PSEUDO: parallel realities of a frozen goldfish

October 18, 2016
Author Merle Luhaäär
Published in Review from Estonia

Jevgeni Zolotko. Lukewarm, video, 2014. Photo by Merle Luhaäär

If you look at something individually you only see it, and nothing else. But if you look at several things together, you start to compare.

The Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM) presents a group exhibition curated by Marten Esko with the intriguing name Pseudo. In itself, it is a kind of a pseudo-exhibition which does not pretend to be whole, but rather takes pride in consisting of wholes bringing together six parallel realities that are (re)created by several Estonian and international artists: Dénes Farkas and Taavi Talve, Dora García, Flo Kasearu, Jevgeni Zolotko, Neeme Külm, Kristiina Hansen and Sigrid Viir. As there is this choice between six realities, I subconsciously choose the one I am staying in, or maybe I’m just simply stuck.

A goldfish swims in an aquarium: from left to right, and again … to the left, to the right, then again … to the left, to the right… These cyclic movements could go on almost forever unless something happens – something fatal. In this case, it is the hand of a man wearing a white doctor’s robe, which dives into the aquarium, abruptly stopping the fish from swimming by grabbing and placing it into a bowl of liquid nitrogen where it freezes in an instant. In medical terms, the fish is dead. A slight moment of silence awaits us as the fish, now frozen, is placed back into the aquarium where it once swam. The absurdity of this action begins to slowly disappear together with any feelings of hesitation and grief as the fish starts to move again – at first, as if in slow motion before it’s movements become quicker, until it appears to be fully alive again. This reality belongs to Jevgeni Zolotko’s video piece called Lukewarm (2014).

In a way, all art objects are similar to that frozen goldfish, firstly spotted it in this frozen ‘nitrogen-state’. If the viewer WANTED to, they COULD revive it, allowing it to swim again – it is fully up to them. But in the fish’s reality, it is neither dead nor alive; this subjective outsider’s touch makes a hell of a big difference. If someone has spoken, it’s not about the speech to make them heard. Their speech is neither dead nor alive. In the same way, so is an artwork. Once, in someone’s reality, it is alive and swimming before it becomes frozen later on, it’s fully up to its audiences to make that choice of responding to it or not. Lukewarm is a great choice to enter into the whole show, because it gives audiences the key to decode Marten Esko’s curatorial setup of Pseudo. Pseudo’s six realities are all optional, technically speaking ‘dead’, until brought back to life by their audiences.  The world’s subjectivity comes to the mind while I’m trying to take an ‘objective’ look from the above. Why? Because there is no ‘above’. Even when it seems to be there. Lukewarm is followed by Flo Kasearu’s show Uprising (2015), which is the artist’s response to the heightened levels of paranoia in the political milieu of strained international relationships between Russia and the West. To me, Uprising seems to be a presentation of this subjectivity. Roof maintenance works, filmed by a drone from above, which turns out to be folded plane figures from the metal taken off the roof.

If there is no objectivity, do we even know what’s normal and what’s not? The second floor of EKKM has been turned into a cinema room by Spanish contemporary artist Dora García. Stepping into this feels as though we are stepping into a room somewhere in Zürich, Switzerland, where a reading group, Joycean Society (2013), called just like the artwork are meeting up. By deconstructing James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake sentence after sentence and word after word, the reading group has been creating it’s normality and reality for the past thirty years.

Then there is another parallel reality, that of Estonian artist Neeme Külm, seen in Tomorrow comes today (2010). If some artists are presenting a reality of ‘togetherness’, instead Külm brings to the viewer one and only, his self-portrait. Külm has a wish in that he desires to be present in the present day by being himself. For that ‘VIP-reality’ he needs to find himself, at first. To make that easier, he separates the emotional from the rational and begins to research his ‘interior’. For Külm, the most important thing is to be present.

Kristiina Hansen’s and Sigrid Viir’s Delta India Sierra Charlie (2015) is a dream. In the fairytale-reality of a flying Persian carpet, leashed Baltic Sea seagulls and Halloween witches broomstick everyone is welcome to adjust the collage however they please. I am quite tempted to fly off on a magical carpet, but not quite convinced the carpet can endure this task in the long term, so I choose to not climb the stairs up to the carpet and stay put, just like the seagulls on a leash and thousands of other Estonians.

The sixth reality is named Footnotes (2011). In the Bible, the number six symbolises man and human weakness, the evils of Satan and the manifestation of sin. Man was created on the sixth day. Men were appointed six days of labour, the seventh day being the day of rest. A Hebrew slave was to serve six years. Six years were appointed for the land to be sown and harvested. The number six is associated with Satan in his temptation of Jesus. Budapest born Tallinn based artist Dénes Farkas together with Taavi Talve, are the artist-duo whose reality is a reality that is subtracted from the main reality, like footnotes from the actual text. For certain reasons the character of footnotes restrains them from belonging to the text. At the same time, they are present and non-present, participating as exclusion. There is this main rule about the footnotes: do not use a footnote if you can possibly avoid using it. I guess that means to stay in the main reality. But which one is the main reality, from the footnote?

With endless parallel realities to choose from, there is probably no actual or main reality and it’s no wonder, we (contemporary people) cannot make up our minds which one to choose, so we just keep on jumping from one parallel reality to another, neither feeling cold nor hot … simply lukewarm.


Dora García. Joycean Society, video still, 2013


Dora García. Joycean Society, video still, 2013


Exhibition view. Pseudo, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), 2016. Photo: Johannes Säre


Exhibition view. Pseudo, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), 2016. Photo: Johannes Säre


Exhibition view. Pseudo, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), 2016. Photo: Johannes Säre


Exhibition view. Pseudo, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), 2016. Photo: Johannes Säre


Exhibition view. Pseudo, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), 2016. Photo: Johannes Säre


Exhibition view. Pseudo, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), 2016. Photo: Johannes Säre

22 September 2016 — 30 October 2016
Curator: Marten Esko
Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM)