Photo: Toomas Volkmann.

Kiwa (1975) can be viewed as a reluctant machine, disrupting leitmotifs and quotes. Bringing together principles of anarchy and pop, the artist uses various media from sculpture to painting, performance to video and sound to text.

Since 1997 Kiwa has been working with “media graffiti”, which entails having his name or image frequently presented in the media. This is inspired by the saying that it does not matter who you are, but how others see you. “Media graffiti” could be understood as marketing – just like with marketing in advertising, media hacking amplifies the aspects of least importance.

Kiwa demonstrated his opposition to joining the EU in the video work “Graffiti Patrol” (1998, Art Museum of Estonia). The video shows the anti-EU artist lurking near the House of the Representation of the European Commission saying: “I am an artist … I want to make graffiti on your house,” in broken, even ridiculous-sounding English. Graffiti as the barometer of society makes visible what has been suppressed and presents alternative truths that have no place in the official discourse. Kiwa claims graffiti to be a peaceful act of violence.

In numerous performances, videos and paintings Kiwa has used the image of a young girl. In addition to his other roles, from time to time the artist cultivates androgyny and the image of drag queens. For example, Kiwa has embodied a girl in his video “Pink” (1999, Tartu Art Museum) and the so-called Köler Bride during the 2011 Köler Prize gala at the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia. Kiwa began experimenting with his girl-art already at the exhibition “regatta” (Raatuse gallery, Tallinn, 1997). His paintings from that period, depicting provocatively posing precocious girls, have mostly been destroyed and there are no proper reproductions of the works, although some of them have found their way into museum collections, for example “Self-Portrait as A Japanese Chick” (1999, Art Museum of Estonia), “Nimetu” (“Untitled”, 2002, Tartu Art Museum), “Nimeta” (“Untitled”, 2002, Tartu Art Museum).

On the one hand, the way Kiwa depicts girls expresses a nostalgia and desire for immaturity, for paradise lost and the last days of summer. On the other hand, he strives for expanding the boundaries of art and legitimising art that is ambivalent in its content and does not follow social or cultural norms.

Kiwa’s exhibitions “High on Nothing” (ArtDepoo, 2008) and “Enter the Untitled” (Vaal gallery, 2013) were inspired by the theme of emptiness and nothingness, central to his work during those years. At the time Kiwa tried to visually construct the pre-speech and contextualise nothingness. His research into non-existence, emptiness, nothingness, void, vacancy and zero stems from the Buddhist study of emptiness (skr śūnyavadā) and culminates with analysing and visualising of the field of so-called nothingolgy.

Trying to find means to abstain from making choices in art, Kiwa uses a variety of codes, like the alphabet and binary code. The function of disposing of the principle of choice and the desire for a machine consciousness is fulfilled by computer programs generating random number combinations or delegating any meaningful decisions to technical workers.

Since 2014 Kiwa has led the publishing house ;paranoia – the corporate aesthetics of experimental literature with global reach creates an impression of an elite cultural product. ;paranoia publishes books no other publisher wants to work with either for political, financial, aesthetic or other reasons. In Finno-Ugric languages the root “para” means “best” or “sufficient” in the totality of its meaning, “noid” stands for “witch” and “noidlema” for “lurking”. The publisher operates in a multidisciplinary field, instead of book launches, they follow a new format called “perverted product presentation” that combines experimental literature with performance and contemporary music, such examples are “Cabaret Derrida: The Field of Nothing” (2016, the conference of Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present ) and “Ulmefestival” (2018, Tartu Uus Teater).

Since 1999 Kiwa has curated numerous exhibitions. He has lectured at the Estonian Academy of Arts (2016–2018), led the sound art platform “metabor” (2001–2004) and the ethnographic documentary project “Soviet hippies” (since 2017, with Terje Toomistu). His works belong to the collections of Kumu Art Museum, Tartu Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia, and private collections in Estonia, Europe and the US. From 2017 to 2019 he was a recipient of the national artists’ salary.


Selected projects

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