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LOOV KULTUUR THE ESTONIAN NEW WAVE SWEEPS THROUGH THE CITÉ

by Cité de la Mode et du Design

From December 8, 2017 through January 21, 2018, the Cité de la Mode et du Design opens its doors to Loov Kultuur. This “creative culture” from Estonia, a country celebrating 100 years of independence in 2018, brings together design, fashion, photography, contemporary art, street art, animated lm, and more...alongside knowing glances from French artists, inspired by this breeze from the East that blows through the Cité this winter. 

Over a month-and-a-half, the Cité lives and breathes on Estonian time. Created with the support of the Estonian Ministry of Culture, the Loov Kultuur exhibition is part of the Estonia 100 cycle of events, orchestrated by the Estonian government for the centenary independence celebration of their country. “This is a chance to invite one and all on a voyage right here into the heart of our cultural heritage”, confides des Rea Rannu-Ideon, Cultural Attaché at the Embassy of Estonia in France. It’s also a way to better understand the links between nature and the digital world, design and innovation, which are key to the energy of a country that obtained its first-ever Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017. “Now is the time to tell our story”, Rea Rannu-Ideon reaf rms. Loov Kultuur was, as a matter of fact, designed just for this...with an indoor and outdoor pathway of events at the very heart of the Cité, featuring functional design, sustainable fashion, photography, tagging, and even a sauna, in an igloo with a view over...the Seine. 


THREE QUESTIONS FOR REA RANNU-IDEON (by Anne Eveillard)

Rea Rannu-Ideon © Virge Viertek
Rea Rannu-Ideon © Virge Viertek

As Cultural Attaché at the Estonian Embassy in France, Rea Rannu-Ideon sees Loov Kultuur as a way to introduce Estonian knowledge and artisanal skill, which, until now, have been underappreciated by the French. But this exhibition is also an opportunity for encounters, dialogue, and shared openness to other cultures.
What cultural links exist today between France and Estonia?

Cultural relations between Estonia and France are positive and intensive. Connoisseurs will always find Estonian cultural events in many parts of France. The past few years, there have been several major Estonian cultural “invasions” in France: I’m referring to the Estonian season in Paris, “Energetic Estonia”, in 2011, but also the “eLU” festival in Nantes or “Les Boréales” in Caen.

Over a month-and-a-half, the Cité lives and breathes on Estonian time. Created with the support of the Estonian Ministry of Culture, the Loov Kultuur exhibition is part of the Estonia 100 cycle of events, orchestrated by the Estonian government for the centenary independence celebration of their country. “This is a chance to invite one and all on a voyage right here into the heart of our cultural heritage”, confides Rea Rannu-Ideon, Cultural Attaché at the Embassy of Estonia in France. It’s also a way to better understand the links between nature and the digital world, design and innovation, which are key to the energy of a country that obtained its first-ever Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017. “Now is the time to tell our story”, Rea Rannu-Ideon reaffirms. Loov Kultuur was, as a matter of fact, designed just for this...with an indoor and outdoor pathway of events at the very heart of the Cité, featuring functional design, sustainable fashion, photography, tagging, and even a sauna, in an igloo with a view over...the Seine.

What forms of cultural and artistic creation are taking place in Estonia today, in terms of fashion or design?

Estonia is a country where proximity to nature and the advantages of a digital-friendly society are closely linked. We can see this reflected on the Estonian cultural scene. In terms of design, for example, a field that is making great strides, we’re looking for innovative solutions with shapes inspired by Nordic nature, where calm and simplicity are key.

What are you hoping to get out of this exhibition at the Cité?

We want to show everyone what we’re about, make new friends, build new, joint projects. We tend to stay away from the unknown: this is what we want to change. Despite all the projects we’ve already been involved with in France, the French don’t know us: it’s already remarkable that some French people know Estonia as the country of Skype or Arvo Pärt. We happen to be proud of that. But we have so many other things to offer!
est-emb.fr



SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
NATIONAL DESIGN IN A GLOBALISED SOCIETY (by Triin Jerlei)

Mihkel Mölder & Joonas Torim/Oot Oot Studio VOOG armchair
Mihkel Mölder & Joonas Torim/Oot Oot Studio VOOG armchair

“Size Doesn’t Matter” presents for the rst time the best of Estonian contemporary design. As explained by the curator of the exhibition, the president of Estonian Association of Designers Ilona Gurjanova, the aim of the exhibition is to contrast the smallness of the land, the density of its designers and the abundance of its achievements. Furthermore, the exhibition asks: “How can a national design distinguish itself in today’s globalised society, and what kind of impression does Estonian design leave to bystanders? Is it an exemplary Baltic phenomenon or more like the little brother of the Scandinavian countries?” 

