‘There and Back Again’ Contemporary Art from the Baltic Sea Region at Kiasma, Helsinki

KiasmaThe exhibition There and Back Again brings together 26 artists from the eastern Baltic Sea region: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Russia. This collection exhibition explores the themes of identity, belonging and memory through the metaphor of travel. The title, There and Back Again, refers both to physical travel and to the various internal journeys traversed by working artists.

The artworks in the exhibition reflect a time characterised by the mobility of people, goods and labour, but also by tensions between superpowers. The Soviet era with its restrictions, traumas and memories looms in the background. Many of the artists grew up in the Baltic region in the 1980s and 90s, and experienced their countries’ reindependence. Many have studied and worked outside of their homeland, some in Finland.

“The Baltic region is more news-worthy than it has been for a long time. The region’s economy and its management have played a central role, ever since the time of the commercial alliance of Hanseatic towns and all the way to the modern cities joined together by the Via Baltica. The Baltic Sea has become the object of many intersecting economic, political and cultural interests,” Museum Director Leevi Haapala writes in the exhibition catalogue.

Curators of the exhibition, Kati Kivinen and Saara Hacklin, describe the thematic core of the exhibition: the topics of travel and migration on the one hand, and issues related to identity, attachment and belonging on the other. The theme of physical and mental journeys is approached by several artists, like Flo Kasearu, Karel Koplimets or Jaan Toomik. Another reoccurring subject of the exhibition is identity. It is built out of individuals’ narratives about themselves and others. Particularly in present-day discourse, identity is no longer seen as homogeneous or permanent, but fragmented and changeable, not to mention conflicting. Identity is linked to the question of what we value; what do we dedicate ourselves to or turn to in times of need? These questions are reflected in the works of Artor Jesus Inkerö, Daria Melnikova and Jaanus Samma. Besides identity, belonging is another central concept, dealt for instance in the works of Roma Auškalnyte, Katrīna Neiburga or Jenni Yppärilä. Belonging refers simultaneously to the human experiences of attachment and kinship—the feeling that a place or community is one’s own. The theme of belonging is often linked to longing for a real or imagined location or group of people, but can conversely also be used to explore rebellion against externally set boundaries.

”The generation of Baltic artists who were born and grew up in the 1980s and 90s have experienced major changes at state level as well as in the political climate. Held in thrall by new promises and expectations, this generation marched through the chaotic 1990s, reaching a 21st century of equivocality where constant change had already become the status quo,” writes researcher and curator Maija Rudovska in her essay for the exhibition catalogue.

The exhibition includes a publication There and Back Again – Contemporary Art from the Baltic Sea Region with foreword by director Leevi Haapala, articles by Saara Hacklin & Kati Kivinen and Maritta Mellais, as well as invited authors Rebeka Põldsam, Evelyn Raudsepp and Maija Rudovska.

In connection to the exhibition Kiasma Theatre presents UUE – Estonian Contemporary (Performance) Art Festival on February 21–25. The UUE festival is a unique chance to view work by young, open-minded, thought-provoking and professional contemporary performance artists from Estonia. Performances, screenings, rhythm—starting with a short language lesson. Artists including Flo Kasearu, Kris Lemsalu, Iggy Lond Malmborg, Maria Metsalu, Kristina Norman and SU–MU.

There and Back Again
Contemporary Art from the Baltic Sea Region
February 9, 2018–March 24, 2019 

UUE – Estonian Contemporary (Performance) Art Festival : February 21–25, Performances, screenings, rhythm, starting with a short language lesson

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Mannerheiminaukio 2
FI-00100 Helsinki
Finland
www.kiasma.fi 

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Echo Gone Wrong
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January 31, 2018
Published in Baltics Outside Baltics
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