Art remains with a finger pointing at what is happening, being a copy and a picture of the historical moment. We left with the harsh task of interpretation if we still want to.
Exactly one month ago, I was in the hallways of the main museum in Tallin, the KUMU (Kunstimuuseum), and sitting there, in a half-empty room on the third floor, I let my soul descend in a deep state of melancholy.
The museum spaces, of which architecture is noticeable for their contemporaneity and sharp esthetics, open their doors for visitors into the first part of the collection displaying Estonian paintings and sculptures from the 18th and 17th century; by taking off the table all of the typically Italian self-pleasing arrogance, it was clear that there was no different influence from what I saw in Central Europe and, even though it was an enjoyable view, I was regretfully seeing pastel (since these are the most diffused colors in Estonian Esthetics) copies of the great artistic waves that moved central-European Reinassance.
This bitter-sweet comment comes from the ignorance of who has much smaller borders than they think, just as much as who is writing this editorial, and stumbles upon the limits of their knowledge; as a matter of fact, I thought that I could find an artistic nature of a different type in that country, so clung in the north of the world, that could give me a different perspective and, maybe, shake me from the indifference of uncountable museums collected in years of wandering through cities and villages in central and southern Europe.
So, without much resentment, I decided to proceed with my visit to the second floor of the KUMU. And, almost as if it was a prelude of what I was about to encounter, the 19th century took the scene and, through the exposed works, the visitor, aka myself, could collect often forgotten historical information from other geographical areas. A fact upon many that one might not know is that the exposition allowed me to outline a record for the German National Socialist Party in Estonia: it is the only nation where the ethnic cleansing wiped out any trace of Judaism, back in the day, the country proudly declared itself to the world: Jewish Free.
Even if it stylistically adapts to the direction of European winds, this floor’s art showed the public political content that could finally quench the thirst that was moving me; in this case, it was a border country between two large contemporaneous historical powers: Russia and Europe.
While passing through those spaces dense with triangles, you could start to perceive two more and more precise emotions that we all know how to collocate in that historical period: tension and anguish; between the red flags in the parades of Russian occupation and German swasticas, very little of the graceful 18th century could stay in the spirit. After learning the country’s history, between occupation and an attempt of liberty, I finally walked myself up to the last floor where a new sensation slithered cold between the now sparse visitors. With no violence, as if the curator knew that at that point it was no longer possible to protect the visitor from their museum’s destiny anymore: the emptiness of meaning had overthrown any other feeling that was not fit, in actuality nor potentiality, to fill the space of the other emotions, which was empty.
Among pictures of a fridge’s content, videos with no plot, and boxes containing screens on which not even remotely erotic nudes passed by, I had to stop because I was experiencing no transport, if anything I felt detachment and a subtle form of boredom.
The overabundant spaces of the beginning, where landscapes, portraits, mythology, and crafts came to us like balm were at that point irrecoverable, leaving me in a small place with the lame attempts of keeping art alive by who, the artists, probably struggled to find a real space, since art today has a profoundly different connotation compared to the past. If with Duchamp we left the handicraft work of the artist, who necessarily was an artisan, on a side, today we have done the same with the tangibility as well as the contents of art.
The works accumulated up there tell us about desolation, fatigue, depression, and emptiness with no will to mystify from artists nor the curators who keep on narrating the present, without the world to observe them.
In that warm space surrounded by freezing snow, I welcomed our generation’s changes and, even if this dragged my soul into a maelstrom, I am exceedingly glad that at least somewhere the decadence of previous models is faced without it being filled with candied fruit and sugar. Art remains with a finger pointing at what is happening, being a copy and a picture of the historical moment. We left with the harsh task of interpretation if we still want to.