researcher, writer and curator of architecture and visual art

Dénes Farkas. How-to-calm-yourself-after-seeing-a-dead-body Techniques

How-to-calm-yourself-after-seeing-a-dead-body Techniques was a personal exhibition of artist Dénes Farkas at the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia in spring 2017. The exhibition focused on issues of choice, uncertainty, insecurity and preparedness, highlighting the contingency of normality and casting doubt on the production of truth and scientific rationality.

The exhibition comprised of site-speficic spatial and audio installations and new works using photographic and textual material. It was partly inspired by An Unneccessary Woman by Lebanese-American writer Rabih Alameddine, also a source of the quote used as the title of the exhibition. The book presents an inner monologue of an elderly woman who, unbeknownst to all, has decided to devote herself to translating Western literature to Arabic – a process providing an opportunity for intellectual dialogue and establishing a personal alternative reality in the midst of the chaos of Lebanese civil war. Farkas used quotes from Alameddine’s book, set in dialogue with visual material photographed at the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Nowray, at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) seed bank in Terbol, Lebanon, and at the N.I.Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources in St Petersburg, Russia – institutions established for preserving biodiversity and guaranteeing global food security. Both the visual and textual inspirations of the works refer to food for the body and food for thought, processes of adaptation, and an attempt at keeping up normalcy under the conditions of insecurity; but they also reveal the deceptiveness, fragility and contingency of temporary feeling of security. At the same time, the preapocalyptic feeling of preparing for unknkown future hardships and the rigid scientific approach of the seed banks contrasted with the commonplace of the horror of real conflicts; the eloquence of global rhetorics contrasted with the pragmatics of everyday actions. As a self-conscious artist, Dénes Farkas also addressed the ethical question of using someone else’s conflicts and suffering as raw material for his work. Nevertheless, by interweaving stories from such different sources he aimed at a more universal level, conveying an idiosyncratically melancholic message about casuality of tragedy, of history repeating itself, and of futility of human ambition.

Curator: Ingrid Ruudi
Graphic designer: Mikk Heinsoo

Thank you: Rabih Alameddine; Nicole Aragi, Duvall Osteen, Grace Dietshe (Aragi Inc); Åsmund Asdal, Roland Von Bothmer (Svalbard Global Seed Vault, NordGen); Dr Hassan Machlab, Dr Mahmoud El Solh, Dr Mariana Yazbek (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas); Prof Nikolai Dzyubenko, Sergey Shuvalov (N. I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry); Estonian National Archives; Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Vesa Humalisto, Marko Humalisto, Kirill Tulin, Villem Säre, Kadri Villand, Kati Saarits, Raivo Väliste, Tõnu Narro, Jarmo Kauge, Ketli Tiitsar.

Supporters: Estonian Cultural Endowment, Union of Estonian Architects, Estonian Ministry of Culture,  Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center

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