The notions of the ‘alien’ and the ‘border’ are located in the depths of human consciousness; and at the same time one feels that the stranger is not really a stranger and the border is just a stupid and ugly thing, that should not exist at all.
Living with the other, with the foreigner, confronts us with the possibility or not of being an other. It is not simply – humanistically – a matter of our being able to accept the other, but of being in his place, and this means to imagine and make oneself other to oneself.
The Stranger, ‘that embodiment of hatred and otherness’, as said Julia Kristeva, ‘lives within us’. ‘He is the hidden face of our identity’ and ‘by recognising him within ourselves, we are spared detesting him in himself’, because then the question would be no longer ‘that of welcoming the foreigner within a system that obliterates him, but of promoting the togetherness of those foreigners that we all recognise ourselves to be’.(1)
The problem of feeling alienated and strange is the universal problem of globalised/ing modernity, where everybody is stranger to everybody else. It’s a neoliberal capitalist world that is characterised by alienation as such: it is a society of autonomous individuals (Gesellschaft) and not a traditional community (Gemeinschaft). Blind and enraged nationalist-conservative reaction toward neoliberal globalism, however, is unable to understand that there is no closed off territory to return to but it is also clear that further expansion of global capitalism is impossible as well: one earth is just not enough if everybody would start consuming on the same level as the Americans do. So one could say that Giorgio Agamben’s maxim, that we are all refugees in a world that is just a big camp, is not very far from truth.
All the works at this exhibition have some relation to the notion of xenos, either trying to capture it psychologically or politically or trying to overcome it directly and/or symbolically, trying to build one’s singularity outside me/us – stranger dichotomy. It is an exhibition that doesn’t have activist pretensions in general, although it might include in some level also elements of direct action. It is more a contemplation, an essay in the form of an exhibition that tries to shed light upon the question of otherness and of strangeness from different angles provided by the wide range of artists participating at the show.
(1) Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves (1988)
(2) Girorgio Agamben, The coming community (1990)
Anders Härm is a curator, an art historian and an essayist living and working in Tallinn. He has worked at the Tallinn Art Hall as a curator from 2002-2012 and curated Estonian pavilion at the Venice biennial of architecture in 2000 and at the art biennial in 2003. He is one of the founders and the manager of EKKM from 2009-2015. From 2017 he is the lecturer of contemporary art and curating and the head of Curatorial Studies at the Estonian Academy of Arts.