Exhibition presents fantastic side of reality

  • 2004-03-25
  • By Steve Roman
TALLINN - They say the camera doesn't lie, though sometimes we have a hard time believing what it shows us.

In these days of computer manipulation and aggressive media bombardment, not to mention fast-paced lifestyles that leave us no time to really stop and notice how odd our surroundings can really be, it's easy to dismiss or ignore an image that's a bit fantastic or improbable, even if it's real.
But whether we've brushed by them or not, photographers have captured some of the most fantastic images of our world on film, and we have just a few more days to go back and take a good, hard look at them in a photo exhibition entitled "Fantastic Realism," running at the Tallinna Kunstihoone (Tallinn Art Hall) until March 28.
The exhibition, which encompasses works by Estonian, Finnish and British photographers, was the brainchild of guest curator Eve Kiiler, who told The Baltic Times that her aim was "to show how reality has changed, or our understanding of reality, and how it can be represented in an artistic image."
One of the more original and memorable representations of reality is "Camera Obscura," a set by Finnish photographer Marja Pirila. Here ordinary people are depicted in the intimate surroundings of their homes while, by an old photographic trick of the light, images of the invading outside world are projected, upside down, across their rooms.
"Some of the art critics thought that it's all computer manipulation, but it's not," said Kiiler. "It was interesting for me to show real situations which, after being recorded in a documentary, unmanipulated way, look fantastic, as if they can't be real."
But this isn't an exhibition of trick photography. Some of the photographers simply show us things that we are not used to noticing, like patterns created by a mirror in a stairway or the gnarled branches of a bush. Others, like Kai Kaljo with her photos of strange road signs in the U.S.A., just show us the hard-to-believe aspects of the world we live in.
Still others deal with the theme of the fantasy itself. Brits David Robinson and David Bate expose the odd fantasy worlds of theme parks and of Las Vegas, respectively, while Estonian Piret Rani takes us into a nightclub party where girls are playacting at being lesbians.
The works in the exhibition are so disparate (deliberately so) that it's sometimes hard to see how they fit into one theme. But, says Kiiler, the point was to show how artists from different backgrounds deal with the theme.
"The British are all thinking much more globally, and the Finnish think about personal space. This difference between these two very photographically advanced countries seemed to be interesting to show," she said.
The Estonians, by and large, were dealing with social themes, from a bitingly sarcastic look at litter in nature to an examination of the last election campaign - perhaps the closest to the "fantasy" theme of all.

"Fantastic Realism"
Until March 28
Tallinna Kunstihoone
8 Vabaduse valjak, Tallinn
Open 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Ticket: 25kroons (1.5 euros)