Podcast Episode 4

Why do rituals and collective work go together? Irene Campolmi on Kris Lemsalu’s Estonian Pavilion

· 22:14

The artist Kris Lemsalu has been picked to represent the Baltic country. Lemsalu teamed up with a curatorial equipe that consists of the curator Maria Arusoo, the poet Andrew Berardini, the artist Sarah Lucas, her friend and collaborator Tamara Luuk, and the curator and researcher Irene Campolmi. For this podcast Special Venice we talked to Irene over the phone to learn more about the curatorial process. An insider view on the preparation process of the show and the many facets of Kris Lemsalu’s work.

Estonian Pavilion
Kris Lemsalu, Birth V, entrance of the Estonian Pavilion, Photo by Andrej Vasilenko
Kris Lemsalu Estonian Pavilion
Kris Lemsalu, Birth V, exhibition view, Photo by Andrej Vasilenko
Kris Lemsalu detail
Kris Lemsalu, Birth V, exhibition view, detail, Photo by Andrej Vasilenko
Kris Lemsalu Estonian Pavilion detail
Kris Lemsalu, Birth V, exhibition view, detail, Photo by Edith Karlson
Irene Campolmi Estonian Pavilion
Curator and scholar Irene Campolmi

Official Press Release

Our wet myths and sticky fairytales were never just stories. And in the work of Kris Lemsalu, fantasy tentacles into reality until art and life majestically snarl into a singularly glorious mess. And not just dreams and fictions tangle in her work but also the lives of others: friends and musicians, writers and curators, workers and strangers and all together, catalyzed by the artist, we make something more meaningful than anyone could alone.

For the Estonian Pavilion, Lemsalu gathers all these sculptural phantasms and disparate collaborators into an installation that gives birth to a world of shamanic force, visionary weirdness, and collective revival. While Lemsalu in earlier works engaged with the topic of death, for this exhibition, “BIRTH V”, she’s more concerned with life - although death wears a carnival mask in Venice anyway. A punk pagan trickster feminist sci-fi shaman, Kris Lemsalu gathers together both collected and crafted objects into totemic sculptures and hallucinatory environments, animated with performances by the artist and her coterie of collaborators. Wrought with humor and pathos, entrancing and repulsive, her work is a shuddering laugh squeezed with bravery from vulnerability, broken but jubilant, mournful without forgetting its heart in solemnity.

In the world summoned by Lemsalu, song drapes polychrome porcelain, bones dance and fountains seethe, and the line between action and object blurs; bodies easily act as things and vice versa. For the Biennale, Lemalu channels the city of Venice as a living creature, perpetually decadent and yet regularly revived.

Kris Lemsalu was born in 1985 in Tallinn, Estonia, and lives and works between Vienna and Tallinn. She creates mixed-media sculptures, installations and performances with unexpected materials. Lemsalu’s pieces evoke the bestial side of human beings and civilizations and are often underscored by feminist themes. Lemsalu has shown at Goldsmiths' CCA (2018), Secession Vienna (2018), as part of Performa 17 (2017), DRAF performance night (2017), Bunshitu Gallery, Tokyo (2015), Ferdinand Bauman Gallery, Prague (2015) and is represented by Koppe Astner, Glasgow and Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn. Lemsalu invited a team of writers, artists, curators and friends to collaborate with her on the exhibition, among others Andrew Berardini (1982, Los Angeles) a writer of quasi-essayistic prose poems about permeability between fiction and reality; Sarah Lucas (1962, London) – artist, friend and a mentor of Kris Lemsalu; Irene Campolmi (1987, Copenhagen) whose curatorial research focuses on various performative endeavours that think through postcolonial, queer and feminist theories, and Tamara Luuk (1952, Tallinn) who has been Kris´ companion in art and life for a long time, currently working as the contemporary art curator at Tallinn Art Hall.