Marge Monko

Marge Monko (1976) is an artist whose work has been influenced by feminism, psychoanalysis, and visual culture. She is interested in the figure of the woman, the body, and (consumerist) desire and love in a contemporary market economy and post-truth society. Her work is characterised by intellectuality and aesthetics; the body and love is seen as a theoretical exercise rather than a romantic flood of emotions. Monko’s chosen mediums vary from documentary films to staged works, from photography to videos and installations.  

In her first large-scale museum exhibition, ‘How to Wear Red’, at Tartu Museum of Art in 2013, Monko dealt with Estonian history and changes in local labour policies, linking them to civil activism and feminist ideas. For instance, the work ‘Free Love’ (2013) comprised archival copies of the Postimees daily from 1905, in which the then-editor Jaan Tõnisson urged schoolgirls to maintain abstinence. These were juxtaposed with modern examples of schoolgirls and fresh graduates. What are the expectations of society on women and how do women respond to these expectations? Today, when free love is no longer a taboo, is it possible for a woman to be socially active, and while doing that, which subjects should she engage with? In recent years, Monko has taken a deeper interest in the ‘architecture of desire’. This, the material culture constructed to advertise products - printed ads, shop displays, shop windows - a commercial genre of the still life. This ‘architecture of desire’ is aptly expressed in Monko’s series ‘Ten Past Ten’ (2015), which is built around ads for watches published in magazines, and the performance ‘Don’t Wind It Up, Turn It On’ (2016). Monko’s works are a powerful depiction of the relationship between love and desire, which question – what could love look like in the age of Tinder and Tumblr poetry? Similar issues are explored in her video Dear D (2015) which uses the visual language of the internet. In 2016, Monko curated the exhibition ‘All Letters Are Love Letters’ at Tallinn Art Hall.  

Monko studied photography at the Estonian Academy of Arts and also attended the University of Applied Arts Vienna. She has had solo exhibitions at galleries in Tallinn, Helsinki and Budapest, at the Museum Moderner Kunst (mumok) in Vienna and she has participated in several prestigious international exhibitions. Monko won the Henkel Central Eastern Europe Art Award in 2012; from 2013 to 2015, she took part in the studio programme HISK in Belgium and in 2015 in the ISCP residency programme in New York. Monko is among the first recipients of the artist’s salary in Estonia, introduced in 2016.