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Dealing with ecological grief

TALLINN Interview with editor Annika Toots Autumn 2020

The latest issue of Estonian Art magazine was launched this month. I caught up with editor Annika Toots to talk about the launch and what people can expect from this issue.

What is Estonian Art? Estonian Art is a biannual magazine that is dedicated to art, architecture and design. It has been published by the Estonian Institute since 1997. How long have you been editor? Since 2019, I have been the editor of three issues: The Photography Issue (2/2019), The Archive Issue (1/2020) and The Anthropocene Issue (2/2020). Last week you held a launch for the latest issue at Kai center. Estonian Art has never been presented like that. Why the change? Yes, the magazine was launched at Kai Art Center. We had a panel discussion with Laura Kuusk, Peeter Laurits, Eike Eplik and Saskia Lillepuu on responsibility in the arts and ways of dealing with ecological grief. The launch at Kai Center was part of Kai’s public programme for the exhibition “Leviathan: the Paljassaare Chapter” by Shezad Dawood. In addition, in the new issue of the magazine, there is an interview with Kärt Ojavee on the future of textiles – her works are also presented at this exhibition.

The exhibition and the public programme are both dealing with the subject of ecological crises and other environmental issues, so it seemed quite fitting to combine these two. These are topics that are, and have been for a while, “in the air” in several different fields, also in the arts. For me it was important to touch upon the subject of ecological grief and loss, and I wanted to discuss that with some of the artists who have been passionate about ecological issues for a while now and have done a lot of research on this subject. As I’ve pointed out in the introduction in the magazine, ecological crisis has changed our perception of time – we have become aware of the deep pasts and the deep futures. And it has also changed our understanding of loss and grief, new terms such as “eco-anxiety”, “slow violence” (Nixon), “petromelancholia” (LeMenager), “solastalgia” (Albrecht), “terrafurie” (Albrecht), as well as “winter grief” and “snow grief” have been introduced to our vocabulary. These are new feelings of uncertainty and mourning that are connected to the environmental and climate changes. The panel discussion brought out some of the ways of dealing with this ecological grief and anxiety – one of them was to stay active, practice self-care and empathy towards oneself, others and the environment, and to involve the local community. Also, young people are quite aware of the ecological crisis and are always willing to take action – so there is also hope in that. It also came out that although art can be considered as “toxic waste” at times, it is also a powerful tool for creating alternative narratives, in the hope of a better future for us and the planet. Can you tell us about the new issue? The Anthropocene Issue focuses on the ecological crisis, on how it is represented in the arts and what kind of impact it has on the arts. There are texts by Hasso Krull and Peeter Laurits, as well as interviews and conversations with Kärt Ojavee, Saskia Lillepuu, Sandra Kosorotova, Laura Kuusk, and others. Linda Kaljundi’s visual essay brings out some of the key moments of the Anthropocene in the histories of Estonian visual culture; Laura Põld and Lou Sheppard have created a special poster for this issue which focuses on the toxicity of our desires and the case of the abandoned “zombie mines”; Merilin Talumaa has created a rather dark comparison between the burning Notre-Dame during another heat wave in Paris and the contaminated Baltic Sea; Laura Toots introduces the community garden project at EKKM; Inga Lace and Heidi Ballet compare their research notes on eco-nationalism in the Baltics. The main question in this issue is how can art address the destructive human impact on the environment, and how can it aid in dealing with the ecological grief? I enjoyed the interview with Latvian curator Šelda Pukita in the last issue, and especially that this was planned so that that issue would be out when the exhibition was open. I have not seen that kind of planning before in art publications in Estonia. Is this a direction you specifically want to take with EA? Of course it is important to stay relevant and plan ahead, so that it would be interesting to read these interviews and articles when the exhibitions are open. But this time, the pandemic also played a role, since everything was cancelled or postponed. The Anthropocene Issue also has articles on exhibitions that will happen in the future, in 2021 and even in 2023. Some of them had been postponed because of the Covid situation, but others are just bigger projects that have been in the making for some time now. Making an exhibition of any kind is always a long process that involves a lot of research, so it is good to follow this process and provide an output for different stages of the project. The tricky part is that sometimes the final result might be quite different from the initial plans. How can people access EA? Can they buy it in the shops? People can find Estonian Art magazine from Lugemik and Puänt, Kai Art Center and Kogo Gallery, as well as from the bookshops at Kumu and the Estonian Museum of Architecture. Also from ISSP Gallery in Riga, Latvia and Editorial project space in Vilnius, Lithuania. It can also be ordered online from the Estonian Institute’s home page as well as from here: http://ajakirjandus.ke.ee/eng/

Along with KUNST.EE, Estonian Art is a really great publication for anyone interested in the arts and culture in Estonia but who does not speak Estonian. KUNST.EE is published in Estonian and English, and Estonian Art is an English only magazine. Both are subscriptions that won't break your budget and you can be sure of having ample quality reading while also keeping up with what's cool and interesting in the arts in Estonia.


This interview was conducted by Michael Haagensen for Northeast. If you have enjoyed reading Northeast, please consider supporting us by donating the price of a coffee on Ko-fi

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