this symbol chain marks the beginning of our chat log



let’s go



this chat exists in the context of Estonian Art magazine

or for that future context

i’m writing from the past

Katja is repping Estonia in Venice

let’s see

if i have a question



10 things you’ve always wondered about but were afraid to ask




I think the magazine is going to frame your practice within the context of post-internet art

which is how it is often contextualized institutionally

we often talk about the ambiguity of that term

and like certain frustrations that come with it

I guess my question or prompt or whatever to you would be: what would be some alternative readings / histories to your work



yeah i think there is a certain limitation to today’s idea of what post-internet means: corporate aesthetics, mimicry of corporate forms, etc

and that is just so narrow

or like webcam instagram personal performance stuff

or a combo of those two

at my most “corporate” installation i did in basel in 2014, with a massive growth arrow on a trampoline and a white stallion, my aspiration was always actually to somehow provoke ideas about ecologies … and corporate stuff is just one of them, but i always try to connect to wider things — environment and “nature”, artistic / pictorial cultures, relationships of these things to attention economies



it seems like there is a more fluid connection between your work and the work of, say, emily jones and joey holder, maybe marguerite humeau

like new representations of techno-biosphere or whatever



yeah exactly, they are some of my favorite artists of the moment

emily’s work is one of the earliest inspirations for me



i started thinking about it in general, this desire, maybe my desire, to pinpoint artists or like draw circles around them

i guess that’s where “post-internet” comes too



i’m thinking if there’s a way to approach work without the idea of this sphere of influence / sociality, altho it is also important of course to see artists as formations / many-headed growths



i think these circles kind of exist of course

but they are not venn diagrams

they are networks, clusters



i’m thinking of bacteria or lichen



based on people going to school together, doing co-labs, sharing aesthetic vibes

yeah rhizome

and of course i did that myself at some point: asked myself whose work i am into at this point, what word could capture the moment and similarities, etc: and so post-internet survival guide happened



do you feel like there is a friction between the cultures, these growths / rhizomes and The Individual

like how do you feel about being an artist, The Artist



yeah i think I feel cornered now to be the Artist

like i could earlier curate things, do editorial and graphic design work, collaborations, all as one flow of practice … now i have to make some major Artistic gestures, often by myself



it’s interesting how things somehow only become recognizable and Real for the art system through individual practices

the like slime of the collective is harder to historicize



there is no mechanism in place to fully engage and support practices with blurry edges

and that of course affects my output

or like now i realize i have to still do stuff that is less defined, but it is better to go against the art system flows



i think it’s interesting how you’ve managed that in the past, like moving from semiotics to design to curating to art

it feels like that’s how the world should be now, like interdisciplinary and fluid



i mean i was not officially an artist until my first solo show i guess



did you feel like there was a lot of friction in moving through these different scenes or was it a “natural” progression?



yeah definitely, and with lots of subtlety :: i see people whose little instagram feed is like the most sensitive art work … but it is just too fluid to be registered

the natural thing about it was that i just kind of told myself to follow my interests in the most real honest way, and once the field, like graphic design, felt limited, i had to switch

but it was also just a chaotic process of bouncing between schools, internships, money gigs

until i could “make a living” from Art



i think at the eve of your Venice debut there is this temptation to sort of smooth out the past

to like make it seem as if it was inevitable and logical

or that seems to be how artists’ practices are written about

although from observing your work in the last 5-6 years it does feel like there is something inevitable

like there is some constant frequency flowing through your activities



there is definitely nothing obvious about how i started and ending up doing Venice, there was like 0.000000000000000001 chance of that happening

i think in some sense i just got mad lucky, and i will have to pay for it somehow eventually



survivor’s guilt



haha maybe yeah, also massive impostor syndrome



yeah impostor is somehow a good term to bring into the discussion

like not in terms of you as a person

but i think in your work there is something about things posing as other things, trying to pass

like the robots that mimic the movement of a parent cradling a child

or hard aluminum 2d planes trying to pose as soft cute animals

but it also doesn’t feel that the works are fakes, but more like their true nature is posing as something other

if that makes sense lol

like actors



i get what you are saying

like with animals, the most hd images of them are still not them

this sounds like a dumb-profound statement, but it is often kind of not obvious

these are image files, artifacts, dead

capturing something which is an animal

but it can still affect us as if it is a little bit of a wild animal

you cannot help it somehow

and so this power of the image to manipulate your attention and emotions



it’s also weird how this image production gets more and more sophisticated while the actual ecosystems that support the material existence of these animals becomes more and more degraded / low-resolution



