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Both images: Kris Lemsalu, Birth V – Hi and Bye, 2019, installation view. Photo: Andrej Vasilenko. Courtesy Estonian Pavilion

Question 1. (Manca Bajec and Isobel Wohl) Ralph Rugoff writes that this year’s exhibition, entitled May You Live in Interesting Times,‘will no doubt include artworks that reflect upon precarious aspects of existence today, including different threats to key traditions, institutions and relationships of the “post-war order.”’ How do you feel that the work that you are presenting as part of your curated project responds to this set of concerns? (Or, for curators, how do the curatorial choices you have made respond to this set of concerns?)

Maria Arusoo: The Estonian Pavilion artist is selected through an open call held before the official theme is announced which is why we never select the project according to the general theme. However, Kris Lemsalu’s exhibition Birth V—Hi and Bye very much reflects upon precarious aspects of existence today. But her way of saying things is not directly political. It’s a more poetic cry for things that are lost, although the show in Venice also includes aspects of (re)birth that might be connected with the apocalyptic zeitgeist that has been in focus in the contemporary art scene for some years now.

Question 2. (MB and IW) What does it mean for you as an artist, a curator, or a curatorial team to represent your country? How does the structure of the Venice Biennial, with its individual national pavilions, influence your choices as a participant? What does it mean, in terms of the current state of European and world politics, for us to emphasise national representation in the arts sector?

Maria Arusoo: CCA has always seen the Estonian Pavilion as a platform for the artist, not so much a national representation. Of course, we are aware that in the end it is a national pavilion but the artist has always had absolute creative freedom. We have had wide variations of projects and interesting collaborations varying from very political ones to the poetical ones. I think that for small countries like Estonia the Venice Biennale offers a good opportunity to be present together with bigger countries. So in a way for us the national representation works pretty well, at least for now.

Question 3. (MB and IW) How do the choices you’ve made in your national pavilion relate to recent developments in your artistic or curatorial practice? What do you hope that your creative decisions in this project will contribute to your work going forward?

Maria Arusoo: CCA is the commissioner of the pavilion but never the curator. Still, Kris Lemsalu’s project has inspired us a lot when thinking of our programme and core values. The way Kris works, gathering together her friends, artists, musicians, writers and working very collectively, has also inspired CCA to focus more on the topic of collectiveness in our work. Especially in our turbulent political context, being more together, supporting each other, and letting others’ voices complement one another seems more important than ever.

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Manca Bajec is an artist and researcher living and working in London, UK and Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Isobel Wohl is a visual artist and writer. She lives and works in London, UK and Brooklyn, NY.


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