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"I have used the comparison of [---] perforated skin, which does not cover, hide or adorn but rather hints at the internal." – Reet Varblane answers Hedi Rosma's questions about Anu Põder, whose works have been included in "The Milk of Dreams", the main exhibition of the ongoing 59th International Venice Art Biennale. "Untold backstories: Anu Põder (1947–2013) and her posthumous rise to international fame" (KUNST.EE 3/2022)


View from the aeroplane window

Lilli-Krõõt Repnau (3/2021)

Lilli-Krõõt Repnau interviews Margit Säde.


9. VI–5. VII 2021
Hobusepea Gallery


Lilli-Krõõt Repnau (LKR): Margit, your solo exhibition "Zone d'attente" (2021) was one of the many that were pushed back a year during the pandemic. How much did you have to change your original idea and did anything change during that time?


Margit Säde (MS): I had been carrying around the idea of doing an art exhibition about flying for quite some time, because flying back and forth between Zurich and Tallinn I realized that I had to do something with the experience and the material I had accumulated over the years. The date of the exhibition was itself a sort of beacon and helped me tolerate the flying better as it was its own kind of fieldwork, where each flight could yield some image or emotion – a new direction in which to move.

In short, everything was constantly in flux. What definitely changed was the personal dimension that the exhibition took on. Dealing with my own anxiety and depression and placing it within the larger context – of the climate catastrophe and the automated individuality and functional loneliness of the pandemic.


LKR: But flying is not at all as given as it was just a few years ago?


MS: Actually, flying has not gone anywhere, it just became more difficult and bureaucratic. For quite a lot of people, depending on their background and destination, it has always been a difficult procedure. But now we too can feel for a moment what it is like to be unwelcome somewhere or to live with the uncertainty of whether you will be let in or out tomorrow. Some borders appeared and any sort of travel was equated with the utmost danger. At the same time during the pandemic airports were even more controlled and sterile than usual.


LKR: It seems to me that even though you use travel, commuting and flying as the material, you use them in a symbolic way.


MS: Yes, I'm sympathetic to art where the sensory, magical thinking and the intellectual, analytical thinking mix. I believe that images and visual thinking help the imagination find new and different connections.


LKR: In the accompanying text of the exhibition, you list the number of times you have taken off and allude to flying as a sort of closed system, a vacuum that in some ways reflects the feeling of limbo that characterises our time…


MS: If you constantly live in this atmosphere of progress, time, as Don DeLillo puts it well in his short novel "Cosmopolis" published in 2003, becomes a "corporate asset". It belongs in the free market system. It is harder to zero in on the present. It is pushed out of the world to make room for the future of uncontrollable markets and immense investment potential, writes DeLillo.1

The time-free zone of flying is a good device for getting across this sense of the present being on pause, of this vacuum. Whether it has to do with planes or with the human psyche, at some point we still have to find our way out of the clouds back onto the ground.




Margit Säde
Zone d’attente
Installation view at Hobusepea Gallery
Margit Säde
Courtesy of the artist




LKR: Looking at the exhibition, I thought about this condition, the waiting zone, and the desire to be in touch with my physical presence. In one of the videos downstairs, you were dancing at the airport...


MS: Dancing at sunset in a completely empty airport sounds quite clichéd, but when I think back to that moment, it was an immediate and very physical experience. When I saw the apocalyptic emptiness of these pandemic airports, it completely struck me physically like a "Palle Alone in the World"-effect, and the first reaction was to dance the completely alienated space closer to my body.


LKR: Conceptually, the Hobusepea Gallery was divided into two. While on the upper floor we saw painterly light installations reminiscent of shut aeroplane windows, then this was contrasted on the bottom floor with a dark installation room consisting of stalled electric scooters, where you combined found objects with personal videos. At times, downstairs it felt like you were observing yourself from outside yourself – and it was not exactly a comfortable feeling. Yet the cryptic videos balanced the aesthetic richness upstairs.


MS: The contrast of these rooms was very important to me. The top floor was sterile and mass-produced, and the images were taken with a smartphone, pixelated. At the same time, although I was showing these beautiful and painterly horizons and sunsets, I was not showing them for themselves. Rather, I was showing the ways in which we look and see in our time. Admiring the sight from an aeroplane window or a screen and sharing it on social media actually has a fairly large ecological footprint. Yet the aeroplane window installations made many guests exhale, "wow, how beautiful".

The downstairs, however, was inspired by long-term insomnia and the despair and anxiety caused by it. If a person does not sleep, they disassociate from themselves and begin to see themselves in third person. They look for themselves in reflections to make sure that their physical body still exists because the mind has dissolved somewhere in a place without dreams. Such a place is quite scary, an airport-like non-place, where you can't really wander for very long, the human psyche simply can't withstand such pressure. Then you can go up the stairs again and find the horizon or find your bearings and start sleeping and dreaming again.

In short, these were precisely the two opposite poles of the waiting zone, zone d'attente, of the exhibition. One could not be without the other.


LKR: How conscious are you of the ecological footprint of flying?2


MS: I tried not to moralise about the climate catastrophe, but on the bottom floor I still allowed myself some heartache over it. The question I threw up: how can we still live in luxury "in the air" like this and fly to the tune of saccharine boarding music when the planet is being destroyed before our eyes?

On the other hand, these contradictions are very human. A person is also born into the world as if healthy and behaves in a self-destructive way for a large part of their life. Here I loop back to anxiety and depression, to that place without dreams...

I see it as a phase that can be overcome with creative work and dreaming. I definitely don't want to romanticise air travel as such, but I cannot resist it if a digitised sunset is enough to evoke some sort of recognition and positive emotion in us.


LKR: How important is it for you to define yourself as an artist or a curator?


MS: Actually, the issue of identifying as an artist or curator is not a very important question for me, but I guess it must be for others since it constantly comes up. In a sense, it is easier for everyone, both the audience and the providers of finance, to have the roles in place. But I have always thought that I work with different formats and if there are not enough of them, I have to create more of them myself. In that sense, I am more in favour of amateurish initiative and curiosity than excessive professionalism.

Of course, there is a danger of becoming too diluted by working precariously like this, and at some point the individual should decide which iron to keep in the fire. At the moment, I don't yet know how to think that way, and I continue to look for different options.


1 See Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis. New York: Scribner, 2003.

2 See also Johanna Jolen Kuzmenko, Lendamine – rutiin või unelm? – Sirp 2. VII 2021.


Margit Säde is a curator, art worker, producer, publisher and artist working in Tallinn and Zurich. In 2017–2020, she worked as the head of the curriculum of the master's programme in contemporary art and as an associate professor at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

Lilli-Krõõt Repnau is a graphic artist who, among other things, also edits the online performing arts magazine, Magasin, illustrates books and articles for the online publication Feministeerium.

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