19 December 2010

Waste Land

Waste Land
Lucy Walker
UK/Brasil 10
Seen at PÖFF - Black Nights Film Festival - Tallinn, 2010

The Brazilian artist Vik Muniz wanted to do something for the poor people of his country. He chose to focus on the people sorting garbage on the Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill. From being quite cautious and afraid of what he might meet, he ended up getting deeply involved and changing the lives of several people.

This documentary by Lucy Walker shows in a beautiful and touching way the process of the art project, letting us get close to the artist and the people he meet. We get involved in their destiny, feeling that we get to know them a bit.

This is far from the first time an artist gets involved in the destiny of poor people. It is not the first time a documentary is made about it either. “Yes Men Change the World” and “JR: Women are Heroes” are great examples on this. What makes “Waste Land” special, is that the objects get involved in making the art themselves. The artist is the supervisor, the man with the idea and the plan. The workers are making the actual art, and they are getting the credit and the income from it.

Muniz' change of view on the garbage workers is symbolic to the whole process. Before going he is afraid of this closed community, probably ruled by drug-addicts and criminals. Arriving there he meets beautiful, intelligent, proud people. His work triggers the same change in the community: The garbage sorters' union gets recognized as a serious organization, and the work recognized at a regular work task.

I am also thrilled by the discussion between the artist and his wife. What are the consequenses of taking some people away from the garbage dump to make the art, and then put them back there again. Will the "one week in Paradise" make them desillusioned for the rest of their life? Or will this experience give them inspiration to aspire for a better life? It seems like the answer is both. Some return, some never return. Some get a better life, some don't. But who are we, the outsiders, to say that "experiencing good life is probably not good for her"?

The results of this art project are many. Many of the workers got confidence in themselves. Some got the small income they needed to start a better life. And as the workers' union got official status, it was able to change the working conditions to the better, build a school, and spread the knowledge to other garbage dumps. The art project thus triggered a major change of the lives of not only the few people involved, but all the garbage sorting workers and their families.

Then remains this question: Is this art, or a large social project using art as a tool? You need to look not only at the installations, the portraits made by garbage items in a large hall, or the photos of it, displayed in a gallery. The real artwork is in the process, in the relations. How this process started, evolved and its consequences. This was not initiated as a social program, then it would probably have had a different approach and content. The process starting from the first idea is a great work of relational art, beautifully captured in the documentary.

13 December 2010

PÖFF 2010 overview

This is an overview of the films I saw at this year's PÖFF (Black Nights Film Festival). The ranking is based on my own impression, classified by:

-(Bad impression)
0 (No impression)
+ (Good)
++ (Great)
+++ (Fantastic)

1. +++ Waste Land - Lucy Walker - UK/Brasil 10
This year's highlight, a well filmed movie about a great story. About how art changed the life of peple sorting garbage in Brasil. I will have to write a full review on this one.

2. +++ Life in One Day - Mark de Cloie - Holland 10
A fantastic, unique idea about a world where a whole life is lived through just one day, and how a couple escape from this world. Fortunately the movie was not Hollywoodish streamlined and all-explaining. The roughness and the untold parts made it all more touching.

3. +++ Silent Souls - Aleksei Fedorchenko - Russia 10
A quiet, beautiful story of the burial ritual of a disappearing Siberian culture.

4. ++ Gesher - Vahid Vakulifar - Iran 10
A very interesting documentary-like story about people spending the nights living in large concrete pipes on the border of an oil-plant.

5. ++ Mao's Last Dancer - Bruce Beresford - Australia 09
An epic story of a village boy being chosen to go to dance school, ending up being world-famous, escaping to USA.

6. ++ In a Better World - Susanne Bier - Denmark/Sweden 10
A Danish masterpiece focusing on the morality questions of revenge/forgiveness on different levels.

7. ++ Kosmos - Reha Erdem - Turkey/Bulgaria 09
A weird story about a stranger appearing in a quiet, dull village. Some consider him a prophet, others want to get rid of him.

8. + The Housemaid - Im Sang-soo - South Korea 10
A thriller where a housemaid is deeper and deeper stuck in a powerful family. Creepy story, beautifully filmed.

8. + Loose Cannons - Ferzam Ozpetek - Italy 10
A feelgood movie about two brothers facing great trouble in their family revealing their homosexuality.

9. + When We Leave - Feo Aladag - Germany 10
I have seen quite some stories about conservative muslim families with a daughter wanting to decide how to live her life. But seldom seen the story so well told and filmed as here.