yeah definitely, in some cases there are more image files of certain species than actual live representatives of these species left on the planet

and the files are probably what stays around, and their dna strains



i was wondering how you feel about these terms

animal & nature

cos it also feels like your work is maybe trying to destabilize them

or somehow saying that your work is “about animals” feels off



definitely … after post-internet, “animals” is the second most common summary of my work

but i get it of course



it’s interesting to me that the ecological aspect seems kind of underrepresented

or maybe i’m reading the wrong media lol

but i feel like for me the most common summary of your work is that it’s about like images and how they circulate



yeah which is level 01 to me somehow



like that they are about the potential virality of cute animal imagery more than about “actual” animals



it is about images as machines of attention grabbing


and it is also about the unfathomable complexity of the animal forms that have been evolving for billions of years which is hardly comparable to our current “advanced technologies”

and this is the tension and angle to displace the animal / nature category

like a marabou bird, or an octopus is so much more mysterious that an ipad, but we just eat them or they just exist eating our garbage

and there are all kinds of tensions and trajectories in that

their complexity then translates into their “viral” potential

as images



it’s almost like a biblical tension

like we are jealous of “The Creator”

and wanna make our own things

golden calf

like those new robots by Festo

the flying penguin robot and the kangaroo robot


and like biomimicry is the ultimate goal somehow

yeah exactly or boston dynamics



it’s in architecture too of course, like biomorphic forms

i was thinking about cat and dog memes

like how many representations there are of cute pets for people who can’t have pets



it has been there since the first architectures, since the first art, since the first costume



but i think it’s interesting that the representations you have chosen to make of these living beings are quite cold

like they are cooler / less affective which negatively effects their virality



Jane Goodall, the famous chimp primatologist, once said she supported viral images of cute chimps, because overall they do bring them funding for their conservation practices … but even the fact that this is an actual economic cycle — from viral image to cash, is so weird still to me



it’s interesting tho that since your work is mainly existing online as installation shots, it communicates detachment

like the lonely animal in sterile cube

while the cute animal photos aim for a more “naturalistic” (lol) look

like they lack the “critical” distance of the surrounding sterile architecture



yeah because ultimately i guess i am kind of deconstructing it a little bit, especially by presenting it as art objects … isolated images of animals, printed on cold kind of cheap display material — isolated value somehow

which of course partially stops being its origins, and partially still functions, but already in a different economy with different codes

the white cube codes, and early-on tumblr codes



it was an interesting deviation when you made the work where you placed this bird in the context of a mars landscape

like that the Actor got a Stage



yeah more and more i think of my exhibitions as sets



i think it would be interesting to think about your work in relation to props and stage design



where something is taking place and where something is documented

yeah basically one of the few things i can say about my Venice project is that me and Kati, the curator, are taking The Blade Runner, as a reference

and for me especially, some of the sets of Blade Runner

and Aliens



blade runner loops back to mimicry / imitation too

like trying to pass as human

someone was saying that the paradox of blade runner is how the main character has to suppress his empathy to kill the androids

but then his empathy is supposed to be the thing that separates him from them



yeah i re-watched it recently and it felt insane how many cross points it has with my work

synthetic animals



they’re not androids really i guess..

oh true the owl too!

“do you like our owl?”

that would be a good show title hehe



there is a whole thing about real and synthetic animals, and the difference in the price between them

and the idea of an eye who is looking and what and how they see it

humans build androids to colonize space, but what ends up happening is that androids are the ones seeing the unseen worlds for the first time with their eyes, like the Mars rovers



in a way the cut outs are more comforting

like they are old school in the sense that they are extremely easily differentiated

from the real thing

they are not uncanny valley



for sure, also i had to respond to the codes existing in the art world in a way too … like “you want a sculpture?” — “here is a sculpture”

in the most simple way



i was reading something recently about the roy batty speech in the end of the movie, like how his ability to have this aesthetic experience is like this last claim to a right to exist



my work in a way still starts on the screen

yes, it is beautiful



in a way the androids and the animals have to market themselves to humans in the same way

like it’s also sad in that sense, like we have to be moved to protect / let live

affective labor lol



yeah exactly, you got it … this idea that nonhuman beings have a right to see the world at all, and to live in it..

