CATALOGUE - Johannes Saar, Backward Blues /Блюз наоборот – National Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow, 20.09.2007 – 07.10.2007

Well, to have it official from the beginning – we admit that this very title of our exhibition does not represent exactly the most optimistic and forward-looking world view. It rather spreads the message of nostalgia and restauration. And pessimism, flavoured with an existential obsession with gloomy allusions. Against the background of Estonia’s recent experiences of social havoc and ideological confrontation, this blue mindset might be insinuated quite a specific political message by Moscow audience. The current context of ready-made common attitudes regarding Estonia is in Russia these days strong enough.

So it may seem, at first sight at least, that we are giving up on something. Video works by Jaan Toomik, Neeme Külm and Jaan Paavle appear to provide us body of evidence here. A sinister images of falling asleep for good, walking away, going under, letting go and turning ones back is far too prevalent to see it in any other way than an escapist key. But then comes the later acknowledgement that any clear-cut escapism always reflects the form of the “I am not talking to you!”- protest against urgent social issues. Not the most effective way of getting along, but unfortunately quite a common one, nevertheless. The three channel video work entitled Credo by young Laura Kuusk points out the models of daily miscommunication. And there is more … “You should not look at these people, darling” reads one of the subtitles in a photo series called "Early Childhood Lessons" by as young Anna Hints. Making an issue out of this instructive parental violence and related models of discriminatory rhetorics may also indicate in our arts a take-off of a broader upcoming transition from personal escapism towards the filthy business of social and political matters.

It is a public secret that Estonians and the Russian community do not talk much to each other in Estonia and it certainly contributes to both social apartheid and a blossoming of mutual ideological presumptions. An integration policies have fallen short so far. In the state of common disappointment, the cure comes from the lingering memories. Or to have it asked straight – what happens if you play the most sad and morbid blues backwards? The answer follows – you will get your horse back and wife back, then you will stop drinking too much whiskey and eventually get your farm released from the bank mortgage. Blues with an happy ending, who would have expected that? Though, artists like Paul Rodgers and Jüri Ojaver would not mind nobody calling them the ‘reverse blues brothers’ – they just love to hustle around the flash-backs from the immediate past and refer us to missed oportunities for social contracts and cultural consensus at bygone times. The same surely goes for young Kristina Norman and her passeist short film, Pribalts, digging deep into the childhood of people inhabiting the cultural limbo between Estonia and Russia. We all sang along with her backward blues too and finally found out what is the stuff nowadays Estonia is made of.

on behalf of artists, Johannes Saar