Contemporary Art and The Finno-Ugrian World

North by North-East: The Continental Unconscious
.: Contemporary art and the Finno-Ugrian World :.

Exhibition at Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, 14 March – 18 May 2008
Opening on Thursday, 13 March at 6 pm in the Kumu Art Museum, 5th floor

The eastern Finnic republics of Komi, Mari El, Mordovia and Udmurtia in north-eastern Russia are homelands for people related to the Estonians and Finns. While they may not be under any immediate threat of extinction, these small peoples are concerned about the future development of their languages and cultures. They refer to themselves as the ‘Finno-Ugrian World’ and form a virtual cultural region within Russia.

Estonia maintains cultural and political contacts with these kindred peoples and their capitals Syktyvkar, Yoshkar-Ola, Saransk and Izhevsk. Yet this is the first contemporary art exhibition about the four republics shown at the Art Museum of Estonia. It was suggested and realised by the Swedish curator Anders Kreuger, who invited a group of artists from four European countries to travel with him in Russia last summer: Sándor Bodó from Hungary, Mark Raidpere from Estonia, Nina Roos from Finland and Darius Ziura from Lithuania. They have all created new works inspired by this trip, and the exhibition also contains existing pieces by Róza El-Hassan from Hungary and by Eve Kask and Signe Kivi from Estonia.

It also offers a rare opportunity to become acquainted with contemporary art from an underexposed European region. There are new and recent works by the artists Yuriy Lisovskiy and Pavel Mikushev from Komi, Izmail Efimov and Sergey Tanygin from Mari El, Andrey Aleshkin from Mordovia and five artists from Udmurtia: Evgeniy Aksenov, Kasim Galikhanov, Kuchyran Yuri, Vyacheslav Mikhailov and Sergey Orlov.

The exhibition’s title, North by North-East: The Continental Unconscious, refers to the geographic location of the Finno-Ugrian World, but also to the fact that some territories and nations are exiled from mainstream consciousness and erased from the mental map of contemporary culture. They might even be compared to the content of the Unconscious, which Freud once famously called ‘an aboriginal population of the Mind’. The title also alludes to the pronounced interests in psychic practices among Finno-Ugrian artists and intellectuals.

The exhibition is based on extensive cultural research and presents significant figures from not-too-distant Finno-Ugrian history. The entire memorial museum of the poet, ethnographer and educator Kuzebai Gerd (1898–1937) has been brought to Tallinn from the District of Vavozh in Udmurtia. On 14–16 March special excursions will be given in Udmurt (with Estonian translation) and Russian. Audio-visual material about the Mari poet Valentin Kolumb (1935–1974) and quotes from the Komi mathematician and philosopher Vasiliy Nalimov (1910–1997) are incorporated into the display, along with a visual biography, through archival photographs, of the great Mordvin-born sculptor Stepan Erzia (1876–1959).

A screening programme in the exhibition includes documentary films by renowned Estonian directors, the late Lennart Meri, a former President of the Republic, and Mark Soosaar, MP. There is also archival television material in Komi, Mari and Udmurt from the stations Komi Gor, Mari El and My Udmurtia. On Friday, 14 March at 6 pm the celebrated singers Zoya Bernikova from Mari El and Nadezhda Utkina from Udmurtia will perform in the Kumu Auditorium.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue in Estonian, Russian and English.

The project is generously supported by the Culture 2000 programme of the European Commission, by Estonia’s Ministry of Culture, Kindred Peoples’ Programme and Cultural Endowment and by the Lithuanian Institute in Vilnius, FRAME in Helsinki and the Hungarian Institute in Tallinn. The curator also gratefully acknowledges the intellectual and logistic support of the International Erzia Foundation in Moscow..

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