10.+ Pepperminta - Pipilotta Rist - Switzerland/Austria 09
Weird, weird, and an abundance of kitch scenes and colours. This is not a movie, it is an art piece, by visual artist Pipilotta Rist. The story, about the strange people with color as weapon saving the world, is seriously thin and naive. But the setting and effects are an explosion of colours and weird experiences.

11. 0 Milk - Semih Kaplanoglu - Turkey/France/Germany 08
I can't really tell my opinion of this movie. I am quite sure it deserves more score, but I was not fresh and concentrated enough to enjoy it. You need to be in the right mood to see this quiet, delicate film.

12. 0 Monga - Doze Niu - Taiwan 10
It startes out as a Taiwanese modern version of the Godfather. The first hour is great. But it is much too long, and the last 1,5 hours makes it all too much. Cut down to 90 minutes it could have been a great movie, now the length destroyes it all. Too much confusion about who is who, too much slowmotion scenes and crying scenes.

13. 0 Wunderkind - Manfred Vainokivi - Estonia 10
This is probably a very interesting documentary if you have seen or heard about the person. I had not.

14.- Journey Through Lithuania - Vaidotas Digimas - Lithuania 10
The only negative score from me this year. A travel documentary about Lithuania, how can you fail? Well, what bugged me was that Lithuania was not taken seriously. The interviewer has questions so long and complicated that I forget what it was all about when the questionmark is reached. The topics seem to be influenced by prejudice. I was forced to consider this an ironic travel documentary. This shows real people not being able to answer fully and charismatically, a traveller not able to really grasp the soul of the country, and coincidental visit spots. This is what real travelling is like, not like the perfect travel series you see on Travel channel.

The movies "Yes Men Fix the World" and "Banksy: Exit Through the Gift Shop" were also screened on PÖFF. I had already seen them, and they would have made it high on this list. "Yes Men" is mocking global commercialism, "Exit" gives an introduction to several major street artists. My review of "Yes Men" here, and there will probably be one about the Banksy movie in the near future as well.

More about the PÖFF film festival at www.poff.ee

08 December 2010

Stavanger -2 / Sandnes +2

2010: Stavanger takes two steps back, Sandnes two steps forward

During the last weeks the media have been dominated by two cultural issues, the closing down of Sølvberget gallery and the illegalisation of all graffiti. Both are major steps backwards by Stavanger as a cultural town. Both before and after the European Capital of Culture year 2008 Stavanger has by far dominated over Sandnes regarding the art environment. Is this about to change?

Sølvberget gallery is an important part of Sølvberget cultural center in the centre of Stavanger, together with the cinema, library, cafes and childrens' museum. Sølvberget is the very heart of Stavanger. All streets lead to this building and the square in front of it. The gallery has been an important part of the center, with great contemporary art shows both for the public and for schools, all for free. Due to financial problems the center has to cut down on the costs, and the proposal is to close the gallery. This will not kill Sølvberget as a whole, but will damage it severely. Visitors, artists and critics are uniting in the call for saving the gallery. Closing down a successfull art institution will be a large step backwards for Stavanger as a cultural town.

Another blow to the image of Stavanger as a cultural town is the recent proposal of the town government making all graffiti illegal, included the former legal walls at the teenager-playground Geoparken. In a populistic race to sweep everything different and unwanted under the carpet, the possibility to enchance the artistic skills have been removed. To be able to continue making their art, the Stavanger writers will either have to buy their own property (Stavanger is the 9th most expensive town in the world) or go to Sandnes.

It came as a surprise, but after the initiative of local writers a legal graffiti wall was available since spring 2010 in Sandnes. The wall has been a great success, acting both as a showpiece and a training area for writers. Its location by the bus station makes it both visible and convenient. I have been pleased to see how the pieces have constantly changed. High five to the guys proposing the project and the politicians making this brave decision. One step forward for Sandnes.

While Sølvberget gallery will probably be shut down to save money, Sandnes spend money on culture. The visual art and film center Kinokino is flowering with well-renovated and flexible rooms. There have been some great exhibitions and shows this year, with the spectacular Yang Fudong exhibition as a definite highlight. Sandnes has shown what a great venue you can get if you dare to take the costs. Another step forward for Sandnes.

Sandnes is taking up the fight with Stavanger of being the major cultural centre in the region. This would seem like a joke just some few years ago, but now it is getting serious. Some more wrong steps in Stavanger and some more right ones in Sandnes, and the table may be turned.


