An Estonian Gallery Takes On Capitalism for “International Fun”

Mar 7, 2016 1:39AM

As far as art-world destinations go, Estonia is still off the beaten path. Temnikova & Kasela, a commercial gallery in the capital city of Tallinn, seems intent on changing that with an exhibition program that showcases the region’s talents as well international stars like Josephine Pryde. While the gallery’s group show “International Fun” brings together a variety of Estonian and Baltic artists, the show’s true connecting fibers, more than a shared geography, are the artists’ sardonic attitudes.

“International Fun” sounds a bit like a slogan for a travel agency or a cruise; fittingly, many of the artists on display use humor as a tool for deconstructing the culture and ideologies of global capitalism. For instance, Dan Mitchell takes on EasyJet, a British budget airline that allows for quick and convenient international travel. In the marker drawing Come on, Let’s Fly ! (2016), a group of these planes threatens to blot out the sky. Meanwhile, in Budget Swarm (2016), model EasyJet planes hang around a glowing lightbulb, recalling planets orbiting a sun.

While Mitchell’s work paints international travel as a bland, homogenous affair, Flo Kasearu’s floor piece suggests that a certain fragility lurks beneath desires for global community. Her International Fun (2016) recreates the European Union’s flag with blue paint and banana peels; a single misstep would seemingly wreak havoc on the entire organization.

Other artists in the show focus their gaze on the endless stream of images pumped out by massive multinational corporations. gili tal’s uncanny work tackles the superficial happiness offered by advertising and branding campaigns. In one of tal’s works, a line of wine bottles sits at the bottom of a large white canvas; without context, the bottles feel like an army of soldiers. Another of tal’s canvases closely crops a photograph of two smiling women—stock models, perhaps, for an unknown brand. Removed from any advertisement, the their strained grins appear lifeless and fake.

While many of the show’s artists offer cynical takes on capitalism’s cultural dominance, the photographs of Sigrid Viir hit a more playful note. Each is a studio still life set against a patterned background, not unlike the pristine shots used to sell products. Her works wouldn’t make it into a magazine ad, though. The backgrounds are wrinkled, and segments of body parts are awkwardly left in the frame; in one image, for instance, a hand holds up a bit of rope in order to straighten an overgrown cactus. By creating images that masquerade as advertisements, Viirs finds a space for personal expression within the visual language of capitalism.

—Andrew Wagner

International Fun” is on view at Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn, Estonia, Jan. 22–Mar. 3.

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