MEIE | US in Draakon Gallery, Tallinn 14-26.03.2011

The exhibition was performed with another Estonian artist, Tanja Muravskaja.
Together we displayed eight video screens.


This exhibition observes the need (or in some cases indifference) to identify oneself to a certain national group. How do we get manipulated to construct a feeling of “us”? What are the different variations of this “us” and possible alternatives?

This topic intrigues me because of highly charged emotional and contradicting dilemmas. The conflicts are not only external but internal as well. Intellect can speak of one thing and emotion another. It is a clear example of a theme, where personal and political meet.

Estonia has an interesting background related to the topic: besides to the governmental interest to create and maintain a loyal and homogeneous nation, there are obviously some tensions among different ethnic communities that contribute to amplification of the sense of belonging to certain national groups in tense situations. On the other hand, as ideology of any power system have some common characteristics, it makes it possible to identify, despite ethnicity, and therefore connect those people, who otherwise would not feel any attachment to fellow citizens or compatriots.

I have collected footage since 2007 from different mainstream national events (parades, song festivals, etc.), expeditions to Estonia and Russia, interviews with the people who are in some senses on the borderline. In this exhibition, I am mostly dealing with cases where identifying oneself does not happen expectedly through ethnic belonging but rather through familiar ceremonies (parades), and objects (monuments, etc.) for example, the videos included in this exhibition “Long Live” and “Alyosha”. In a way, nationality proved to be secondary, raising the issue of belonging as universal.

I am more interested in identifying with national ideology in general than in certain models of Estonianness or “typical” Estonian or Russian chauvinists. I am concerned with the psychological and subjective side of the ideology: how does an individual perceive it? My aim is to highlight connectedness and tensions between a subject and the ideology. To a certain extent, it is a topic of human freedom or rather compulsion to choose the “right identity”. My own position is empathetic, rather than uncompromisingly critical, taking into account the complexity of the phenomenon.

In this exhibition I displayed five videos:

1) The Place of Dreams (12:16)
The video explores national identity as conscious and meaningful choice made by the subject. What are the needs behind this identity? The video is about an Estonian-origin young man, living in Russia, who dreams about coming to his “historical fatherland”, learn Estonian and integrate to the society. I followed how he fulfilled his dream. The footage is shot in Tver oblast, Russia (2008) and later in Estonia (2009 and 2011).


2) Long Live! (3:27)
A Russian-origin grandmother and her grandchild are watching Estonian defence forces parade in the Independence Day. Grandmother gives some tips and explanations to the child. She is always enjoying parades, regardless of the time and power.

3) Alyosha (1:17)
The video combines footage of two Alyoshas: the Bronze Soldier and a little Russian-origin boy from the Estonian Independence Day parade, following his Russian speaking parents advise to salute to the Estonian Republic.


4) The Last Estonian (3:20)
We were looking for “the last living Estonian” in a Russian village, which was formerly entirely inhabited by Estonians. This video contrasts our expectations about our host “Estonianness” and our informant’s indifference to the topic.

5) I Remember (1:54)
In this video I use the footage from Estonian and Russian commemoration events. They obviously have ideological significance and visual peculiarities; however, some human intersections as well.