“A new generation of leather artists combine the latest fashion trends with quality that only handicraft can provide.” 

Because of the Iron Curtain, Estonian design is only now becoming known outside the neighbouring countries. During the Soviet period, poor quality materials and state control hindered the local mass production considerably. Nevertheless, Estonian designers managed to create excellent objects, even if many of them did not leave the Socialist Bloc. Now, almost three decades after the collapse of the Soviet empire, local design has reached maturity and is gaining visibility in the world.

The featured designers present a fascinating cross-section of contemporary Estonian design, representing different generations and materials. Sustainability of materials and production is essential all products. Quality that likens Estonian design to that of archetypal Scandinavian style is the minimal aesthetic where every detail is essential to the function of the object. Yet, small and unexpected quirks and innovations in form and construction surprise the spectator. Stool Chick by Maria Rästa replaces the usual chair legs with bird feet and a beak. Martin Saar, inspired by a wheelbarrow, has created a lounge chair that is easy to move and suitable to both public and
private spaces. 

A new generation of leather artists combine the latest fashion trends with quality that only handicraft can provide. Stella Soomlais and Piret Loog manufacture bags, while Kärt Põldmann and Kaspar Paas,
among others, create contemporary footwear. Several internationally acclaimed textile designers hail from Estonia, among them Mare Kelpman, famous for her experiments in weaving woollen scarves, plaid and coats, and Kärt Ojavee who engages in smart textiles and their use in home interiors. 

Globally, Estonia is mostly famous for Skype. Thus it is not surprising that this exhibition also features some exciting examples of innovative product design. Stigo e-scooter, designed by a prolific industrial designer Matti Õunapuu with over thirty years of experience, aims to solve traffic problems in a contemporary city. Easily foldable, it is still able to reach 25 km/h on a single charge.

In the current fast design industry of the globalising world, new design has to be innovative and stand out to consumers. While the Soviet regime imposed a certain austerity to local modernisms, Estonia, as many other current postsocialist design economies in Eastern and Central Europe, embraces high quality small-scale production and references to national culture. Through a unique local style that is positioned between Scandinavian and Baltic cultures, Estonian designers demonstrate that memorable design does not have to compromise usability or quality.
estoniandesignhouse.ee 



HEAT WAVE 
SPACE(S) OF WONDER AND INTRIGUE (by Carl-Dag Lige)

© Salto Architects
© Salto Architects

Heat Wave is a site-specific installation by architects Maarja Kask, Ralf Lõoke (Salto Architects) and artist Neeme Külm, exclusively designed for the Loov Kultuur/Culture Créative festival at the Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris. Like many previous installations by the same authors, Heat Wave seems to be both political and entertaining.

Back in 2008 the same group of authors together with architect Karli Luik and art historian Ingrid Ruudi created the Estonian exposition Gas Pipe at the Venice architecture biennale. It was a temporary installation consisting of a monumental yellow pipeline connecting the Russian and German pavilions at the Giardini, and served as a critical comment on the Nord Stream underwater gas line, then being built in the Baltic Sea.

Also in several of their architectural designs (e.g. Sõmeru Community Centre, 2010; Baltic Film and Media School, 2012) Kask and Lõoke have dealt with public space, and tried to create environments which not only serve a specific function but emerge as urban event spaces. They are thus interested not only in artistic or architectural dimensions of space, but in the political and social processes which lie at the core of contemporary democratic societies.

Similarly to several previous projects, Heat Wave has a strong socio-political subtext. As a temporary installation, it primarily seems to propose questions about accessibility, comfort and security. One might find here reflections of public debates not only about global warming, but about future of democracy, post-truth media, and migration crisis. Who makes decisions about safety and well-being in our societies? What kind of social groups lack access to basic human rights? Who has the right to have “a spot under the sun”, or to be more contextual, in front of the warm panel of the Heat Wave installation presented at the Paris exhibition?

