Photo reportage from the exhibition 'Pressure of the Gaze' by Karolin Poska at Hobusepea Gallery

November 9, 2022
Author Echo Gone Wrong

TASE’21 and EAA (Estonian Academy of Arts) Young Artist’s Award winner Karolin Polska will open her solo exhibition Pressure of the Gaze in Hobusepea gallery at 18:00 on Wednesday, October 19th, 2022. Exhibition will be open until November 14, 2022.

Karolin Poska: “Do you know the feeling when someone else has fixed their gaze on you? You can simply tell that someone is controlling you, stalking you with the gaze, measuring you or trying to create a visual contact. You feel it even if it is outside the field of vision, or you may realize this from the corner of your eye.

People assure that they literally feel how the eyes of “Mona Lisa” painted by Leonardo da Vinci are following them, irrespective of the physical location of the spectator. This phenomenon – when the eyes of an artwork observe the spectator in the room – is called the Mona Lisa effect. However, researchers have found that this phenonenon won’t apply to Mona Lisa since the gaze of the painted figure has been directed too much to the right.

Creating a direct eye contact is perhaps the most frequent and powerful non-verbal signal exchanged between human beings; it is also a means of intimacy, frightening and social influence. Eye contact is such a primeval way of communication common to all animal species: predators intensely keep their eye on their prey before the moment of dashing towards it; babies become intimate with their parent through visual contact; fish turn their eyes black during an aggressive act.

The oldest found fossil’s eyes are 540 million years old, the first Homo habilis or the achaic human dates back to approximately 2 million years ago. Now I feel different when looking out of the window, knowing that I am using eyes of the precedecessors being 538 million years older than a human being.

It is easier to catch human gazes than those of other species since human eyeball has a special construction – we have more sclera (the white layer of an eye). That, in turn, makes it much easier to identify the movement of the iris of an eye that has darker colour as well as determining the direction of the gaze due to constrasty colours. Surprisingly, human eyes have the closest similarity with the ones of an octopus and a squid who both have big eyes consisting of the lens, the iris and one big vitreous body.

According to my calculations, the old town of Tallinn has 77 street cameras, so you were probably looked at already when you were on your way to the gallery. You probably did not perceive this because the surveillance cameras have less constrasty eyes and different construction. Also, the sculpture in the old town that you probably passed did not follow you with its eyes since it wears glasses and unfortunately has no sclerae. And yet, lots of people say that it is namely the eyes of an artwork that make you feel something.

While preparing for the current exhibition, I went to galleries and streets and looked at art; and also looked at others looking at art and let the artworks look at me and my act of looking. I really hope that you will find something worth looking at!”

Karolin Polska (b. 1991) is a performance artist, choreographer and dancer who lives and works in Tallinn. She has graduated from the department of dance art at the Viljandi Culture Academy of the University of Tartu. In her artistic practice, Poska tries to understand what it feels to live in the world at the given moment – she enjoys transforming reality, playing with objects and the audience’s expectations. Poska recently obtained MA degree in contemporary art at the Estonian Academy of Arts and she was given the Young Artist Award. Poska’s two recent works “For Your Nirvana” (2020) and “Untititled” (2021) were nominated to the Estonian Theatre Awards in the category of dance and performance art.

Thank you for the dialogue and technical assistance: Theodore Parker and Maret Tamme.

Exhibition is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

Exhibitions in Hobusepea gallery are supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian Ministry of Culture and Liviko Ltd.

Hobusepea Gallery
Exhibition by Karolin Poska
Title: Pressure of the Gaze
Open: 23.09.-17.10.2022
Hobusepea Gallery, Hobusepea 2, Tallinn.
Wed-Mon 11.00-18.00

Photography: Anna Mari Liivrand