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Photo reportage from the exhibition ‘Chatty Matter’ by Kati Saarits and Nora Mertes at the Kogo Gallery

In the broadest sense, this exhibition looks at the material culture and the stories, meanings, and transformations that lie in it. There has been a long tradition in society to admire objects of tangible culture from the past, but how do we connect with objects in our contemporary society that surround us daily? This exhibition explores the social stories, hopes, and desires that have settled in the matter around us. Artists are like anthropologists who study the different meanings of things through form, materials, usage functions and socio-cultural histories.

What kind of expectations, and meanings tie us with things around? And how does one influence his own perceptions, understandings, and habits through the material things he constantly creates around him? In our daily lives, things play an important role in both material and immaterial ways. We fetish their utilitarian or aesthetic qualities, but rarely think about their possible additional meanings and hidden potentials. “Chatty Matter” is based on visual and tactical research on things that have lost their function, or which function is unknown or yet undiscovered. What purposes, meanings, and ways of being manifest in things that surround us every day, when we remove the ideological meanings and utility functions attributed by man?

Artists are fascinated by situations where objects have lost their purpose or commute between function and aesthetics. Through the study of decorative semi-functional things, Saarits investigates objects in which the social desirability of success and dreams of consumerism have materialized. By observing the origin stories of different things, she also analyses the topic of “thingliness” and the ontological meanings of things in a wider context. Mertes however, combines special types of materials and parts of commodities and is engaged in rethinking the perceptions and everyday habits related to things around us. Emphasizing on the material presence of the work of art and having the desire to abandon the semantic baggage of different objects and materials, she thus opens up their new possible meanings and uses.

Exhibition team:

Kati Saarits (EE, b. 1992) is an Estonian artist who has acquired a bachelor’s degree in the Department of Installation and Sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts and done exchange studies at the Art and Design Department of the University of Ljubljana. Her work is characterized by sensitive material handling and an intuitive approach to sculptural forms. She is fascinated by the disciplinary boundary between the practices of sculpture and installation, and by the idea of the self-sufficiency of the three-dimensional object. In her recent art practices, Saarits is largely engaged in the fields of applied arts and crafts, intertwining the technical and material focus of applied art and traditional working methods in her own artistic creations.

Nora Mertes (BE/GE, b. 1982) is an artist from Belgium based in Germany, who primarily deals with sculptural qualities in her material- and site-specific work. Mertes uses materials, everyday objects and her own body in her investigations of physical qualities of material culture. In exhibitions, this becomes visible through a variety of media, including installation, sculpture, photo, and video. Mertes tests different ways of manipulating the material and everyday objects and explores how these can react to each other, or transform in the process. By placing them in so-called foreign roles, the artist wishes to bring forward the meanings and potentials of the physical world that surrounds us, and it is this aspect that largely forms the basis of her sculptural and spatial works.

Brigita Reinert (EE b. 1990) studied art education and philosophy at Tallinn University and has graduated MA in art history at the Estonian Academy of Arts. She has furthered her education in art theory in Budapest, and worked at the Estonian National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and later at Raster gallery in Warsaw during an internship. She has also worked as a curator/project manager, editor, and translator; and participated in projects such as the art project/magazine Uus Materjal and Uus Number! (New Material and New Number!), and the art festival Kilometre of Sculpture. She is mostly interested in interdisciplinarity and linking contemporary art practices to other cultural fields. Currently, she is working as curator of public programmes at Kumu Art Museum, and as a freelance art critic.

Exhibition “Chatty Matter”
Kati Saarits (EE) & Nora Mertes (BE/GE)
Curator Brigita Reinert (EE)

Kogo Gallery

Graphic design: Aleksandra Samulenkova (LV/NL)

Thanks to: Club-Mate Eesti, Printing House Paar, Looming Hostel, Siim Preiman, Ingrid Allik, Brita Kaasik, Taavi Rei, Age Linkmann, Darja Andrejeva, Lauri Lest, Helena Keskküla, Kadri Villand, Eva-Erle Lilleaed, Mati Schönberg, Marten Esko.

The exhibition is supported by The Cultural Endowment of Estonia; the gallery is supported by the city of Tartu.

Photography: Madis Kats