Second stop of the trilogy Spirit – the curators and contemplating on the concepts of spirit and spirituality.

University of Tartu Museum and St. John's Church March 19 – May 8, 2022


Marje Taska and Reet Varblane, exhibition project manager Ingrid Sahk


Villu Plink


Riho Kall, Kiwa, Aime Kuulbusch, Toomas Kuusing, Eva Labotkin, Roomet Jakapi ja Tanel Rander, Mare Mikoff, Linda Nurk (Sweden), Marja-Liisa Plats, Paul Rodgers, Matthias Sildnik, Ülo Sooster, Uno Svensson (Sweden), Andres Tali, Varvara and Mar, and Mare Vint.

Artists and works


What leads people to the spirit (and spirituality) is the curiosity and empathy that make it possible to reflect on and know oneself and the surrounding world. We can speak of the mindsets of distinct locations and eras. Human curiosity and thirst for knowledge are not limited only to the tangible, this is why the subject of spirituality can be taken further, to a higher level where it can be called eternity, godly love or cosmic inspiration.

The route of the exhibition trilogy leads from Võrumaa to Tallinn through Tartu. The academic spirit cannot be overlooked in the university town, especially bearing in mind that the University of Tartu museum is located in the ruins of the Cathedral. Tartu has also always been a cultural centre with its own particular mindset. In spite of all the attempts to define the spirit of Tartu, whether as a phenomenon, a location or a personality, it remains evasive.  

The exhibition “Force” was introduced by the concept of force as visualised by the curators: a silver baton as a tiny rolled up manuscript with the text “Sanctus praesens”. The concept of spirit is carried by a fifty times larger modernist machine that transmits in telegraph code, or Morse, the message of the exhibition: "Pax in praesentia sancta". The Morse apparatus, the supernatural multiplexer, is a generator of peace, because only when there is peace can the spirit unfold and evolve. It is imperative to preserve one's spiritual integrity when politics become complicated.

The exhibition “Spirit” can be divided into two: works featuring the spirit of Tartu, on the one hand, and works that are meditations on eternal existential subjects and spirit, interpreted from the contemporary point of view, the holy present, on the other.

The depiction of an egg by Ülo Sooster, who brought the Tartu spirit to the international arena, demonstrates the potential of the spirituality of Tartu in the broadest sense. The installation by Eva Labotkin, Tanel Rander and Roomet Jakapi can be viewed as a poetic-ironic scenario for a future when Tartu (the River Emajõgi) joins the world spirit (world ocean). The videos created using AI by Varvara Mar and Matthias Sildnik follow a similar line. The synthetic landscapes of Varvara and Mar question the identity, the genius loci of a familiar location. Matthias Sildnik has studied how words manipulate the brain and compared the effect with the effect of gene therapy on lab mice.

The metaphysical park landscapes of Mare Vint contain eternity and a cosmic dimension. The mirror labyrinth, the mirror in the mirror by Kiwa designates the unattainable elevated spirit as well as its illusoriness. The female figures of Mare Mikof and Aime Kuulbusch are Songs of Songs to women: “I Wish to Take Wing” by Kuulbusch is a modernist allegory to the free spirit, and “Herdsgirl” by Mikoff is a contemporary interpretation of strong Biblical women (exhibited in St. John's Church). Andres Tali has observed spirit as an inner human 'godly' aspect that may elevate and also destroy. Toomas Kuusing presents witty reconstructions of cultural meanings (exhibited in St. John's Church). Uno Svensson's congloremates or bunches of humans designate the collective anonymous spirit, but the sense of discomfort emanating from them call for their cancellation (St. John's Church).

For Linda Nurk, Paul Rodgers and Marja-Liisa Plats, spirituality is not only a human privilege, it belongs to other living beings too (silk worms, beavers or bats).

Riho Kall approached spirit through sublimation: the artist's absent father figure is replaced by the father's spirit (St. John's Church).

Reet Varblane

We thank the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the Estonian Cultural Society in Stockholm, the Postimees Foundation, Lembit Allikmets, the Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum, Andri Ksenofontov, the hostel Looming, Liisi Tamme, the Department of Art History of University of Tartu, the Children's Art School of Tartu.

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