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

On Hospitality: NUPerformance Festival Blogging

Biannual NuPerformance Festival in Tallinn asked me to join the festival as its daily blogger. The festival took place in Hotel Viru and its theme was hospitality. 

Published by NuPerformance Festival between 8-11 November 2011:


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Opening of NU Performance Festival

Dear audience!

Greetings to You from the very centre of Tallinn, from the 9th floor of Hotel Viru where a decent double bedroom looks above the skyline of the Old Town.

My name is Gregor and I was asked to keep up this blog during the NU Performance Festival. For the hard work of writing about performances five days in a row I was awarded with a privilege of inhabiting one of the bedrooms in here. This hotel has 20 something floors, 30 rooms on every floor. Possibly a thousand people around me. Some 100 of them being either the organisers, guests or performers of this festival. Festival's bunch has taken over the 9th floor. It's great. Everyone knows that it's essential for a festival to have a strong core.

So - Hotel Viru is the host and we are all guests. You are guest as well. And we are all invited. All the performances of this festival will take place inside the hotel, whether in the lobby, in an elevator, in somebody's room or up on the roof. And the theme - you might have guessed - is hospitality.

There are some performances I'm particularly looking forward to. One is said to be for an audience of exactly one person. The thought of it itself is inspiring. I will let You know how about it.


But before we start with the festival, let me tell You a few things about the building in question. If You are not interested in history scroll down.

This hotel was built in 1972. Before that this spot was more or less empty. It was a square next to the Old Town.

Before the II World War somewhere here stood a house in which the painting collection of Estonian Art Museum were kept. This house caught fire during war and much of the paintings were destroyed. Right now we are having a party above the ashes of these paintings. It's great. Perhaps it's poetical.

Hotel Viru was the first high-rise modernist block in the centre of Tallinn. Tallinners say that it ruined the view from the sea and it accelerated the planting of other blocks in the centre.

Hotel Viru was built for Finnish tourists. Soviet Tallinn needed a (boastfully) welcoming landmark. Perhaps the commies wanted a good kick towards the balls of the medieval town centre. It was all about progress and a million other things.

Hotel Viru was built out of microconcrete. Microphones and concrete. KGB needed to know what the foreigners were up to. On top floor there was a secret KGB room, which is nowadays a museum.

But even with KGB in the house it didn't stop Viru becoming one of the most notorious places in Soviet Tallinn. A lot of the people who came here from the West brought all the possible things (which were prohibited or sold out etc) to sell in the black market. Hence Viru was a destination for local fortune seekers, trying to make huge money with stuff bought from tourists.

Another thing was the nightlife in Viru of which I unfortunately don't know much. Cabaret, disco dancing, prostitutes (allegedly a reason for thousand of family dramas in Finland), drugs etc. One can still clearly feel those vibrations still in this building.

And after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Most of Estonians would think that the place looks and feels like a ferry which goes between Tallinn and Helsinki. They don't get it wrong. As I walk along the floors I feel that the building floats. I'm not the only one. Fridge is my room sounds like an engine from a ferry.


So I was happy enough to find out that the festival got a flying start with a karaoke show tonight.

At first all the guests were invited to the ground floor lobby, where a big band from Põlva (a small town in Southern Estonia) welcomed us with some jolly music and we all marched to the second floor restaurant where the band members found their places on the stage and the audience were made to sit down, drink and have fun.

What followed was a magical karaoke concert. The band with some 20 musicians was passionately loud (in a good way) and had such a cool sound that it was impossible to fail with even the worst kind of singing.

Hosts of the evening: Maike Lond and Peter Stamer

First brave souls.

Note how the "karaoke machine" was constructed. This table was filmed from above and projected on screens for singers and the audience.  Girls had the lyrics printed put and throughout the songs they pointed at the right words with a help of a pen. And if they felt that some words had to be emphasized they made it clear on paper.

Guess the band name!

I have to say that it was a brilliant idea to start the festival with karaoke. For one thing it shows that the festival doesn't lack self-irony.

And then of course it was hugely enjoyable to see people frankly hopping on to the stage and singing their hearts out. It made people very happy. During the last song, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, the overall feeling was thrilling. I was greatly impressed. An excellent performance by a collective author called The Guests.


Nowadays Hotel Viru comes with a shopping centre attached to it. This photo shows You the roof of the shopping centre from my room.

Some nice people brought pianos to the shopping centre today. I'm happy not to know why.

Anyone who wanted to play could play. This homeless looking man has been playing all day. He played with his eyes closed and didn't care much about the other people playing next to him.

Bizarre cacophony. + Add the classic supermarket easy-listening from the loudspeakers.


