Post-apocalypse or nursery musings?
TALLINN 25 November – 14 December Hobusepea Gallery
Enter Britta Benno’s solo exhibition Ruinenlust: Lasnamägi at Hobusepea Gallery, and in a sense, you enter a different world. This exhibition follows on from Benno’s show at the Art Hall Gallery called Dystopian Tallinn, where she presented images of Tallinn in some distant post-apocalyptic future. The city, largely under water, has been reclaimed by the natural world using what the human species, now departed, had left behind.
In Ruinenlust, Benno again takes us to a world that only contains vestiges of the material remains of human civilisation. The walls on the ground floor have framed etchings of an overgrown version of Lasnamägi populated by a futuristic menagerie of hybrid creatures – are they pre or post-historic?
In the basement level you can take a seat and don 3-D glasses to watch video vignettes of the future life of Lasnamägi, complete with animated plasticene or rubber models of the creatures from the etchings upstairs. There is no narrative here, no beginning, middle or end (apart from the opening slide that indicates the video is starting again), they are just short clips spliced together and fading to black between each one. Charming and cute is the best way to describe these short episodes as we witness what read like toy dinosaurs as they stretch their tiny wings or crane their necks before lumbering out of frame or leaping off a ruined parapet to glide across to another ruined tower block, as if from cliff to cliff across a valley.
The rest of the exhibition is made up of the evidence of the process of producing both the etchings upstairs and the video in the basement. Upstairs we see portions of the set for the video along with the cute dinosaur models. A table downstairs has the copper plates used to produce the etchings and the plaster moulds used in creating the stars of the video all arranged like museum exhibits, as if this – the video and the etchings – were discovered by chance by some future explorer and like some scientific discovery, the final results and the objects used to create them are displayed as curios.
As hinted, the stars of the show are undoubtedly the cute hybrid dinosaurs, and it is their presence that gives the entire show a sense of fun, or playfulness, of a playroom in the nursery. This is a show that since it is dealing with a post-historical view, a dystopian future, we expect there to be a darkness, a foreboding, a bleak sense of the terror that awaits us, of what brought on our ultimate demise, but there is virtually nothing like that. Instead, what we are left with as we step back on to the street, is a light, playful, neutral view; one assembled by a visitor (to earth) with no interest in what happened to the human race. For me this apparent lack of interest in the fate of the human race provides an ever so subtle but necessary edge, something to mull over.
As a post-script or conclusion, if before you do step back out onto the street, you happen to read the exhibition text, you will find that there is also a fable to support the show. A fable that describes how someone or something wakes up after a post-lunch sleep (also supporting the childish elements of the exhibition, since only the young and very old tend to have a nap after lunch) to find they are or have become one of the creatures, the stars of the show.
Ruinenlust: Lasnamägi is on until 14 December
2 Hobusepea Street, Tallinn
Wed – Mon 11.00 – 18.00
Musings by Michael Haagensen
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