On Thursday evening, this year’s edition of the BOZAR Electronic Arts Festival in Brussels opened its doors with an opening exhibition by KUMU and Estonian artists. “The Archaeology of the Screen. The Estonian Example” is the start of a series of large international exhibitions, to continue in Rome and Paris.
The Estonian presence at the BOZAR culture center in the heart of the Belgian capital was originally planned for early 2018, where it would have opened at the beginning of Estonia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union.
After the United Kingdom’s referendum on leaving the EU, the schedule of the presidency changed. The Brits dropped out after the Brexit vote, Estonia had to take on the presidency half a year earlier than expected—and this affected the plans for the exhibition in Brussels as well.
“It meant that the exhibition of the presiding country wouldn’t happen, or then needed to be replaced with some quick and improvised thing,” curator Eha Komissarov told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera newscast. The improvisation worked, and “The Archaeology of the Screen. The Estonian Example” opened yesterday evening.
The exhibition project analyzes the relationship between art and the new media and is staged on the occasion of the Estonian EU presidency as well as the Estonian centenary in 2018.
With the exhibition BOZAR also opened its new wing dedicated to exhibitions on the topic of media art, BOZAR Lab.
According to the notes to the Estonian exhibition, the project tracks the development of media art in the country since 1991, a development that was defined among other things by the quickly-moving digital development and Estonia’s rise to one of the foremost digital states on the globe. At the same time, the development since the early 1990s also reflects the switch from the state-funded and state-controlled art scene of the Soviet Union to that of an open and democratic state.
As Komissarov explains, the exhibition is focused on digital media and shows the works of eight Estonian artists. “The result is a fantastic, intelligent, interesting, and varied display that probably couldn’t have been achieved with an exhibition of paintings,” Komissarov said.
The artists present with their work are Taavi Suisalu, Sigrid Viir, Paul Kuimet, Marge Monko, Ivar Veermäe, and Katja Novitskova.
The project’s coordinator in Brussels, BOZAR’s Frederik Vandewiel, told ERR that the Estonians were great to work with. “What I like a lot about Estonians is that if they say that something is going to be white, it will be white. They won’t say after three months that they would rather have something in pink. They’re very straightforward, and you can count on them,” Vandewiel said.
As KUMU’s director Kadi Polli says, 2017 is an unusual year for Estonian art, with large international exhibitions that haven’t been possible in this form in earlier years. BOZAR was the first of a line of exhibitions, with an exhibition of the work of painter Konrad Mägi in Rome to open in October, and an exhibition of symbolist works by Baltic artists to follow at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Editor: Dario Cavegn