Even if those political connotations seem too abstract or far-fetched, there should be no doubt about the artistic quality and site-specific experiential value of the installation. With bright colours, dynamic lights and changing temperature effects, Heat Wave is an object of attraction and desire. It is thus possible to experience it also as a (mere) sensorial object causing wonder and providing pleasure. Nevertheless, Heat Wave’s importance as part of the exhibition at Les Docks en Seine seems rather to emerge from its enigmatic nature, from how the authors have combined sensorial with political, aesthetics with ethics. 
salto.ee 



EDWARD VON LÕNGUS 
A DIGITAL STREET ART PIONEER LEAVING HIS “FOOTPRINTS” IN PARIS (by recueillis par Kätlin Lõbu)

Helsinki
Helsinki

As part of Estonian centennial celebrations, an innovative street art project, (R)estart Reality, encounters Paris and the walls of the Cité de la Mode et du Design. Old Estonian folklore characters with funny, quirky stories will come to life in front of viewers through augmented-reality technologies. The creator of the project, graffiti artist Edward von Lõngus, has been often compared to Banksy, as there lies a mystery behind his identity. 

You present yourself as Edward von Lõngus (EvL). Who is EvL, and what is his main focus?

The individual does not matter. Ideas matter. As every individual is the result of thousands of years of cultural processes, so is Edward von Lõngus a creation of culture, an informational being which emerged from the culturally nutritious environment of the 21st century, a collection of thoughts and ideas with a shape. The ultimate goal of Edward von Lõngus is to hack the world by implanting new ideas into the collective mind.

Is it true that this is your 10th year as a street artist? Let’s go back in time (like the time travelers Miina and Enn*): tell us about the first graffiti you ever made?

My very first stencil was the pattern from the bottom of my shoe. I stepped on a piece of cardboard and cut out the footprint. Then I left my footprints all over the city.

Thanks to (R)estart Reality, we will see your “footprints” all over Europe. How did you end up working on this project with NOAR.eu?

There had already been a very successful collaboration with NOAR.eu representing my works online. They came up with the idea of making an international street art project, and I came up with the content. The rest is history... in progress. 

You have been touring for a few months already. What have been the reactions so far (from locals and authorities)?

The project has been very well received. Digital street art is quite a new concept and always creates a lot of excitement. On nighttime painting missions in different countries, we’ve also had several interesting encounters with the police. I’m looking forward to meeting the French police.

And lastly: where do you see street art heading in a digital world?

I am currently fascinated by machines learning to make art. In the future, the job of the artist will be to tell the computer what kind of art to create. How it will affect street art, I’m not yet sure, but I intend to find out.

*Miina and Enn are two of the many Estonian folklore characters created by artist Edward von Lõngus for street art project (R)estart Reality. Each of them can be brought to life using smartphones or tablets.

The (R)estart Reality app is available for free download on the App Store or Google Play. 

restartreality.org  


LES VAGABONDES
SOPHIE LARGER AND STÉPHANIE BUTTIER: TWO INTERWOVEN WOMEN (by Anne-Marie Fèvre)

photos © Sébastien Bozon / Sophie Larger
photos © Sébastien Bozon / Sophie Larger

From within Sophie Larger’s ultra-tidy interior sprout colorful vases full of movement, experimental pieces created at the International Glass Art Center in Meisenthal. A mirror and a lamp show off her work for Roche Bobois. We can also see a piece of furniture in wood, marble, and glass, created with designer Laurent Godart, using recovered materials from three companies in Eastern France

But this designer born in 1972, a graduate of the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, where she now teaches, is not such a tidy young woman. You can’t con ne her to simple object design. She likes observing the body moving through space, which has inspired her to design chairs for a choreographed piece by Vincent Lacoste at the Relais, the Center for Theatrical Research, near Dieppe...or seating on wheels so that older folks with limited mobility can dance, for a care home in Normandy.

But what are this bunch of rattan and scruffy textile ropes doing at her place? Here, Sophie Larger is taking another, more artistic, wilder path, and she’s found her partner for this, Stéphanie Buttier. This landscape designer and visual artist, born in 1973, delicately installs sculptures in public spaces or gardens, interlaced bits of willow trees, metal, ceramic, and wood. And both of them, referencing Gilles Clément (1), are playing a vagabond game. At the Filature in Mulhouse in 2016, they created their blossoming “Invasives” installations made from wicker, clematis, ivy, brambles, ferns, and cotton thread, in the shape of a dreamlike, artificial tableau of nature.

It is this intertwined aesthetic that they are re-creating at the Cité de la mode et du design, where they’re showing a clever nod to Estonian nature. Within this concrete building, they create a woven cocoon and a crossways cabin, two new spherical, organic invasions, woven in rattan and colorful rope. This is the art of making us feel we are in the underbrush at Virumaa, where the red-grass tundra and treehouses are omnipresent and enchant us with their beauty, from Paris to Tallinn.

