est eng 2024/1 international special pages! See: Nils Ohlsen "Konrad Mägi and Die Brücke at the Baltic Sea – just a coincidence or a phenomenon?"


Dialogues with feminist sensitivity: connecting past and future

Anita Kodanik (1/2024)

Anita Kodanik reflects on the group exhibition of Baltic artists "Swirling, Twirling, Spinning" curated by Merilin Talumaa.


"Swirling, Twirling, Spinning" stands as a delicate tribute to ancient and future goddesses, archaeology, ethnology, and Marija Gimbutas (1921–1994), the Lithuanian American archaeologist and anthropologist best known for her studies of Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures in "Old Europe".

At first glance through the window of Draakon Gallery (or nowadays, via Instagram stories), the group exhibition of work by Daria Melnikova, Helena Keskküla, Marge Monko and Viktorija DaniliauskaitÄ— does not leave a particularly spectacular impression. Small laconic pieces, abundant text and monotonous video give rise to the suspicion that this is just another distant and scholarly exhibition where the artists hesitate to propose new ideas, remaining aloof in their interdisciplinary approach, detached from both art and research.

However, these apprehensions dissipate when we experience the exhibition in person. If the exhibition fails to compete with the rapid pace and intense sensory experiences of contemporary life, this is precisely because it invites us to contemplate a more tranquil existence and reconsider our contemporary lifestyles.

Keskküla's stone nests on metal limbs, adorned with seeds and eggs; DaniliauskaitÄ—'s linocuts depicting birds, waves, circles and other symbols; Melnikova's mystical signs on mystical material in glazed frames; Monko's mock-vintage posters featuring storks and feminine reproductive imagery.

Together, these evoke certain sensitivities not typically found in galleries presenting contemporary art but rather reminiscent of museums of history or archaeology. Most likely, both my grandmother and I would see something similar in these symbols, even though neither of us could precisely decipher them. Perhaps, then, this exhibition has a layer that is more visible to female viewers. So let's discuss feminist sensitivity, before getting carried away with a critique of gynocentrism or essentialist feminism.

Not every feminist exhibition embodies a feminist sensitivity. The exhibition space here did, however, as its primary task was not to point out the shortcomings of today's patriarchal society and lifestyles but to reveal within existing historical and archaic material resources we are not accustomed to seeing there. "Swirling, Twirling, Spinning" is an example of excellent collaboration between artists and curator, resulting in a space that was both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating.

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