A beautiful spring day in Tallinn

Tallinn is the capital city of the small country Estonia (1,3 million citizens). What i didn’t fully comprehend (until now) is the fact that Estonia is even younger than I am, only 23 years have passed since the collapse of the wall. The influence of the Soviet Union is still visible and the artscene is taking babysteps in developing new art, exploring new techniques and reforming art education. The housing and facilities of the arts are poor to say the least.

The enthousiasm and DIY attitude of the young artists are truely inspiring; they are fresh, vibrant and cool. The Estonia Graphic Design department, Rundum and EKKM are taking giant steps in putting Estonia on the artistic map.

We talked to Mikk Heinsoo, teacher at the Estonian Art Academy. There is a thriving market for graphic designers in Estonia. More than half of the graduated designers has a job within a few months. The department is very popular in Estonia and abroad, and very in tune with the current situation in design. “We don’t always follow the rules (of the academy) because we want teachers who are currently working in the field. Its a very dynamic time”, according to Mick. Two of these teachers, Carl-Robert Kagge and Kert Obi Viiart, launched LE 60 in 2012, a graphic design and illustration duo. They are collaborating with Rundum. Rundum – initiated in spring 2013 – is run by artists Mari-Leen Kiipli, Kulla Laas, Aap Tepper, Mari Volens and Kristina Õllek.

Rundum is a German term for all around (“rondom” in Dutch). They all graduated less than a year ago and their initiative, one of the two existing artist-run spaces in Estonia (other space: Nancy Nakamura) has a growing visual identity. They experiment with different exhibition models like Shoecase, an exhibition space in a display-case style of a box. It’s mobile and flexible both in terms of location and the participating artists, the last showcase was in a lighthouse, made by ats parve, in september of this year.

They choose young and not established artists and they organise events, lectures, artists talks and chain exhibitions. In a year they organise at least 70 events, a huge amount, certainly considering the fact that they make no money whatsoever. Rundum is more a way of thinking than an actual, static, art space and pioneering in everything they undertake in their young country.

EKKM is a exhibition space – started in a loading dock of an old boiler house in 2007 – combined with a bookshop called Lugemik. Raul Keller, the current artist, transformed the space into a dark, sound-art based experience extraordinaire. His solo exhibition What You Hear Is What You Get (Mostly) focuses on sound as a physical phenomenon in a site-specific, spatial context. The combination of sound, vibrating semi-abstract objects and the use of light is desorientating, raw and at certain points mindblowing. Compliments to EKKM for hosting this contemporary Estonian sound artist. They also have a bookshop with artist books and magazines, focused on new media, art theory and other disciplines in the cultural spectrum.

We have only spent a day in Tallinn in the fall, but it felt like spring, with excited youngsters and a thriving artscene. Hopefully it will turn into a beautiful summer with better facilities, more money and international attention in the art field.