article. Thanks, Anton.

    I see that according to the CIA Factbook Estonia is virtually diversity-free, aside from Russians (24.8%) and Ukrainians (1.7%) and some belarussians and Finns, and 1.8% other.

    Recently, the Whitney had a meltdown because one of its board members owned a company that produced tear gas used against migrants at the Mexican border. An online mob forced his departure. Hong or someone could go One Step Beyond and start an Art Museum Apology Series. Museums are falling all over themselves apologizing right and left.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/02/arts/design/whitney-art-museums-trustees.html?utm_source=Breakfast+with+ARTnews&utm_campaign=50b5313a79-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_10_02_08_30&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c5d7f10ceb-50b5313a79-293940819

  3. HungarianFashionista
    Posted October 8, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    The lefty hipster artsy urban green consumer subculture spreads like the plague in Eastern Europe. In Budapest there is even a bank that services this demographic. The branch offices look like trendy cafés, you walk in, get your organic sandwich and soy latte, and do the money business with the clerk who also sit at café tables. There are half a dozen charity boxes on display, so you can virtue signal by supporting causes like art classes for Gypsy children. Margared Mead quotations on the wall. Yes, it’s always that feeling – is this place real, or some kind of caricature?

  4. Randy
    Posted October 7, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid the fish hugging is not deserving mockery but a variation on the theme of hunter gatherers thanking the kill and apologizing for taking their lives.

    • Gnome Chompsky
      Posted October 10, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      The writer directly contradicts that in the article. I don’t sea any reason to disbelieve it. Having lived in more places than most penple, and not as an upper-class moron, I have never seen anybody hug and cuddle fish.

      The usual practice, if the fish is flipping about too much, is to put it out of its misery by picking it up by the tail, and banging its head against something hard.

      Pleae read a little more closely.

      I understand your point, but even there, your ideas are wrong. The hunter-gatherers who give thanks to the prey after the death of the prey. It is a great custom.

      Do you imagine that, for example, an Eskimo (OK, I only use that word to be anti-PC) who is faced with a polar bear in a batle over a few seals, will inflict a few deadly wounds on the bear and hug it while it is dying?

      An ancient Ainu likewise.

      … or ancient celts or teutons facing an auroch?

      Live or die, they would respect the animal, later if alive.

      Many more examples, and I would strongly support the herds of Aurochs produced by simple selective breeding by iGermany to be protected. They are not quite real, but it is startllng how such a siort-lived selective breeding programme had such a big result.

      Some jerk biologists (i would guess, mainly (((them)))) claim that the aurochs are at best 46% auroch. How do they know? They don’t, AFAIK, there are no real samples for comparison. The NSDAP may not have restored the aurachs, but they got a long way, in a pretty short time.

      They sure look much like the originals.

      I am often seeing, in (((their))) media, the idea that the auroch should be destroyed.

      People in Europe. in particular, should oppose this, the symbolic value is obvious.

      However, there is incessant talk of how they should be kiled.

      Very depressing.

  5. Hugo Adrian
    Posted October 4, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    That’s a fun take on it, but sadly most of the libshit types who would visit the exhibit would likely come away from it feeling totally vindicated. Their sense of virtue comes from the self-flagellation of white guilt, which has replaced the religious tradition of confession. This also gives them the added dopamine rush of feeling morally superior to everyone around them. They’re the “good ones,” of course, though it’ll be interesting to see what happens when their own pocket books are hit with climate taxes as China continues polluting the planet unabated.

  6. Not a Moviegoer
    Posted October 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Someone has to comment. Your review was good and made me laugh. Keep it up.

    I try to go to local historical museums and historic sites in the U.S., which I’m amazed still exist. I tend to respect people, even if they’re government employees, who staff those places. Even when you run into blacks working there, they’re a much better sort than the DMV ones. Their bread and butter and, sometimes I think, the only patrons who ever visit them, are largely nonwhite foreign school kids who are made to go there on field trips. The museums sometimes make the kid visitors do “interactive” stuff, like write their impressions of what they see in the museum on paper with crayons and markers (even when they’re much too old for that). Then the museum leaves the paper comments lying around for adults and other later visitors to see, I guess to try to prove that the museum is “relevant” and “pulling its weight,” because these wonderful brown rainbow kids were there and thought something about it. To be fair, often enough, though I can’t think of any examples, the kids’ comments are better than you would think.

    In a way, it’s like the fishermen in your art museum video. Profoundly unintellectual people prodded to do something for art or intellectual entertainment and doing a decent job.

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