and this right is barely acknowledged



i guess they are called Replicants not androids



yeah whatevs




we can change it when we edit lol

or just leave this observation here like oops



i mean we know what we are talking about, there is an android in Aliens

but yes, it’s like how the only interface with other beings is how human-like they are

animals only go viral when they do cute human-like things

and it’s cute that they can’t be us or something

Aliens adds up to this in a way that the beings there are so mysterious and terrifying and powerful, that they kind of almost get to destroy humanity — and for me it is more representing our AI fears



was it the 4th alien movie that tried to kinda humanize the alien, like it was a mother or something

and Ripley was more alien too

she was starting to understand that point of view



yeah she was a hybrid



also her failed clones that she smashes

we should put screen shots of all this shit as illustrations

have you seen The Thing?



i feel like The Thing overlaps with your work too, like the alien that wants to take the shape of these other beings but then it’s always caught in the middle of an awkward transition

and creates these like monstrous but also sculptural and magnificent half forms



Yeah there’s always something uncanny about these transitional forms

that’s the baby swings in a way

like what the f, these bird-like medical machines that cradle babies

did a military designer come up with those? how come they look so awkward

and for me the interesting part is how they just exist in the most banal way in the homes of millions of families, as if it is all chill




there’s an interesting difference between the cutouts and the baby swings

like the cutouts are very german vibe, like ok here are these things that exist

but then the baby swings are really baroque and ornamental

like you decorated them to be these weird plant reptile characters

like that baroque painting of the head made of vegetables

i remember it seemed like a dramatic shift when i saw them the first time



yeah it had to be a shift

i was thinking about making something in between a robot and a jurassic park prop

and the challenge was to make something with a strong presence, but the opposite of the flat animal images

and i didn’t want to make any obvious robots

once i had the skeletal shapes of the swings in my studio it felt like the next step should be this very simple ornamentation

like a christmas tree, or a traditional dress

inspired by Isa Genzken in a way, but with more symmetry



there is something aristocratic about the swings


like they could be at home in a palace



yeah that is maybe the symmetry

they look like weird altars too



right now imagining them in some kind of gilded room among venice’s artificial waterways

in a way that city is a good context for your work

because it’s all about like the mastery of “nature”

but it’s being fucked up by nature

like literally sinking already



the pavilion in venice is not very fancy, not baroque

but it still has this vibe of an italian palazzo apartment, the floor and the ceiling



do you think about “context” in that sense

like in a way ur work feels resistant to stuff like that

like you’re not a super “reactive”



yeah i’ve been thinking to make an obvious climate change apocalypse work for a while, but it never feels right to make it really obvious

on a purely intuitive level it feels wrong to be direct

but “cooking” the work, the context is very important

in blade runner the theme of a climate apocalypse is also on the background

and so the way i’m thinking about the pavilion and the whole thing, is as a set of post-collapse



i guess there are two ways to think about context

like the political / societal / historical context and then the like material / architectural context of wherever you’re showing

but i guess in this sense they are quite wrapped up in each other, like venice is collapse and larger context is also collapse





and the collapse of europe (dark humor)




it feels like our time is characterized by this sadness

about an end that is coming

and feels inevitable

which seems somehow oddly similar to europe before WWI

altho of course any other time could be compared

fall of rome, medieval times etc



yeah i think you are good at actually capturing these connections in your video works

like even this thing of bringing the medieval back into present, changing the meaning of the present

like we are still in many ways in the same world

in Estonia the medieval is part of the landscape and tourism industry still, so it never went away … in venice the renaissance is still part of the landscape ..

not sure where i’m going with this, but i guess these continuities are suddenly more obvious to me: things can and have collapsed several times, within very few generations from each other

growing up it felt like things can only get better, but that feeling is kind of gone



we are in the middle of a mass extinction event

but it’s weird to think that there have already been five other ones

it’s also interesting in relation to the art world, how art somehow worships history and archive

or it’s like both totally amnesiac and forcing “contemporaneity”

but it is also protecting like slide projectors and film reels and bronze casting and lithography

like an umbrella to all these soon extinct manufacturing techniques

i guess there is no question here yet hehe



i read this super interesting article about how plexiglass and plastics are actually not that permanent — plexi boxes develop “acid rains”, bacteria eats through plastics, etc.. a lot of these contemporary synthetic materials are actually more vulnerable than pottery



your work, and the work of a lot of people in our network, coming up in this system via “looking futuristic”

like feels like in the past five years there have been soo many shows about the future

but then i think the sense of an actual livable future is disappearing



yeah for me the example of early Russian futurist aesthetic is very interesting — how it aged

and i think it aged in an interesting way



and maybe that futurism was also a syndrome of / parallel to the chaos of the first world war



yeah or like it is clear that most people won’t have the access to the “livable” part of the future

and also weird to think again about archives and museums, when all this art value might just get wiped out



it’s kind of a simulation

like i think about it all the time, how will we be remembered

what is going to be left behind

it’s kinda like the “anthropocene”

