Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence
Art in General and Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia (CCAE) present an exhibition and performances by artists Merike Estna and Maria Metsalu, curated by CCAE Director Maria Arusoo. The performances are part of PERFORMA 17 and kick off Art in General’s International Collaboration exhibition, Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence.
Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence observes a shift taking place in the realm of our aesthetic and emotional sensibilities. The exhibition wonders if our over-consumption of virtual space and submission to the stress of competition and acceleration has provoked a deep mutation in the psychosphere, exploring the zombified body as a response to today’s evolving societal structures.
Today, individuals suffer under the duress of a continuously fractured and precarious landscape and—even more acutely—an understanding of the self. Looking particularly to the female perspective, the exhibition attempts to address this uncanny, post-accelerationist body in its new surroundings, questioning our state of turmoil, loneliness, and uncertainty surrounding the future.
Merike Estna’s works echo contemporary social concerns with allusions to the digital, the nostalgic, and a romantic reverence for the parts of human existence that are currently mutating, melting, and slipping away. Her performative paintings and multidimensional works—including textiles, curtains, and clothing—question the diminished value of traditional female labor. Estna’s performance Red Herring engages painting as a stage for human interaction.
Maria Metsalu’s sculpture and video deal with the politicization of sexuality and the millennial body. She confronts our current conditions by taking her own body as the epicenter of her work, turning it into a shimmer as sublimely dull as that on a screen. Her performance Mademoiselle X blurs relationships between self and structure in a time of technological advancement and sociopolitical uncertainty.
The artist-founded, Tallinn-based publisher Lugemik also presents a mini-bookshop within the exhibition, open during gallery hours. Lugemik provides a specially-curated selection of books for browsing and for sale that contextualize the exhibition’s themes and provide a glimpse into the contemporary art scene in Estonia.
Merike Estna, born in 1980, is an Estonian artist whose work inscribes the vocabularies of painting onto scenery and stage design, inviting visitors to activate her artworks with artist-made drinks, snacks, and napkins. Her recent work questions the gendered separations of painting, craft discourses, and digital communication. She graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Painting, and from Goldsmiths College, University of London with a Master’s degree in Fine Art Practice. Her work is featured in current and upcoming exhibitions at London Kunstraum; SIC Gallery in Helsinki, Finland; Karen Huber Gallery in Mexico City; and Kim? Riga. www.genialmythcraft.com
Maria Metsalu, born in 1990, is an Estonian choreographer and performer. Her works express an ongoing interest in self-mythologization and autopoiesis via new, corporate technologies in an attempt to understand their unique terms of social exchange and transformation. Metsalu graduated from SNDO (School for New Dance Development) in 2016, and is one of the founding members of international performance group Young Boy Dancing Group. Her work has been shown in Manifesta 11, Kunsthalle Vienna, Tallinn Art Hall, and the 2016 NU Performance Festival, Corporate Occult_let’s talk about the body baby in Tallinn, Estonia. www.maria.metsalu.com
Maria Arusoo, born in 1983, is an Estonian curator and director of the Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia. Since 2013 she has been the Commissioner for the Estonian Pavilion at Venice Biennial, executing large-scale commissions by Dénes Farkas and Adam Budak (2013), Jaanus Samma and Eugenio Viola (2015) and Katja Novitskova and Kati Ilves (2017). Recent independent curatorial projects include: CORPORATE OCCULT, let’s talk about the body baby, NU Performance (2016), which presented works by international artists that dealt with contemporary issues surrounding gender and the body; Art in the Era of Digital Capitalism (2016), a conference considering the tendencies of acceleration and post-2011 institutional alternatives, which included Franco Bifo Beradi as its keynote speaker; and numerous others.
Lugemik is an independent publishing initiative based in Tallinn, Estonia, founded in 2010 by graphic designer Indrek Sirkel and artist Anu Vahtra. Lugemik publishes books and other printed matter, working closely together with artists, writers, designers, and printers in every step of the publishing process. In 2013 Lugemik opened a bookshop on the premises of the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM) and in 2017 its second location in collaboration with Tallinn Art Hall. www.lugemik.ee
Art in General is a nonprofit contemporary art organization that assists artists with the production and presentation of new work. Founded in 1981 by artists, it has been a pioneering force unlike any other institution in New York City, supporting thousands of local and international artists early in their careers. Alongside Art in General’s exhibition programs that take place in New York and internationally, its public programs and publications examine critical and timely issues in artistic and curatorial practice. Offering support that will have a lasting impact on artists remains the cornerstone of its vision and programs.
Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia (CCAE), founded in 1992, is a non-profit expert institution in international cooperation projects with a role to activate and develop Estonian contemporary art scene, conceptualizing current tendencies of visual culture and participating in a critical dialogue in society. CCAE is organizing international exhibitions, conferences, artist talks, lecture series and curatorial visits, publishes catalogues and online editorial, collecting and distributing information about Estonain contemporary art scene and has extensive video archive since 1990s giving great overview of past two decades. Since 1999 CCAE is the commissioner of the Estonian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and since 2016 co-commissioner of Baltic Triennial. CCAE works on collaborative projects both with local and international partners. To get an overview of our most recent activities, visit our website: www.cca.ee.
General Support of Art in General is provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the Toby D. Lewis Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, The Cowles Charitable Trust; and by individuals. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
The International Collaborations Program is supported by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, FUTURA, the International Visegrad Fund, The Asian Cultural Council, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, and Kanuti Gildi SAAL. Support has also been provided by: Commissioners’ Circle leaders Elaine Goldman, Richard Massey, Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters John and Andrea Nylund and David Solo; and Commissioners’ Circle members Nader Ansary, Rob Colangelo, Don Erenberg, Roya Khadjavi-Heidari, Mary Lapides, Eric Nylund, Leslie Ruff, Steve Shane, and Diana Wege.
Special Project Support by Maaike Gouwenberg, Roya Khadjavi, Anu Vahtra, and PERFORMA 17.
CCAE Thanks Antonio Trecel Diaz, Priit Raud, Eneli Järs, Kanuti Gildi SAAL, Kaarin Kivirähk, Sten Ojavee, Marika Agu, Kadi Kesküla, Temnikova & Kasela gallery, Olga Temnikova, Kunstraum, Thomas Cuckle, Juste Kostikovaite, Lxo Cohen, Johnston Sheard, Paula lopez Zambrano, Karin Laansoo, Kadri Laas, Karen Huber gallery, Karen Huber, Octavio Avendano Trujillo, Lilian Hiob, Merilin Talumaa, Eha Komissarov, Kati Ilves, Ana Cardoso, Rupert, Juste Jonutyte, Adomas Narkevičius, Maximilian Gallo, Mariell Paala, Aime and Priit Estna, Nikola Kneževic, Young boy dancing group, Annina Machaz, SPARK Makerlab, and Sobarzo de Larraechea.
Friday, November 17, 7–9pm
Maria Metsalu, Mademoiselle X
Find more information on the performances here.
November 21–January 13
Open inside the exhibition during gallery hours