Kunsthalle Tallinn & Gallery of Kunsthalle
December 22, 2009 – January 31, 2010
Exhibition opening: MONDAY, December 21 at 6 pm
Performing at the opening: Paul Cole & The Great Outdoors!!!
Artists: Art Center for Dismissed Employees, Francis Alÿs, Fahim Amir & Krõõt Juurak, Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler, Dénes Farkas, Vladan Jeremić & Rena Rädle, Johnson ja Johnson, Olga Jürgenson, Kennedy Browne, Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta, Marge Monko, Eléonore de Montesquiou , Santiago Sierra
Curator: Anders Härm
Give me a job, give me security
give me a chance to survive
I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line
my god, I’m hardly alive
Styx, “Blue-Collar Man” (Long Nights), 1977
The direct and most immediate motivation for this exhibition is the new “more flexible” Employment Contracts Act that came into force on July 1st of this year, and the disputes revolving around it for the past two years. In the middle of November, the number of unemployed in the country with 1.3 million inhabitants rose above 100,000. At the same time, this law is a result of large-scale global processes, a symptom of systemic global neoliberalization. These processes, which have lasted for the last half century and are the focus of this exhibition, have resulted in changes in work relations, the nature of production and salaried labor as well as the economy as a whole. Labor issues affect everyone – if only indirectly – and therefore a direct relationship exists with them (as opposed to global cash flow movements or the real estate bubble related thereto). This is a topic in which class conflict break through the post-political haze and is articulated fervently, quite uncharacteristically of the administrative-political era. This is also occurring with increasing momentum in Estonia, where we are slowly overcoming the post-Soviet false shame related to trade unions, workers’ rights, etc. The time is ripe to talk about these topics! It’s time for Blue-Collar Blues.
Through symbolic gestures, direct actions, as well as relational projects, the Blue-Collar Blues exhibition attempts to give meaning to labor issues at a time that can rightfully be called global capitalism’s greatest crisis. In the course of 20 years, we have become aware that we live in a world where attempts at governance are based on a combination of global “free market” dictatorship and neoliberalism as the only possible philosophy of life, where democracy has just become a hollow colloquial phrase. This is a world, where, on the one hand, a fatal end is predicted for work, while an attempt is being made to show the uncertainty and instability of the labor market as a positive challenge. This is a world where initiative and business are equated. Creativity is one of the favorite expressions of this new mutation of capitalism, which is required under conditions where any and all creativity is precluded. This is a world where every employment relationship may develop into something resembling slavery. This is capitalism without part-time work opportunities or social guarantees, where the employer’s expenditures for the workers are minimal, while the profits are maximal. This is a world that, despite resounding slogans and promises, has arrived at the most serious crisis of its existence.
Since labor issues are universal in some sense, being densely integrated under conditions of globalization, the geographic range of this exhibition is also broad, reaching from Latin America to Eastern Europe and from the Balkans to the Nordic countries. Naturally, those participating in the exhibition include great international names like Francis Alÿs and Santiago Sierra, Oliver Ressler and Kennedy Browne, as well as a large number of younger Estonian artists, whose works deal with these topics. All the Estonian artists are producing new works especially for this exhibition, which are motivated by local issues. The exhibition’s focus is on labor relations, the psychological and social changes caused by the changes in these relations, and the more general situation of workers under conditions of neoliberal capitalism.
Several additional events will also take place at the Kunsthalle during the exhibition. On Saturday, January 16th at 9 pm, a performance by Krõõt Juurak and Fahim Amir, entitled Autodomestication, will take place, which deals with the situation of “creative workers” in the labor market. Since Estonian trade unions, politicians and social scientists are involved in the exhibition project, in order to try and better understand labor issues, a seminar entitled “The Position of the Citizens in Labor Relations” will take place at the Kunsthalle on Friday, January 22nd at 12 noon. The main participants are political scientist Oudekki Loone and sociologist Marju Lauristin. The panelists include Harri Taliga, Tarmo Kriis, Eiki Nestor, Raul Eamets, Allar Jõks, and others. Within the framework of the exhibition, another event in the Porotfolio Café series will take on Saturday, January 30th at 12 noon, in which art students will be offered free consultations and feedback from international curators, and some of the artists that are participating in the exhibitions, such as Eleonore de Montesquiou, Tellervo and Oliver Kalleinen, as well as from older colleagues and Estonian specialists.
We express our thanks to the following: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Center for Contemporary Art, Estonia, Art Museum of Estonia, Austrian Embassy in Tallinn, Irish Arts Council, Irish Embassy in Tallinn, Annemarie Reichen and the Peter Kilchmann Gallery in Zurich, Elena Crippa and Lisson Gallery in London, FRAME, Caoimhin Corrigan, Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Marko Stamenkovic.
Seminar is supported by Open Estonia Foundation