like for that word to matter we have to first imagine a geologist that lives 100,000 years in the future

and needs to have a name for whatever this was

which is like a really abstract seeming projection right now

i think the same goes for post-internet

like it’s the name that this stuff could be described with if there is art history in the future

or things become “history” in 30 months



it is also about what gets to be fossilized and what doesn’t too

not everything will be discoverable even

so the view of us from 100,000 will already be distorted

and even the view of what we did in 2010 has been distorted since 2013

so yes, 30 months hehe



yeah, we get back to the beginning of the chat in a nice way hehe

like how collectivity, slimy online culture blobs

maybe disappear because they’re not an anecdote, not a narrative

but The Artists might remain in history because individual narratives are strong enough as a format



yeah there is almost no paleontological research of mushrooms, because they hardly left any fossils..although we know that mushrooms are one of the largest clusters of life

it is a crude form, the individual, it is carried by gossip and faces, and those are remembered better



there is something nice about that thought with the mushrooms

like the mushroom is a dance while the mammal is a sculpture

or something



mushrooming as a performance



like the mammal leaves an awkward skeleton behind

mushroom just does its shit and disappears



mushrooming as tumblr



mushrooms as status updates



of the network that lies beneath the ground






mammals with their large eyes and cute fur, it is our main mental paradigm and our main limitation to imagine other possibilities in life




it’s interesting tho how far this metaphor can go, or like if it is also somehow flattening out the profound weirdness of technology as a thing in itself



even that still for the average curator it is difficult to imagine code as art, versus sculpture as art

what do you mean flattening?



yeah, it’s interesting also, in relation to net art, how insulted people are that the institutions didn’t like subsume it



and i kind of understand their frustration



even though the point seemed to be that it would be something that couldn’t be subsumed, that would be more free



also maybe coding already assumes a different art system

the museums are just not the right fit

it is like the difference between religious art vs autonomous art

once you assume a subjectivity independent from God, you don’t need a church


im going deep somewhere



yes, i feel like we are peeking into a future where the current institutions are obsolete

which is why being an artist right now is so full of friction / frustration and maybe guilt



basically i think we are a conflicted generation

we are on the edge of all these things, ultimately still pulled towards the old fashioned institutions



like guilt of playing to the old order when u can smell the new mushroom scene coming up

that ‘s very venice too



but in our hearts we know things will and have to radically mutate


basically this



like every national pavilion has at least once or every second time done the “fuck nationalism” pavilion



so my venice project is a huge contradiction too

from start to finish



like the Finnish one it was listed in the open call as the goal that the pavilion has to critically reflect on national identity or whatever

which is kinda like hmm maybe just discontinue the pavilion and give the money to open borders activism



and the ambassador will still be at the opening giving a speech




it’s like double consciousness





i think i will be a walking issue in this too: during my press conference the nation will see i make lots of mistakes while speaking Estonian

which i am ok with, embracing the contradictions

doing my best



yes, this was something i wanted to ask about also

trying to quickly google but coming up empty

i just remembered this early project of yours

Lasnamäe natives?

which was combining District 9 alien aesthetics with the area in Tallinn you grew up



yeah i think i took it down

never felt like it was finished




i really liked that project, while i agree that it felt unresolved possibly



one of the reasons i could never finish it was that i could not imagine my conversation partner for it

it was filled with too much insider info for a global circulation, and back then i did not have a lot of peers in Estonia itself

so it felt like i did it for a non-existing viewer

maybe it would be interesting to resurface that now




like that it’s not made for the people who grew up where you grew up?

but for a more detached audience?

if it’s in the art world



it would be made for someone who grew up there with me, but none of those people “get” contemporary art

so it had to be for a more general audience, but then the meanings and visuals had too many local meanings



yeah, it’s a really tricky problem

like how to weave in history and experience if it’s not a “general” communicable experience necessarily

like i feel like only people who grew up in places like new york have this life that people are used to looking at, or have seen several different kinds of representations of



yeah me and you get nyc references, because of all the movies

and so it is easier to make those references as default



it’s an interesting thing about your work too, like that you are not mining your identity/experience very directly

in a way it makes your work compressed, like it’s light enough to travel

because there is nothing too specific that would weigh it down

but that also feels like the thing that made the berlin biennial as a whole kinda heavy and tiring

for example

like the sort of unbearable lightness of things that look general



yeah, not many things were placed

but maybe that was also the point … the gooey global mediocre similarity of forms

or the vague feeling of being in the future




i think “futurity” seems to mean that often now

comes from like all the specificity disappearing

like cleaned from trauma or something



i think in my case i have a long history of escapism from my current social environment

so for me this global thing always helped mentally to detach myself from my reality

and that was main coping mechanism while on the cold bus from school

i could listen to radiohead, play a computer game or whatever and completely disassociate

and that is still kind of how i operate … i am very sensitive to reality but half of the time i have to disassociate to deal with it

