Seminar: Eastern European art as Difficult Knowledge

Seminar in EKKM (Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia), May 17th, 3pm – 7pm.

Participants: Eleonore de Montesquiou, Liisa Kaljula, Sezgin Boynik, Solvita Krese.

Moderators: Margaret Tali and Tanel Rander.

The presentations and discussion will be held in English.

Departing from the book “Archives and Disobedience. Changing Tactics of Visual Culture in Eastern Europe”, the seminar will take some of its strands of thinking further and focus on Eastern European art and the idea of ‘difficult knowledge’. Difficult knowledge is confrontational knowing called about by images or facts which are difficult to place, and which can leave us with feelings of confusion, disorientation, an unknowing about how to go on. The concept originates from the work of Canadian education scholar and museologist Roger I. Simon and has been later developed by several scholars.

Eleonore de Montesquiou will share her new project in process realized about and with the refugees who are currently interned in Estonia. She will discuss the ways the border between Estonia and Russia has remained a crucial point for many people, and draw parallels with the way it has been crossed during the past century by those fleeing the Soviet Russia.

Solvita Krese will discuss the heritage of George Soros in the Eastern European contemporary art by focusing on the context of Latvia and the way it presents a difficult knowledge for the art field. How could one approach the Soros archives critically?

Sezgin Boynik will speak about his book “Nationalism and Contemporary Art: Critical Reader” (2007) co-edited with Minna Henriksson, its context and inspirations. This reader aimed to problematize how contemporary art contributed to nationalistic ideologies. He will also discuss the role of exhibitions representing the Balkans in the wake of the 2000s and the way they have contributed to understanding art.

Liisa Kaljula will discuss her experiences of her 3-months research stay at the Norton and Nancy Dodge’s collection in New Jersey, an outstanding collection of Eastern European art which was taken out from the Soviet Union piece by piece. She sees the collection as inspiring and despairing at the same time.

The seminar has been supported by Estonian Culture Endowment and MTÜ Sada Paplit.

Sezgin Boynik, originally from Kosovo, based in Helsinki is a theoretician who published extensively on cultural nationalism, conceptual art, punk, and experimental film. He is editor of Rab-Rab: journal for political and formal inquiries in art.

Eléonore de Montesquiou is a French and Estonian filmmaker. Her work is based on a documentary approach and deals mainly with issues of integration and immigration, work, and women’s issues. She works with video and often tackles the intricacies and ambiguities of living in the margins, based on her personal experience of up rootedness.

Solvita Krese is an art curator and critic based in Riga. Since 2000 she is the director of Latvian Centre for Contemporary Arts. She has been the initiator of several important international research projects and exhibitions. Her most recent curated projects include ”Identity. Behind the curtain of uncertainty” (2016) National Gallery of Ukraine, Kiev; festival “Acupuncture of Society” (2016) in Riga and “Telling tales” (2014) that was also exhibited in Kumu.

Liisa Kaljula is a Tallinn based art historian and curator working at the Art Museum of Estonia. Her interests focus on art of the after war period and she is currently working on her PhD on East European Sots art network at Tallinn University.

Tanel Rander is artist and curator, who has done conceptual work mostly on geopolitical subjectivity in Eastern Europe and is currently focused on research on borders in Valga/Valka.

Margaret Tali is a Rotterdam based Estonian art theoretic and curator, who is currently finishing her book “Absence and Difficult Knowledge in Contemporary Art Museums” that focuses on collecting contemporary art in Eastern Europe.