This new exhibition by Marko Mäetamm with Rita Bozi and Ken Cameron at Tallinn Art Hall uses the memory of Marko’s grandfather who lived in Canada to speak about war refugees, exiled Estonians and the mental conflict between the Soviet Union and the West. A narrative familiar to many Estonians brings together the world views of three generations, also revealing the humour in their peculiar clashes.
Through videos, installations and texts, the exhibition, “One Month in Canada” tells the story of the artist’s father visiting his own father in Toronto in 1978. It was their first and last meeting since 1944.
“This mythical grandfather has been living in my head as long as I can remember. Since my father’s trip, all sorts of stories from Canada and items brought from there became an integral part on my life. I believe that even my interest in drawing was greatly inspired by those wonderful foreign objects and magazines,” Mäetamm says, describing the importance of this event in the life of his family. The exhibition was born as a homage to his father: “My father kept telling his Canadian stories until the end of his life. Year after year. The same stories, with slight variations. At one point I felt that I needed to do something with these stories.”
In producing the work for the exhibition Marko Mäetamm has collaborated with Canadian playwright and director Ken Cameron and Hungarian Canadian writer, performance artist and therapist Rita Bozi.
“War tears families asunder, leaving marks on the generations to come,” Bozi says. “Once I reconciled with the sadness of this escape story I was able to focus on the bizarreness of a son, trapped in the Soviet Union being granted a visa to visit his father in Toronto in 1978. How strange this world must have looked for him. Coincidentally, I myself moved to Toronto in 1979, having experienced first-hand the cultural, social, political and geographical landscape of the time. This gave me an advantage in terms of viewpoint when it came to exploring what Marko’s father might have seen and felt in this strange land of Canada.”
Nevertheless, “One Month in Canada” is not a linear historical documentation, but a mixture of the vivid imagination of teenage Marko from from a small town in South Estonia, the stories told by his father and the fragmented facts that were known about his grandfather. The exhibition blends together the spoken and actual history, and the mentality of the East and West. Although this family story is easy to relate to, the artists do not focus on its simple nostalgia.
Ken Cameron emphasises: “The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves shape ourselves. “One Month in Canada” is, in many ways, a wry and humorous cross-section of the stories Marko, Rita and I have told ourselves about this curious foreign land in our shared imagination.”
Thank you: Arvo Pärt Centre, Banff Centre, Canada Council for the Arts, Fuga, Playwrights Guild of Canada, Productive Obsession, Tallinna Kultuuriamet, Trafo, Temnikova & Kasela gallery, Anna Pabērza, Silja Mäetamm, Viljar Sard, Indrek Spungin, Maarja Merivoo-Parro and Kiwa.