The first Tallinn Biennial kicks off on 2 July and aims to fill the gap, geographically and institutionally, between the Kaunas, Riga and Helsinki Biennials. Tallinn Biennial will attract international attention to the local scene, present the work of artists to a broader public and through a curatorial standpoint will speak of issues relevant for today.
The Tallinn Biennial has grown out of Tallinn Art Week, which will continue to accompany the biennial by taking place outside the capital in alternate years. Andra Orn, the head organiser of the biennial, says that unlike the festival style art week format, the biennial has a more in-depth approach and will be more comprehensive. “The biennial will offer locals, and hopefully in the future an international audience, the opportunity to see and experience the latest in Nordic and Baltic contemporary art, and over a longer period of time. This international biennial will put Tallinn on the map for art professionals and the public, and will help find new opportunities for Estonian artists and new collaborative projects for local creative institutions,” explains Orn about the importance of the biennial.
Within the framework of this year’s theme–Global language–a universal system of communication is sought, through which we could freely communicate regardless of gender, race, background, education and religion, within the paradoxical situation where we are increasingly closer to one another, yet moving further apart. A global language could create a platform for understanding and offer solutions to common global challenges that are more acute than ever before. The biennial proposes that this language could be art and culture, and asks what we are likely to gain or lose if it were applied.
“Language and cultural identity are the threads that hold humanity together. Many of these have become stretched, torn apart, woven together or have completely disappeared,” explains organiser Andra Orn regarding her curatorial position. “How can we find a common understanding that reflects reality today and helps us adjust to the rapid changes? Is there a universal language that would help us understand the different notions and support one another? Can we face global challenges without a common language?” she asks.
Tallinn Biennial will take place this year from 2–30 July. The programme covering almost a whole month will include many exceptional art events, exhibition tours and performances. The traditional Tallinn Art Week events will take place during the opening week of the biennial. “The summer’s great art event takes the art public into the world of the creative underground, where experimentation and seeking ways of expression are more important than opposition to mainstream norms and expectations,” says Orn. “We hope to reveal more precise news about the programme fairly soon. The programme will certainly include the open air art event on Vabaduse väljak, tours of galleries and exhibition halls, meetings with artists and much more” she added. The programme will be continually updated on the homepage.
The main organisers of the biennial are Andra Orn and Kelli Turmann of the Nordic Baltic Art Center NOBA MTÜ. The main sponsors of the art event are NOAR.eu, Solaris and Ülemiste City.
Tallinn Biennale will open with grand exhibition with street artist
Tallinn Biennale, which will take place for the first time, will open in the Estonian capital on 2 July with a major exhibition by street artist Edward von Lõngus titled “Doomsday Cathedral”.
The exhibition will take place in Ülemiste City, a technology hub built on the edge of a Soviet-era industrial district, which is a sight in itself. Unlike many major events cancelled this summer, the Biennale’s main exhibition and numerous other events will be physically open and it is possible to come to Estonia to enjoy them from many countries without having to go through quarantine.
“The Estonian art landscape is varied and diverse, in addition to the multiplicity of different approaches, galleries and exhibitions, lively and playful street art is also represented here. Street art is often site-specific and characteristic of urban culture and is more visible in the larger cities, such as Tallinn and Tartu”, so says the official introduction to the art scene by the Estonian Tourist Information Office. “Being generally anonymous, but masterfully executed and realized in cleverly selected locations, it can offer visitors a genuine local experience. However, we can never be certain that the work will exist in the same place or in the same form the next day.”
Audiences abroad experienced the work of Edward von Lõngus, a key figure in local street art, three years ago when Estonia held the EU presidency and his graffiti series, inspired by Danse Macabre – a painting in the church of St Nicholas in Tallinn by the late medieval German master Bernt Notke – was presented invarious cities across Europe. The same motif is being developed this time for the “Doomsday Cathedral”,where the work will take on formidable dimensions extending to 25 square metres on steel plates weighing more than half a tonne and hanging only on metal wires from the ceiling. The new work in the exhibition is Lõngus’ remix of the frescoes of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel depicting the Last Judgment. The effect is both spectacular and sacral, while instead of displaying the saints entering heaven, it is more reminiscent of the work “Hell” by the legendary Estonian graphic artist Eduard Wiiralt.
“It’s easy to relate to Lõngus’ work–his stencilled street art has the same effect as the memes of the virtual world we are so familiar with. Lõngus is known for his playfulness, although over the years he has become increasingly serious and critical of society,” says Andra Orn, chief organizer of the biennale, discussing the work of an artist who is not yet broadly identified to the public.
“Doomsday Cathedral” is certainly no ordinary exhibition, but a unique experience–on entering the space, guests will be confronted by a capital-centric world, where death and destruction are seen as entertainment. “The environment of the exhibition is also worth highlighting. The main exhibition takes place in a factory built in 1899, which produced equipment for nuclear power plants, scaling the growing need for energy and consumption on the one hand, and life and safety on the other. The timing is also relevant – the world has been through a lot this spring, and Lõngus’ end of the world images have arrived in a new and painful situation in every sense. Are the seconds till the end of the world ticking even faster now?” asks Orn.
The main exhibition in Ülemiste City (10 Sepapaja tänav, Tallinn, Estonia) can be visited either by joining a guided tour in English or with a regular ticket, which can be purchased through the Piletilevi sales system (piletilevi.ee) or at the exhibition venue. Citizens of Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland can all travel to Estonia without the 14-day quarantine obligation, as announced by Estonian National Broadcasting. The list of countries is reviewed once a week and may be updated.