CRITIQUE - Margus Kiis. The tragedy of sanity. KUNST.EE 2012, 3, 41-43
Margus Kiis’s overview of Sandra Jõgeva’s solo exhibition "Kogutud territooriumisõjad" (Collected Territorial Wars).
Ever since commencing her career as a professional artist, Sandra Jõgeva has been original, diverse, intolerant of easy solutions, anti-authoritarian and hard working. She is also latent, stubborn and sometimes stupid. Although she loves to talk about her idols in social situations, her works practically never comprise any obvious or grand quotes, appropriations or references. Not everything she does is genius, but mostly she manages to surprise and even take your breath away.
Jõgeva has been on the art scene since the turn of the millennium, and during this time her artistic persona has changed radically. The quiet, delicate princess has turned into a loud, powerful woman, who tells us how things stand. Ten years ago she simply was, and that was all. Now her presence is very obviously felt and perceived with all the senses.
It is interesting that currently she has two apparently opposing interests, or you might say passions – one is the art of words, in its widest possible sense, and the other is sculpture, also in its broadest sense. As a wordsmith Sandra Jõgeva is a columnist, an analyst, a writer, a documenter, an actress, a director, a playwright and an ideologue. As a sculptor she is a generator of ideas, a viewer, a designer, a carver and a caster. Jõgeva’s latest exhibition with its overly "deep" title "Collected Territorial Wars" presented both of these facets. The first room at City Gallery presented a bizarre assemblage comprised of an electric stove with a mass of burning sugar; a sculpture in plastic covered in caramel of a female form that seems to emerge from a stone cairn and lean over a granite plaque engraved with words of wisdom (in English) expressed by Jõgeva’s famous artist mother, Malle Leis, to her artist daughter; a textile piece on the wall with the word 'lits' (slut), which simply sets the tone. Her mother’s words of instruction, by the way, are wise though maybe out of date, like a mother’s wisdom tends to be. Either way, the sculpture is powerful. It is fortunate that in sculpture-hostile Estonia there is a fanatic like Jõgeva who can be bothered to mess around.
The second room of the gallery showed six videos of Sandra Jõgeva’s text-based performances – her "stand-up tragedies" from the last two years – "Ema õpetussõnad" (Mother’s Words of Wisdom) (2011),"Kontaktimprovisatsioon" (Contact Improvisation) (2011), "Nimeta" (Untitled) (2012), "Keskeakriis" (Midlife Crisis) (2012), "Rahast" (On Money) (2011) and "Hüpohondrik" (Hypochondriac) (2011). The problem with these stand-up tragedies is that they are just stand-up comedies because the people in the videos just laugh when Sandra Jõgeva gets up on the stage and explains something (or changes clothes, or shows something). And why shouldn’t they – Jõgeva’s texts are funny. But they are not "simply" funny. This is where an ingenious paradox emerges. On stage Jõgeva does not talk about anything special. The texts she presents talk about ordinary things – life, health, money, relationships, theatre, art, work, politics, human weaknesses, belief, ancient myths and emotions etc. Yet, and this is important, she mostly talks about these topics pragmatically, from a position of level-headedness, exposing present-day (Estonian) society and people as mindless, irrational, dependant on others, stupidly conformist, ready for anything in the name of some stu-
pidity, and cruel.
"Contact Improvisation" pokes fun at the power struggle
between women (this is a theme repeated in some of Jõgeva’s other stand-up tragedies) while "Midlife Crisis" ridicules the glorification of actors and other "idols". "On Money" mocks the irresponsible use of money and everyday politics, while "Hypochondriac" ridicules commonly held non-scientific medical beliefs. "Mother’s Words of Wisdom" speaks more