Point of View: In Between Identities

"Intervention in topical social and political issues is a common practice for many contemporary artists."

A WORK OF ART stemming from a private experience can also inspire debate on the public level. A case in point is After-War (2009) by the Estonian artist Kristina Norman. Its original impetus is Bronze Soldier, a statue the Estonian government decided to remove from its original location in the centre of Tallinn, a decision that led to rioting in the streets of the city.

THE BRONZE SOLDIER monument was erected in 1947 in commemoration of soldiers of the Red Army who had died in World War II. The statue signifies different things to Estonians and the Russian-speaking minority in the country. For most Estonians, it is a reminder of the period of Soviet occupation, repression and mass deportations, whereas for many Russians it symbolises victory over the Nazis.

CONSISTING OF a gilded plaster copy of the Bronze Soldier and documentary video and photographic material, the After-War installation explores the conflict, rituals and meanings associated with the statue. These, in turn, reflect issues of the past and present of the country, and of different cultures.

THE ARTIST SAYS that she has always found it difficult to place herself in either Estonian or Russian culture. For Norman, her identity lies between the two. In reality, cultural interaction and blending create new cultures and identities, and return to the original culture is not always possible.

THROUGH HER ARTWORK and writings, Norman highlights the social problems underlying the conflict around the statue. One of these is the status and rights of the Russian minority, in particular the fact that all Russians living permanently in Estonia did not automatically receive Estonian citizenship when the country regained its independence in 1991.

INTERVENTION in topical social and political issues is a common practice for many contemporary artists. The works do not necessarily present solutions, but instead use art to make draw attention to things. Broader issues are often reflected in particular and local topics.

AFTER-WAR gives us an opportunity to consider the situation, brought on by global migration, where such concepts as nation state, nationality or origins have come under reassessment. How to live in a multicultural society? Who has the right to citizenship? How is nationality or culture defined by ethnicity?

Pirkko Siitari, Museum Director

Norman's After-War will be on show on the second floor in Kiasma from 8 October 2010 to 6 February 2011.