THE STATE IS NOT A WORK OF ART
Tallinn Art Hall, Art Hall Gallery, Tallinn City Gallery and Vabaduse Gallery
17.02. — 29.04.2018
Participating artists: Ewa Axelrad | Loulou Cherinet | Marta Górnicka | *Lise Harlev | *Femke Herregraven | *Flo Kasearu | Thomas Kilpper | Szabolcs | KissPál | *Stéphanie Lagarde | Ella Littwitz | *Thomas Locher | Cristina Lucas | *Damir Muratov | *Tanja Muravskaja | *Marina Naprushkina | *Kristina Norman | Daniela Ortiz | Katarzyna Przezwańska | *Jaanus Samma | *Ivar Sakk | Larissa Sansour | *Jonas Staal | *Kristina Solomoukha & Paolo Codeluppi
*An asterisk denotes a new commission
The State is not a Work of Art, an international group exhibition curated by Katerina Gregos, opened on the 16th February 2018 as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Estonian independence.
In recent years, fuelled by the mass migration of people fleeing war zones, authoritarian regimes, and political or environmental crisis, the alarming spectre of nationalism has returned to Europe, endangering European cohesion. As recent referenda have shown, Euroscepticism is dividing nations and even families. The inequalities that have transpired as a result of globalisation and the increasing cultural homogenisation that it has spurred, has caused people to yearn for a return to the seeming certainties—and the feeling of "belonging" to a specific nation or national community. The product is a paradoxical situation, resulting in a tension between rising nationalism in Europe and at its borders, and the reality of supranational institutions like the EU and their pan-European political visions, transnational perspectives, and cross-border economic agendas.
The State is not a Work of Art aimed to examine the problematics, contradictions, and fabricated ideologies underlying nation and nationalism in the constantly transforming European socio-political landscape. Offering a more nuanced view, beyond stereotypical definitions and polarized, simplistic narratives that divide the world into nationalistically driven binaries of "them" versus "us," the exhibition aims to highlight that these are highly intricate issues, with complex historical and socio-political roots. Defining nation has always been a tricky business; it is impossible to reduce "nationality" to a single dimension, and neither subjective nor objective definitions are satisfactory, as the nation and nationhood are constantly in flux, governed by ambiguity and subject to the elements of artefact, myth-making, and social engineering.
In today’s multicultural Europe, it is very difficult to formulate objective criteria for nationhood—since identity, language and ethnicity are increasingly shifting and fluid concepts. However, those who predicted the demise of the nation-state seem to have been proven wrong. Yet the 19th century model of the nation state—and its exclusive understanding of nationalism—are evidently problematic in view of a world vastly different from what it was 200 years ago. New models of community and belonging need to be found. How can we re-think the nation-state in light of today’s post-national realities? Can we imagine other models of social organisation and statehood that don’t require identification with a particular flag or passport? What other forms of belonging and community outside the nation-state might come into fruition? Can we or should we further the idea of an inclusive, civic nationalism? Can national sovereignty be reconciled with pluralism, an open society, and today’s networked, integrated globalised societies? The State is not a Work of Art brought together 24 artists (including 13 new commissions) who critically probe these questions from different perspectives, compelling us to look at them from unexpected angles.
The exhibition was organized by Tallinn Art Hall and took place at Tallinn Art Hall and its additional venues, the Art Hall Gallery and Tallinn City Gallery, as well as the nearby Vabaduse Gallery. The exhibition catalogue features texts by Katerina Gregos, Mark A. Jubulis, Ivar Sakk, Anthony D. Smith, Jonas Staal, and Marek Tamm, it was designed and published by Lugemik.
Exhibition catalogue designed by Lugemik
All images by Karel Kopliments