REALITY BUBBLE: The artists themselves will be on display as we get to see those who create our cultural works.
“Although the Estonian summer is very short, at least our winter is very dark and long. There is no warmth, not even light. There are no meadows or sunlight. Therefore, the main problem of Estonian culture is simple: it is cold. Just make a miracle, let winter turn into summer, even for a moment, and you will see how all those people – artists – will bloom on this dull sand.”
(Arthur Valdes, Paris, early 1930s.)
TALLINN - The musings of Valdes, considered a legendary figure of Estonian culture, have inspired “Object no. 2011,” an installation on Tallinn’s Freedom Square that sees the artist themselves transformed into a work of art. Within a climate-controlled plastic dome that brings a small pocket of summer to the winter laden area, 400 artists (a whole host of actors, writers, painters and musicians amongst many other disciplines) will spend one hour ‘displayed to the public’ in which they can be observed both live on Freedom Square and online. On the surface the entire exercise would seem to be the premise of an extremely dull reality television show. But as you delve deeper, the installation works as an interesting exploration of art and artists and just how people celebrate and venerate the creators of culture.
In some ways the piece is an inverse of Anthony Gormley’s “One&Other” which ran in London during 2009. The ‘Fourth Plinth’ of Trafalgar Square (infamous due to the fact that it is the only plinth on the well-known landmark and tourist spot that was lacking a statue) was given over to the populace as 2,400 selected members of the public were allowed to spend one on the plinth. They were allowed to do anything they liked, bound only by legality and the fact that the only things they could take were what they could physically carry, during the allotted time. Whilst the press often focused on some of the more eccentric stunts, including a person who demolished a cardboard replica of the London skyline whilst dressed as Godzilla, the piece served as a reminder of the power of the ordinary individual as they were surrounded by statues of historical greats.
“Objekt no. 2011” reminds us of the opposite: that it is easy to forget that the people we honor for creating great art are also human beings. As the organizers of the installation note: “A paintbrush does not paint, a camera does not record, a stage does not direct, a violin or an electric guitar does not play by itself. People, personalities are essential for creating art.” The installation both humanizes the participants, as we see them sitting down, jotting in notebooks and generally not doing much at all, and paradoxically raises their status (by the very fact that they are on display in the first place).
There are also ideas about just how people judge said artists. Whilst the Estonian sensibility is never one of being ‘awestruck’ by the idea of celebrity, there is still a great deal of reverence for those who contribute to the country’s rich cultural heritage. Whilst watching the participants live (at one point I saw the director Madis Kalmet) the physical location of the space also gives rise to a small twinge of jealousy: after all, they’re encased in a lovely, warm part of the world whilst we stand in the freezing cold to watch them. It certainly asks the question: in some small way can we actually also be jealous of artists?
Like many interesting and worthwhile installations, “Objekt no. 2011” gives rise to numerous fascinating questions and thoughts from a relatively simple idea. Held as part of Tallinn’s hosting the European Capital of Culture, it’s a timely and thought provoking work that asks important questions about art and those who create it.
“Objekt no. 2011” continues until March 20. Go to www.objekt2011.ee for more information on the installation and a list of participating artists.