Art in General and Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia (CCAE) present an exhibition and performances by artists Merike Estna and Maria Metsalu, curated by CCAE Director Maria Arusoo. The performances are part of PERFORMA 17 and kick off Art in General’s International Collaboration exhibition, Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence.
Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence observes a shift taking place in the realm of our aesthetic and emotional sensibilities. The exhibition wonders if our over-consumption of virtual space and submission to the stress of competition and acceleration has provoked a deep mutation in the psychosphere, exploring the zombified body as a response to today’s evolving societal structures.
Today, individuals suffer under the duress of a continuously fractured and precarious landscape and—even more acutely—an understanding of the self. Looking particularly to the female perspective, the exhibition attempts to address this uncanny, post-accelerationist body in its new surroundings, questioning our state of turmoil, loneliness, and uncertainty surrounding the future.
Merike Estna’s works echo contemporary social concerns with allusions to the digital, the nostalgic, and a romantic reverence for the parts of human existence that are currently mutating, melting, and slipping away. Her performative paintings and multidimensional works—including textiles, rugs, and clothing—question the diminished value of traditional female labor. Estna’s performance Red Herring engages painting as a stage for human interaction.
Maria Metsalu’s sculpture and video deal with the politicization of sexuality and the millennial body. She confronts our current conditions by taking her own body as the epicenter of her work, turning it into a shimmer as sublimely dull as that on a screen. Her performance Mademoiselle X blurs relationships between self and structure in a time of technological advancement and sociopolitical uncertainty.
The artist-founded, Tallinn-based publisher Lugemik also presents a mini-bookshop within the exhibition, open during gallery hours. Lugemik provides a specially-curated selection of books for browsing and for sale that contextualizes the exhibition’s themes and provide a glimpse into the contemporary art scene in Estonia.
Merike Estna, born in 1980, is an Estonian artist whose work inscribes the vocabularies of painting onto scenery and stage design, inviting visitors to activate her artworks with artist-made drinks, snacks, and napkins. Her recent work questions the gendered separations of painting, craft discourses, and digital communication.
She graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Painting, and from Goldsmiths College, University of London with a Master’s degree in Fine Art Practice. Her work is featured in current and upcoming exhibitions at London Kunstraum; SIC Gallery in Helsinki, Finland; Karen Huber Gallery in Mexico City; and Kim? Riga.
Maria Metsalu, born in 1990, is an Estonian choreographer and performer. Her works express an ongoing interest in self-mythologization and autopoiesis via new, corporate technologies in an attempt to understand their unique terms of social exchange and transformation.
Metsalu graduated from SNDO (School for New Dance Development) in 2016, and is one of the founding members of international performance group Young Boy Dancing Group. Her work has been shown in Manifesta 11, Kunsthalle Vienna, Tallinn Art Hall, and the 2016 NU Performance Festival, Corporate Occult_let’s talk about the body baby in Tallinn, Estonia.
Art in General is a nonprofit contemporary art organization that assists artists with the production and presentation of new work. Founded in 1981 by artists, it has been a pioneering force unlike any other institution in New York City, supporting thousands of local and international artists early in their careers.
Alongside Art in General’s exhibition programs that take place in New York and internationally, its public programs and publications examine critical and timely issues in artistic and curatorial practice. Offering support that will have a lasting impact on artists remains the cornerstone of its vision and programs.