CRITICISM - Ave Randviir, Never heard of the artist group Liquid? Maybe you’re one of them! – Estonian Art 2006, no 2

Considering what a long history the group Liquid [Vedelik in Estonian – Ed] has had, it is no surprise that so little has been heard of them. Liquid, whose main outlet is publishing a magazine for members only, has revealed its existence to the public only on few occasions – in 1998 a new issue of its magazine was born at the performance festival ElektroKardioGramm (curator Hanno Soans) right in front of the audience; and the same year they performed at the Paide festivalTime.Space.Movement. More recent performances include the one in December 2005, where Liquid turned its latest magazine issue subtitled – ‘The International’ – into an exhibition by sticking the pages on the walls of the alternative gallery Cnopt.

The Liquid was kicked into existence by Pegasus, or more precisely café Pegasus, which was going through its last agonising stage of existence. The hours and days frittered away in the café (in harmony with today’s customer-friendly approach), evoked in the future ‘liquidists’ a desire to do something just for the fun of it.

The group was established in 1995 when its mythical forefather Peeter Velberg – half-underground legendary figure who experimented with street performances, photography and film in the 1980s and even later – put together the first magazine. Members of Liquid have by now excluded the catalyst-publication from the canon, and it is regarded in Liquid-chronology as a ‘test issue’. Velberg’s apocrypha was followed by ‘canonical’ magazines Circle and Bubble (editor Erki Kasemets), Salt Storage Special (Sven-Erik Stamberg), Liquid-Millennium (Al Paldrok), Still-life (Sven- Erik Stamberg) and The International (Sven-Erik Stamberg). At the time of writing the Fashion Special of Liquid is being compiled (Sven-Erik Stamberg). The traditional format of the magazine is A4: each author submits his contribution in that layout on a sheet of paper, which are then put together and copied in the cheapest and easiest manner – with a copy-machine. The number of people working for the blackand- white magazine in prevailingly collage technique has been a few dozen or so, whereas the print run has been less than that figure. On the other hand, the magazine seems to be getting bulkier – the issue The International had as many as 160 pages.

The membership of Liquid is fluid and its ideology meandering. The more consistent and self-confident members include Erki Kasemets (who can, with some reservations, be called the leader of the group), Sven-Erik Stamberg and Meelis Salujärv – then the forefather Peeter Velberg, Evar Riitsaar and Meeland Sepp. The telling name of the group splendidly illustrates its philosophy, ie the members havenot specified the answer to the question why they are doing what they are doing, or if they have they certainly do not all agree on it. Also, it is even more difficult to direct Liquid into a mappable riverbed because of their habit of using materials in their publication for which they have not sought permission from the creators; or their half-joking, half-serious proposal to consider a member of Liquid everybody who knows a member of Liquid. Welcome!

The aimless and ambitionless Liquid exists, like a school almanac, thanks to the pure joy of creating and is in a way a weird relic of lost paradise – of a time or era when it did not seem strange to do things just for the fun of it, without pursuing wealth, fame, success and other ‘higher’ aims. On the other hand, Liquid is extremely topical, given that its magazine gathers collages that have been filtered out of the surrounding information noise of the moment. Not being able – or indeed willing – to accept the entire information floating around at home and outside, the Liquidmagazine constitutes an aspiration or perhaps a compulsion to control, rearrange and find new associations for aggressive and unnecessary information, hoping that purification will eventually be visible at the end of the tunnel – ‘laundering’, is how Sven-Erik Stamberg describes the activity. Mixing documentary (photographic) material with magazine cuttings, Liquid is a true document of its era, gathering a confusing amount of small narratives and constituting a bedside table book with chaotic pictorial poetry, of which not a single hard copy might be surviving in ten years’ time. Never heard of the artist group Liquid? Maybe you’re one of them!