Writing, Curating and Lecturing on Visual Arts, Public Space and Architecture

A Comfortable Pirouette

Article on Paco Ulman's video work dealing with the "ground zero" of the Estonian Academy of Arts at Artishok Biennale 2012.

Text exhibited during the exhibition (11.10.2012) and later published in the catalogue.


“Art is in our genes, it is as old as the human being. Everyone can make art. Art and art education will not disappear anywhere, as many fear, and it is even more superficial to say that society does not value or deal with it: anywhere you go, you see how art is in place in every home. /…/ In the national curriculum, there are 6039 vocational and higher education curriculums, 654 of them in the field of the arts, art is being taught in 44 institutions. 3837 students are studying art, half of them for free, a quarter of them at the Estonian Academy of Arts. /…/ What is it that I want to say with this speech? There is no need to worry about art and art education in the Republic of Estonia. It has to do well. It is supported by the people and in good health. /…/ The EAA needs to have a home, the same as all Estonian citizens do: in accordance with the dreams, expectations and possibilities. That is the most difficult thing; you need to find that accordance. You need to face that truth. I do not think it is something the EAA is incapable of doing.”[1]



“Hundreds of students have occupied high schools in Chile's capital /…/ Police in riot gear evicted students from several schools but at least seven remained occupied on Wednesday. /.../ Mass demonstrations initially raised expectations for profound changes but more than a year after the first protests few students have seen any real benefits. Protesters say the system still fails families with poor quality public schools, expensive private universities, unprepared teachers and banks that make education loans at high interest rates most Chileans can ill afford. The government plans to raise about US$1bn in taxes for education but students say it is not enough. Beyer has said the government will not cede to their demands for free education, calling it an unfair, backward-looking policy.”[2]



David Hume in his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals has written about the fundamentality of pain: “Ask people why they exercise and they will answer that they want to stay healthy; ask then, why they need health and they will answer that it hurts to be ill. And if you then want to know why they do not like pain, it is impossible that you will be given an answer.”[3] Pain is the end-point of a human being creating meanings. After pain, rational arguments end, and tottering and speaking in tongues begin.


It is completely incomprehensible why the EAA chose not to join the teachers’ strike in the spring and close its doors for one day. To prevent further pain? Or was there no time for protesting?


Let us suppose that there are hundreds of practical and symbolic reasons for why people protest in the streets in one place and in another do not. For example, it seems that it is much easier to run riot for those who have nothing to lose or who have a lot of time to spare in the evening zone (the youths of the Bronze Night or the Chilean students). Why don’t the students of the EAA riot? Have the general education schools suffocated their spirit of protest already in the bud? Please, occupy Toompea, but don’t go against your own…


Although, in the world of comfortable students, a more suitable solution would be to close the former EAA and reform it into a privatised school, independent of the state. A school groaning in pain is reporting to the minister about the numbers of craftsmen produced, while during the night is involved in weakening the foundations of the state and society. A populist privatised school would be a much tougher way of reaching the aims.

[1]          Minister of Education and Research Jaak Aaviksoo’s speech at the EAA conference of art education, February 2, 2012

[2]          Chile student protesters occupy high schools. The Guardian, August 15, 2012

[3]  David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. A. Millar: London, 1751.

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