Mare Tralla, Con. Rel. Int. 1995. Video installation. View to exhibition "Wait we're loading" at Gothenburg Museum of Art. Courtesy of the artist

Mare Tralla (1967) is an Estonian queer feminist artist and activist, working since the 1990s and focusing mainly on feminist critique and questions of identity, using performance, video, installations and digital technologies.

Tralla studied painting in Estonian Academy of Arts and one of the most significant examples of her early work is the 1995 exhibition „Est. Fem“, where she participated both as curator and artist. This exhibition is considered to be the first feminist show in Estonia. At “Est.Fem” Tralla exhibited an installation entitled “This is how we gave birth to Estonian feminism” (1995) that brings together the most prominent themes in her work of the 1990s: the position of Eastern European women in transitional societies, expectations for women in newly independent Estonia and the lasting influence of the Soviet period that was perhaps greater than people were willing to admit.

In the end of the 1990s Tralla began increasingly working with digital technologies.From 2000 to 2003 she was a professor at the e-media centre at Estonian Academy of Arts. Tralla’s work has been associated with cyber feminism, a movement that, according to Katrin Kivimaa, often uses “feminine” paraphernalia, themes and colour combinations to highlight and ridicule gender stereotypes and hierarchies. The interactive installation “Sing with me” (2000) revolves around the Estonian tradition of collective singing and national melodies. The computer animation depicts the artist in a swimsuit and swimming cap standing on the song festival grounds and singing “Kungla rahvas”. This work is an expression of Tralla’s continuous interest in what it means to identify as an Estonian and a woman, although humour, irony and grotesque she often uses are clearly evident here too.

Since 1996 Tralla has lived in London, where her dedication to activism has increasingly deepened. Even though Tralla has consciously kept it separate from her artistic practice, taking political stances is nevertheless an integral part of her work. Already in the 1990s when Tralla was still living in Estonia, she saw media as a tool to convey her message as an artist, so she developed a media persona – a foul woman working outside the norms. Tralla has used expressions she has developed as an artist as tools in her activism and vice versa: she has taken her experiences as an activist and applied them to her artistic practice. In 2018 during the performance night of the 13th Baltic triennial “Bastard voices” Tralla used these experiences to create the background for her work, focusing on the question of the various identities of a woman – mother, immigrant, Eastern European, lesbian, activist – in society. In 2019 Tralla conducted a performance against sexism at the opening of Pärnu XVIII Summer of Art festival.

Mare Tralla has studied painting at Estonian Academy of Art (BA 1995) and hypermedia at University of Westminster in London (MA 1997). In recent years she has participated in the following exhibitions: “The X-Files [Registry of the Nineties]” (Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, 2018); 13th Baltic Triennial “Give Up the Ghost”, (Kim?, Riga, 2018);„Things“ (Tamaraprojects, London, 2018); performance night of the 13th Baltic Triennial „Bastard Voices“ (South London Gallery, London, 2018); „Women“ (Threshold Artspace, Perth, 2017–2018); „Amor” (Oi Futuro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016); „Love At the Edge” (Gallery Arsenal Power-station, Białystok, 2015); „1995” (EKKM, Tallinn, 2015). As an activist she is part of organisations such as Act Up London, No Pride in War coalition and LGSMigrants. Mare Tralla has curated exhibitions, written articles and taught at Estonian Academy of Arts, Central Saint Martins and University of Westminster.


Selected projects

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