Kunstihoone / Art Hall, Tallinn
Heidrun Holzfeind (AT), Marko Mäetamm, Liina Siib, Michel de Broin (CA), Marco Laimre, Thomas Mailaender (FR), Jaanus Samma, Armands Zelchs (LV), Johnson ja Johnson, Andrus Lauringson, Gustavo Artigas (MX), Taavi Piibemann, Toomas Thetloff, Anssi Kasitonni (FI), Neeme Külm, Mare Mikof, Kristof Kintera (CZ), Rene Reinumäe
Curator: Kirke Kangro

There is a lot of aggression and adrenaline in this exhibition in the Art Hall. When I was a bit disappointed about the missing confrontations in the "confrontations" exhibition at the same spot this summer, "revenge" offer a lot of revenge on several victims.

We see the biker's revenge on the polluting cars, the female revenge on men, the Estonian revenge on Russia, the man's revenge on his family, the artist's revenge on the sponsors, the immigrants' revenge on the native Estonians.

Worth noticing is the attention Marko Mäetamm gets, with three different pieces. An animation video, paintings on dinner plates and recipies for cannibal dishes(!) At the same time the Art Hall Gallery (Kunstihoone Galerii) shows a solo exhibition by Mäetamm, "30 stories and 4 cockroaches".

Keep On Smoking - Michel de Broin
Keep On Smoking - Michel de Broin
A bicycle installation and a video showing how the bike exhales smoke as it moves. Great concept, putting focus on pollution, even if the biker still is more exposed to the smoke than the car drivers.

Sponsoring - Thomas Mailaender
Sponsoring - Thomas Mailaender
Pictures of the artist with sponsors showing checks of sponsor sums. The first photos have reasonable sums, but the last ones are really large. Is he mocking the sponsors or the artist being sponsored?

Ideal World - Toomas Thetloff
Ideal World - Toomas Thetloff
You probably see what is missing. Will removing Russia solve all the problems of Estonia? Probably not. Will it solve some problems? Maybe. Will it make some new problems? Sure.

Procession - Andrus Lauringson
Procession - Andrus Lauringson
A video where all white-skin Estonian folk dancers have been replaced by dark-skin people. People with dark skin is still a rare sight in Estonia. It will probably take a long time before we see processions like this. This movie is probably more provocative in Estonia than in Norway.

Revenge Location - Liina Siib
Revenge Location - Liina Siib
Newspaper clips and pictures from the spot where family tragedies happened. The hunt for the adresses of the horrible tragedies become a sightseeing.

Powergame I, II, III, IV - Marko Mäetamm
Powergame I, II, III, IV
Paintings on plates, showing scenes where the mother and children literally tearing the guts out of the man. Family conflict turned bad.

02 December 2010

Dark Land

Dark Land
Maarit Murka
Hobusepea Galerii, Tallinn

A great exhibition pointing to the emigration and immigration of Estonians, and the opposing stately programmes of "get the talents back home" and "new possibilities - study and work abroad".

Dark Land - Maarit Murka

Dark Land - Maarit Murka


Nils Hint, Rainer Kaasik-Aaslav, Annika Kedelauk
März, Tallinn

The artist collective Otse! shows a great colletion of jewelry in the März exhibition venue.


Otsustusvõimed - vurrsõrmused
Otsustusvõimed / vurrsõrmused - Annika Kedelauk

Püha Eligius, Ööliblikas, Filter ja Kala - by Rainer Kaasik-Aaslav
Püha Eligius, Ööliblikas, Filter ja Kala - by Rainer Kaasik-Aaslav

Neckpiece by Nils Hint
Neckpiece by Nils Hint

30 stories and 4 cockroaches

30 stories and 4 cockroaches
Marko Mäetamm
Kunstihoone galerii

Marko Mäetamm's exhibition is filled with hate, disgust and adrenaline. 30 illustrated stories tell about family conflicts taken far over the edge. The stories are strongly repulsive, but that also put the attention to the topic: home violence and conflicts within the family. There is also a video about an electronic cockroach family constantly running around in a limited space.

30 stories and 4 cockroaches - Marko Mäetamm

30 stories and 4 cockroaches - Marko Mäetamm

30 stories and 4 cockroaches - Marko Mäetamm

Evald Okas 95

Evald Okas
works 2007-2009
Vabaduse galerii, Tallinn

Evald Okas

The 95th birtday of Evald Okas is celebrated by exhibitions both at Vabaduse Galerii and the Architecture and Design gallery in Tallinn. A great opportunity to get an insight to his works during a long life.

Youth - Evald Okas

Hundred Artists 1974-1982 - Evald Okas
Hundred Artists 1974-1982