((1). « Éloge des vagabondes » [“In praise of vagabonds”], Gilles Clément, Nil Editions, 2002. 

sophielarger.com
stephaniebuttier.com  


IGLUSAUN
RETHINKING LOCAL RITUALS (by Triin Jerlei)

photos Iglusaun © all rights reserved
photos Iglusaun © all rights reserved

The centre of an Estonian home is the sauna. Like their cousins, the Finns, Estonians do not consider a house complete without one. .

The centre of an Estonian home is the sauna. Like their cousins, the Finns, Estonians do not consider a house complete without one. Washing oneself in a sauna is about much more than simple hygiene, it is an ancient ritual where every element has been carefully considered. When the contemporary Estonian moved to an apartment, public saunas emerged, demonstrating the significance of this tradition in local culture. In recent years, sauna traditions are increasingly regaining their importance and a sauna is once again the pride of a household.

While a traditional sauna in Estonian context is either built inside the house or as a separate large dwelling, Iglusauna allows anyone to erect a sauna to a vacant bit of land. The smallest version fits four people, while the largest one also includes a washing room and a changing room. Besides three different sizes of the traditional Finnish sauna, Iglusauna also manufactures a smoke sauna, a regional tradition of Southern Estonia that has been added to UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The name Iglusauna comes from the similarity its form bears to an igloo. Every detail and material is carefully considered. The interior of the sauna is built using aspen wood and the floors are covered with planed spruce boards. Each Iglusauna is nished using over 2500 shingles, each one of which is axe-trimmed if needed and manually installed. The outside wall is finished with spruce, inside with aspen shingles. Additionally, the shingles give the sauna a uniquely Nordic look. The ability to blend in with nature was one of the key considerations in designing the sauna.

Iglusauna demonstrates perfectly how an excellent and well designed product can achieve quick international success. At the core of Creative Woodworks are three neighbours from a village in Southern Estonia. Thanks to a well designed product and an innovative marketing campaign, Creative Woodworks managed to import saunas to fifteen different countries already during their first year. By combining impressive design with functionality, Iglusauna presents an outstanding example of rejuvenating and exporting local traditions without sacri cing their inherent essence.
iglusaun.ee  


RAPHAËL GIANELLI-MERIANO
ESTONIA UNDER HIS SKIN (par Anne-Marie Fèvre)

photos © Raphaël Gianelli-Meriano
photos © Raphaël Gianelli-Meriano

When he was young, Raphaël Gianelli-Meriano studied the violin at the Conservatory in Valence, while spinning his way through the world of skateboarding, camera in hand, keeping up with all types of art – film, music, painting. He traveled through space with ears and eyes wide open, not wanting to miss a single encounter.

It was Estonian artist Navitrolla that would lead him to Tallinn in 2002. And so, he roamed this small Baltic country over the space of ten days, following the traveling Kinopress festival. “I felt that there was a real sense of freedom there, far from highly institutionalized cultural system in France.” He returned to Estonia often, rather enchanted by this Long, Flat Shape in the North, between the Baltic Sea, Finland, Russia, Latvia, and Sweden.

Ready to wander as an “uprooted” man, he doesn’t seek out symbolic clichés of this European country that’s truly cutting-edge, from its digital infrastructure to its architecture. There is evanescence, silence, slowness in the luminous images that he manages to “encounter”, and which are reflected in his book, About Estonia (2005), as well as in the lm dedicated to Estonian poet Jaan Kaplinski (2011), who  wrote, “From dust and color, butterflies are born.” 

It’s this sensitive work that the photographer now presents at the Cité de la mode et du design, as part of the “Loov Kultuur” exhibition. Among these 50 shots, the tableau of a married couple, in color, is arresting. Dressed in white, they embrace on a satin bed, so very much in love, with an intimacy that is neither voyeuristic nor ceremonial. We are also stopped in our tracks by patients in a psychiatric hospital, seated on swings that give these restricted beings wings, for just an instant. Shards of bodies in movement, frozen lakes and sand, clouds and trees, bear us forward on a poetic, emotional quest, all in a variety of formats, digital or lm-based, in color or black and white, without any designated order or hierarchy. 

Photo © Marou Rivero
Photo © Marou Rivero

Though, at 40, Raphaël Gianelli-Meriano creates advertising films and star portraits, he keeps wandering through Estonia, which “opened up the entire world” to him. It revealed his internal landscape, the visions he already held inside him, which he shows us in this visual diary. Estonia is his very own Rosebud.
raphaelgianellimeriano.com