And now I'm off to see Heine Avdal's, Brynjar Bandlien's and Fabrice Moniet's performane. !

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Exceptional!" (Daily Courier), "Bloody hell!" (Tallinn Times), "An Unexpected Eyeopener" (Old Town News), "A Definite Blockbuster!" (TTV)

I just witnessed Heine Avdal's, Brynjar Bandlien's and Fabrice Moniet's performane named "Field Works - hotel".

I havn't experienced something that authentic for a long time. I beg You to get Yourself a ticket if there are any left.

As I said in my last post, this performance is meant for a sole spectator at a time. I would love to write an essay about it,  but I have to rush to the next performance. And before the next performance takes over my emotions I just had to write down something on it.


Oh yes.. All those thousands of hotel rooms in our lives. Even if most of them appear in movies they still form a great part of our understanding of rooms as such. Rooms with great capital RRRRs. Argh! Which one is Your favourite hotel room? Which one do You remember most explicitly? Which one do You see in Your dreams? Which one was haunted? (The one I just saw was saw was saw warsaw yes in warsaw there was one without walls). Which one would You recommend?


Dear artists, thank You for the experience!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday at NU Performance Festival.

Hello, this is Gregor again. I'm writing from Tartu. I havn't written about the performances I witnessed yesterday. So here's my account.


As I wrote yesterday, my evening started with a performance for one spectator. Apparently it's a popular format these days (and rightly so). For example every year there's a young artists art auction in Tartu. Young artist come with their beloved paintings, engravings and vases and try to persuade politicians and businessmen to buy their work. This year the work which was sold for the highest price was a performance performed only once for the buyer.

I guess we all enjoy a personal touch. Your own personal Jesus, isn't it?


What followed was "The Love Piece".

(Nino Bokan, Alice Chauchat, Pravdan Devlahović, Mihkel Ilus, Taavet Jansen, Jarmo Karing, Zvonimir Kvesić, Ivana Pavlović, Ivana Rončević, Nina Sakić)

I won't give You any spoiler warnings as there won't be any spoilers since
You can't spoil a child through love.

I just turned twenty five. That's not a long time (my aim is not to die before I'm 114 years old, which then just happens to be the year 2100), but it's still something. A whole quarter of a century. Looking backwards I would only need 80 of my own lives to go and shake Jesus's hand. Now why would I want to do that if I have 14 billion other hands to shake in this very life? And add another 14 billion eyes to be amazed by.

We sat opposite each other and while laying my blinded eyes on my brown-eyed blind date's forgiving eyes with one eye on my diary (for which I'm sorry as it wasn't a pretty sight) she opened my eyes as I realised that after 25 years of casting my eyes down, these were the first two third four fifth six seventh eight nine tenth eyes I've given unprecedented attention for one single half an hour.

What a relief, at least this day came and there will be more.

In one of Ywan Goll's novels there appears a downhearted man who walks for years desperately around Paris looking for that somebody who would burst into tears while turning her eyes to his. I read this book at highschool and felt immensely inspired. I must have thought something like I have to seek for those eyes as well! Or maybe it was more like I knew it! I knew it! That's what I've been feeling for a long time, but I didn't know how to put it!

No matter what I felt these were genuine and needful thoughts for a 16 year old romantic. 10 years later, without any real needs for overpowering tears, these eyes found me. Not that she cried. No way. It wasn't about tears.


"The Love Piece" is a very loving piece indeed. Pure magic, established several millions of years ago.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I have some fun

Dear audience, this is Your Gregor speaking to You.
I have some good news to You: life is such an amazing place. Just splendid.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beide Messies. The Last Salon I: Shem’s view

I made friends with Andreas at the breakfast table. "So what do You do?" I asked.
"I try to survive in Berlin," he answered.

Is it that hard to be the one who knows how to make people feel good?


Some years ago in Tartu in a second hand shop. In steps gentleman with at least 80 years
on his shoulders. Goes through the ties section and.. Gotcha!
Takes his new tie to the salesperson and proudly reports: "One thousand two hundred thirty fourth!"
And the blatant answer?

A song with a rhyme and beat as simple as the heartbeat always helps.

Every now and then someone needs to explain the pictures to the dead rabbits.
This one was a tour de force for every dead rabbit around.

And our Lord regretted!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information

Being myself an irregular DJ not interested in diddling with the mixer but just trying to make people feel good and groove, there was no was I was not going to enjoy the DJ who gave too much information.

More about it coming soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Few Remarks on Performance Art in Estonia

What has striked me so far with the performanes I've seen is their goodwill and ephemeral essence.

