By Anneliis Beadnell
When artist Jaanika Peerna was asked to create an exhibition for New York Estonian House’s annual Kultuuripäevad (Cultural Days) 2010 she was positive that the Estonian language was to be the muse of the exhibition. The question was how to get more artists, Estonians and non-Estonians, to interact on such an endeavor?
After several months of discussions (amongst Leevi Ernits, Jaanika and me) Latatara was born to break down the common functions of straight lingual translation through visual poetry.
This kind of art making lies within the tradition of the surrealists “exquisite corpse” and the later methods of Fluxus artists. It has also been the inspirational step in building semiotics of such great Estonian artists as Ülo Sooster and Tõnis Vint.
February 1, 2010 Latatara.org was launched as an online platform to house artists’ submissions in the categories of sight, sound and text. Jaanika Peerna and Leevi Ernits began the project with the creation of artworks that acted as a “trigger” of interpretation. They were a text work stating “Tihti taevas tähti nähti” along with a sound recording of Jaanika’s voice reading “Tihti taevas tähti nähti.” Then we held our breath wondering what was to happen, thinking that the participating artists may only be Estonian speakers and boy were we wrong.
American artist Robert Edelman was the first to post his work entitled, “Ma ei saa aru, kuid see kõlab hästi” and the chain of artworks began to roll in. At first artists reacted solely to the provided trigger, then artists began to start responding to one another. Dancer Jane Thornquist posted a video of herself performing to young American artist Umrux5’s re-mix of the original sound trigger. Artist (and dean at the Estonian Art Academy, Tallinn) Marko Mäetamm submitted an original text work “TÖÖ” that inspired further works by Eve Kask and Leevi Ernits. After Estonian artist Pille Õnnepalu posted her photography series “JA/YES, JÄÄ//ICE, JÄÄDAVALT/FOREVER” artist Bendel Hydes created his series “Seagods, flowering, forever” in response.
A total of thirty-two artists participated and all were represented at the first showing of the project at the New York Estonian House on March 27th. The works were displayed around the room, hung salon style in aesthetic groupings of works that communicated with one another. There was a listening station where visitors could listen to the sound submissions along with a video that looped all video submissions of the project. There was also a live performance by Jane Thornquist of her dance to Umrux5’s mix, and by musician David Rothenberg of his sound submission “Where was it?”
The mix of artist participants (both Estonian and American) gathered eclectic viewers packing the exhibition with children, students and the elderly. Many that had never been to the New York Estonian House before. There was a great energy to the event that left many Americans and Estonians wondering what was to become of Latatara and wanting more. Through the initial success of Latatara a gap was bridged for those Estonian artists working in Estonia and America and this was one of our hopes. It turns out the project unveiled more, that a door was opened between American and Estonian artists and another question became apparent, “Why isn’t there a space for Estonian artists to show their work in New York?” There is an eager audience for Contemporary Estonian artists and for now Latatara will continue to bridge that gap.
Latatara is founded partly by the Estonian Foundation for Arts and Letters and website hosting is sponsored by early-adopter.com. With your support Latatara can continue as a platform for inspiring exploration of the Estonian language and culture through artistic interpretation.