(lol using this chat as my therapy session)




that is a big upside about the white cube

like that it creates this “neutral” / calm environment where things can be contemplated as if without a context in a way

or with this over-historical context that is not somehow unstable or messy or full



and my work is born in that feeling of escapism: let’s dream about what the Mars rovers see now, instead of the rise of extreme right

maybe why i could transition into the white cube art system too, it supported this

i have a great deal of respect for people who are not able to be escapists and actually fight in the real world



yeah, i was googling your work and there’s this image of you and a bird and an upward arrow in the mars rover stage design you made in the berliner zeitung office building

which feels somehow accurate as a description of the world out of joint #2016 style



haha yeah



i guess distance is necessary in any case, and all distance is maybe not escapism, or hopefully not

like there has to be ways to zoom out of a situation



yeah and people have different degrees and forms of engagement

so as long as not everyone is like me, the world has a chance



i guess everyone has that feeling now, or seems like it

like the feeling of what one does being not enough

in relation to current world events

like also all the activists etc i know



because it is obviously not?

like we are still sliding into something

i’ve been browsing lots of reddit recently and i get a sense that most people are in this weird manic state of losing control

from all spectra

alt rights are also in panic mode



i mean i think this sense of urgency, like “something has to be done” is also what is making us slide into shit

and what creates violent acts



the hysteria



it’s so weird to think that if we could all somehow just stop trying to fix things the ecosystem would simply go on and fix itself

like that there’s nothing essentially wrong with the world

besides our attempts to like “fix it”

like that the inactivity is not the problem, the activity is, although this is also a lazy person’s justification for watching seinfeld at home




yeah so maybe a dose of sit-back escapism is healthy

all of a sudden i watched all seasons of the Walking Dead

because it matched the mood this fall

like i was in nyc, with protests against trump happening … but i was in my airbnb watching the walking dead



zombies are interesting

or like the idea of the undead

the collapse too

maybe something like the replicants



the walking dead is referring to the living too, uncanny forms



the walking dead and those kinda post-apocalyptic narratives are i guess a kind of fantasy of simplicity

like that there is no bureaucracy anymore

and all desires are simple



yeah and the laws are primitive



like braaaiinss

or just to survive and stay human



back to tribalism too




anarcho primitivist



that’s the wet dream



the mushroom fantasy



i think mushroom civilization would actually be the opposite of the walking dead

it is like the antidote

to our mammalian issues



i remember watching this donna haraway / anna tsing lecture

which was referencing nausicaa

like how the mushrooms in that are somehow cleaning toxicity

like the same as the plastic eating mushrooms etc

like we are the problem child and maybe these other species clean up our shit when we are skeletons later on

also the mushroom that lives in the chernobyl reactor and eats radiation

it’s funny how the hopeful futures are about mushrooms, like jenna sutela’s work too

no more humans, just slime mold covering the earth




im reading now Haraway’s latest book: and she is basically pushing this idea of “staying with the trouble” — like avoid the escapism, avoid the speculative utopias/distopias, be mindful and deal with what is happening to the world right now

and really look deeply into the present: find the mushrooms who are eating the plastics, and relate yourself to them

it is not about the anthropos, it is about seeing ourselves in connections to all these other beings, like mushrooms and gaining mutual empathy

she is brilliant, so it never sounds too “hippy”, she is on point and critical

and there is joy in that, not just panic



i have been really moved by her realism

like she is not overtly optimistic but also not desolate

she had this lecture that somehow starts with like how all biological life through time has been relational

like there has never been a living thing that is “separate”



yeah, and not too far out with her theories, it always comes back to beings and people and earth



which makes the cutouts feel doubly cutouts

like cutout of aluminum and also the representation of the animal placed in isolation (cut out) in a way that is impossible

or like would kill them

if they weren’t already images




yes but then you know it gets activated by human eyes and emotional systems, the visual patterns of these animals

it is a form of capsuling though, like i’m collecting reality in a way and isolating it



ooops i have to go now



ok this was fun! we can each find some images, and then we send them to the magazine


*Header photo: Katja Novitskova “Storm Time Approximation (hominids, IR thermal vision)”, 2016. Photo: Martha Fleming-Ives. Courtesy of Greene Naftali