Why it affects me in such a positive way is because to my mind performance art in Estonia has really strong physical connotations. Probably it has something got to do with Non Grata (http://www.nongrata.ee/) ruling over the field for the past 10 years.

To make it really black and white then it was more or less so that officially there was no performance art during the Soviet time, as there was either only art or theatre. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and all the opening of the borders artists (and everyone else in the society) wanted to grasp anything possible from the West. Different art practices as well. So it was like reenacting the last 60 years of Westerns art. Minimalism, Viennese Actionism, performance art, happenings, body art. You name it, we can do it!

No doubt - people lost their heads and much was exaggerated. As for performance art, it turned into a heavily corporeal and object-based art form. Punch in the face! Blood! Violence! Naked body! Shit! Shit in Your face! Some more blood! And yes, more, more, more, some more blood and shit and dirt towards the bourgeois.

And due to that the word performance artist had become a swear word in Estonia (and I suppose that's the case in all the post-communist states) by the middle of the 90s. As it still is.

I suppose that most of the people in the arts have digested this notion by now and take performance art as something more broader. Or what's more important, they take it without any prejudice.


This subconscious prejudice (which I can't deny is part of my consciousness) is the reason why so far all my blog posts have been über positive.

And now one could go on for hours talking about how geographical circumstances affect people living in different parts of the world,

how could and dark winters turn one piece of land's artists (and writers) into chronic northern lights.

Posted by at 9:14 PM 

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A lovely story about modern architecture.

1920s.. Le Corbusier's white boxes, flat roofs of those boxes,

 - probably the first ever building with a flat roof in Estonia was built in the late 20s by an Estonian modernist architect. The whole of Estonia laughed about him as people just couldn't understand such stupidity. A gable roof gets rid of rain and snow itself, but a flat roof? Will the architect hire slaves for shovelling snow? -

all white interiors, maximum functionality etc etc etc is a sentence's pigtail and skyscrapers.
The coolest intwerwar European skyscraper -  and a masterpiece of modern architecture - was Building No 21 in Zlin in Czech Republic.

It was a 16-storey office of a shoe factory. The boss of this company happened to be a fan of functionalism as well, so he ordered his office to be built inside an elevator! If there was a problem on the 3rd floor.. he was there. Oh no! Someone calling from the 9th... Gotta go!

Kaja Kann from the Lift.

(Oh, by the way, if You're planning to stay in Tallinn for a little while
have a look at lift11.ee)

Posted by at 9:36 PM 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Hospitality

Having seen "the DJ Who Gave Too Much Information", Eike Van Capmenhout's and Ong Ken Sen's "Gift Show" and Peter Stamer and (I'll fifure it out asap) telling stories after stories one could ask if being hospitable is all about telling stories?

Posted by at 9:49 PM 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hospitality's affects on dreams

In my dream I was working as a waiter in a canteen. Not just any canteen but the one which was part of the  school I attended. (In Estonia elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are usually situated in one building). I was served food, but not on dining tables. My task was to take each and every pupil's plate to a classroom. (My school has around 1200 pupils). But I was happy to do it. In fact I was laughing throughout the dream as I found it funny enough that every time I brought food to somebody, he or she was surprised. As if I had brought a gift.

I was a crappy waiter. I spilled most of the food on the floor. Eventually the floor in the canteen was all covered with brown sauce. Up to my knees! I knew what it was. It was the same groce pork liver sauce I could never eat at school. Ha! You stupid sauce, enjoy the floor while you can.


Anyway, in my dream I was magnanimousand terribly unpleasant at the same time.


Beide Messies declared a few hours ago that hospitality is not necessarily a good thing. Spot-on! It can have dreadful consequences and I'm not talking about my dream any more.


Elke Van Campenhout's and Ong Keng Sen's "Gift Show" had one basic error. Talk show's hosts asked their guests to bring gifts with them. Gifts are things we do not get by our own efforts. We can't order them or buy them; we can't acquire them through an act of will.

A gift is bestowed on us.

(Lewis Hyde said that.)

Not that this error affected the effects of the talk. Maike Lond's take on energy was magical. Somehow it is in life that the most magical of things are the one's most political. Straightforward knowledge. Beide Meisses reported that toes are a sign of correctness. Ong Keng Sen noted that in China when you give somebody a tie as a gift that means you want to tie the two of you together. It's a very intimate thing.

Posted by at 2:27 AM 

Friday, November 11, 2011

plan b / Sophia New & Daniel Belasco Rogers "Grand Hotel"





Neighbourhood (covered by an undercover spy)

(More coming soon)

Posted by at 3:11 AM 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Four Letter Word Letters

Read closely.

Intimidation or harassment?

Posted by at 3:34 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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