Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia, will be in charge the Estonian Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, with a new project from emerging Estonian artist Jaanus Samma (b.1982, Tallin), Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale, curated by eminent Italian curator Eugenio Viola. NSFW. A Chairman’s Tale is a fragmented fictive opera, which follows a Soviet Estonian collective farm chairman, on trial for acts of homosexuality in the 1960s. The exhibition will bring together archive materials from the Soviet Estonia and the elegant aesthetics of opera.
Since 2007, the artist has focused his artistic research on collecting the hidden histories of gay lives in Soviet Estonia. Not Suitable for Work. A Chairman’s Tale is based on rumors and the criminal file of war hero and family man kolkhoz chairman Juhan Ojaste (1921-90). Due to his involvement in homosexual acts, Ojaste was expelled from the Communist Party and later sentenced to one and a half years in a labor camp. Following the loss of his social status as well as his dignity, family and job, Ojaste moved towns, where, as an ex-convict, he was offered only low-status jobs. In 1990, just a year before Estonia regained independence and homosexuality was decriminalized, Ojaste was murdered, allegedly by a Russian marine and male prostitute. The baroque-opera-like plot of a simple man, NSFW. A Chairman’s Tale aims to connect the social debate on LGBTI rights, with the broader issue of the violation of fundamental human rights, as common in the past as in present.
The exhibition is accompanied by a two volume publication designed by Brit Pavelson and co-published by Sternberg Press and CCA, Estonia. The catalogue consists of contributions by commissioner Maria Arusoo, curator Eugenio Viola, writer Maarja Kangro, artist and activist Slava Mogutin, scholar Kevin Moss, Rebeka Põldsam and historian Riikka Taavetti, a compilation of the Chairman’s criminal file, and excerpts from personal accounts of the Chairman edited by Martin Rünk and Jaanus Samma.
- Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale Jaanus Samma