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Taavi Talve. I was in Timbuktu

Curator: Indrek Grigor

From Thursday, 17 February, the exhibition by Taavi Talve, I Was in Timbuktu, will be open at Tallinn City Gallery. The exhibition discusses images projected into an unexplored corner of the world and colonial conquest. One such story is told by Werner Legère in his novel I Was in Timbuktu, which appeared in Estonian in 1959 as part of the Adventure Stories from Land and Sea (Seiklusjutte maalt ja merelt) book series and sparked the imagination of many young readers, who later began to question the actual existence of Timbuktu.


The curator of the exhibition is Indrek Grigor. You are welcome to the opening of the exhibition at Tallinn City Gallery on Wednesday, 16 February at 6 pm.


Three inevitable elements always seem to be present in works by Taavi Talve: architecture, quotes and human destiny. The most abstract of these is architecture, one of the strangest forms of which has been rendering a spatial dimension to words and punctuation marks. An example of this was the giant quotation marks hanging from the ceiling at the exhibition ONTHETITLE (2013). The quote, on the other hand, is the most specific component. A found object, an artefact surrounded by the work as a display case. Perhaps the funniest example of this was the untitled installation with Indrek Köster (as the artist group Johnson & Johnson) at the 2010 Artishok Biennale. Hijacking the logic of the Biennale, it did not let visitors read the texts written by ten critics, reviewing the same work that blocked access to them.


Considering Talve’s relatively uncompromising conceptual language, human destiny can be considered the most surprising component of the three. An excellent example of this among his more recent works is Blind Spot, where Talve explored the story of the Estonian dancer Epp Kotkas. Who was she and how did she end up in the U.S., in the troupe of Yvonne Rainer? Throughout the archival work, Kotkas remained a fiction, one who it was ultimately impossible even to give a face to.


In I Was in Timbuktu, the game seems to be reversed: the emphasis is on Timbuktu as a city, which we are held back from acknowledging as a real place because of a myth that promises to be more permanent than the desert town itself. Whoever succumbs to the urge and takes on a journey to the city despite all the promised hardships seems to return empty-handed. The stories of those who visited Timbuktu focus on the challenging journey that turned out to be even more difficult than expected. The city, on the other hand, did not live up to expectations at all. However, looking back, no one can say exactly what they expected and what this expectation was based on.

Taavi Talve studied sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts. His recent works are based on archival impulses and the connections of past events with the present. These subjective observations blend the factual with the fictitious and the documented with the imaginary. Talve recently held a solo exhibition Documented Points of View at Tartu Art House (2020) and participated in the group exhibitions Open Collections: The Artist Takes the Floor at Kumu art museum (2019) and Köler Prize 2018: Exhibition of Nominees at the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (2018). Since 2005, he has been active in the artist group Johnson & Johnson with Indrek Köster.


Indrek Grigor works as head of the Exhibitions Department of the Tartu Art Museum, regularly publishes art criticism in Estonian and other Baltic publications and has been a contributor to Estonian Public Broadcasting for more than ten years. Grigor studied art history (MA 2008) and semiotics (BA 2004) at the University of Tartu. In 2007-2010 he worked as the registrar of the Photo and Video Art Collection of the Tartu Art Museum and in 2010-2018 as a gallerist at the Tartu Art House.


We would like to thank: Dénes Farkas, Albert Kerstna, Peeter Krosmann, Laura Liventaal, Anti Saar, Tiina Vahter, Sergo Vares, Raul Veede.


On Saturday, 12 March at 2 pm, curator Indrek Grigor will give a guided tour at the exhibition. The exhibition I Was in Timbuktu will remain open at Tallinn City Gallery until 10 April 2022.