Goodbye, East! Goodbye Narcissus!



On April 14th, the new season of the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia will open with the international group exhibition Goodbye, East! Goodbye, Narcissus! curated by Tanel Rander. The exhibition brings together artists from Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

In response to the acute current political situation in Europe – influenced by the full-scale attack on Ukraine by Russia – the exhibition examines East Europe as a collective consciousness in which a co-dependent relationship with a narcissistic abuser takes place. Through the works of seven artists, the exhibition unfolds this problematic relationship, as well as the nature of the narcissistic constellation that defines it.

“The East European identity, which is based on just a short historical episode – the Soviet occupation – stops us from healing from traumas and hinders our mental development as a society,” says Rander. Already 34 years have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in less than 20 years, we will reach the point where Estonia’s independence will have lasted for as long as the occupation that is the base of our East European identity. The current war in Ukraine shows that the unresolved traumas of the past have started to reproduce and things we used to fear have become real. The first exhibition of EKKM’s new season confronts these fears and re-thinks our sense of belonging to the East, in order to say goodbye to an identity that keeps the past alive and doesn’t let it go. “East Europe as a collective identity is harmful to us, and it homogenises too huge a part of our planet,” adds Rander.

The crucial figure of this exhibition is a crystal vase with its controversial nature. Being simultaneously overwhelming and fragile, its pattern and structure can excellently symbolize the aforementioned constellation. Having been mass produced in the Soviet era, they can still be found in many East European homes. The exhibition comprises paintings, installations, and video works that are focused on symbols, figures, and archetypes of the East European collective consciousness. Besides crystals, also monuments and rituals of totalitarianism are examined, as they can be related with real destruction and danger since the escalation of war last year.

Finally, Goodbye, East! Goodbye, Narcissus! calls for re-contextualisation of the lettering “IDA” (“EAST” in Estonian) that was placed on EKKM’s roof and consequently camouflaged into the word “hol-IDA-y”. It was hoisted there in 2017 after the removal of “OST” (“EAST” in German) from the roof of Volksbühne theatre in Berlin. “IDA” is very likely the only symbol in the world that has been consciously put on a pedestal to celebrate East Europe. Amidst the current situation that demands Soviet monuments to fall, we should consider what to do with “the East” that is put on the pedestal as well as (self-)imposed on us as an identity.

On April 14th – the night of the opening – there will be a curator’s tour held at 5 pm in English together with participating artists.

On Sunday, April 16th at 2 pm there will be a curator’s tour in Estonian, followed by an artist talk in English.

Tanel Rander is Estonian artist, curator and art writer. He has always been interested in tensions between subjectivity and its external influences. Since 2010, his work has been focused on East European identity and decoloniality. During the latest years he has become interested in mental health, as well as therapeutic and reconcilable qualities of art. His last solo exhibition was “Angelus Novus” (2022) in Tallinn, Hobusepea Gallery.

Supporters: Estonian Ministry of Culture, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the City of Tallinn

Read the booklet accompanying the exhibition in three languages HERE.

In English

Tour with the curator and participating artists,

In Estonian

Tour with the curator,