© Marje Taska
In my youth, I had schoolmates who had fled from Estonia during the war and found refuge in Sweden. Some of them were obsessed with fright of “The Russian”. A girl's father told her to hide when the trainpassed – The Russian may be in the train and spied. These exiles formed a very cohesive group. A girl I courted said she liked me, but that naturally, an Estonian would be her choice.
Other Estonians had to leave their country and travel in the other direction. Marje Taska had grandparents who ended up in Siberia. Against this background, she now shows at Burlövs Konstförening an installation called “Comeback” – it is a return from captivity, a “comeback” for a deported family and a raped land.
Nine squares with figures rest on the floor. Adding the rows (or the diagonals) the result is always 15, for fifteen years in captivity. I think of graves or barbed wire enclosed, bricked over windows. Claustrophoby smothers me. However you count, the sentence is the same. It is thought itself that is imprisoned withion those squares and figures. You try to reckon your way out, but it does not work. It is a captivity that refers not just to that camp in Siberia, but human life itself. We are stuck between heaven and earth and we cannot ever be free.
An eight-pointed white star is filled with heads. The piece is called “Incarnation”. People there are tightly packed and hardly show signs of individuality. In a camp are all alike and all have the same worth. That which is within these personae gets expressed in therapy. Two chairs in front of each other are called “Therapy”. One of them, the therapeut's perhaps, has white bandages for relief and consolation while the other, the patient's, is heaped with all manner of things smeared in blood red: curlers, filmroll, comb, stamp, pawn, syringe...
There are also documentary testimonies about the people in the camp, with their hopelessness but you can also get a feeling of hope, joy, future. A book was bound by Marje Taska's grandfather Eduard who died in the labor camp 1942. On a slip of paper, her mother has written down what they lived on, mostly potatoes and onions, and you can have a taste of a siberian delicatesse made of potato peels, salt, a little oil. I dip a bit of bread and eat – it is rather more unusual than delicious.
Such an exhibition can easily get so personal that it becomes private. You may think, oh well, this was how it was there, in faraway Siberia. Thus, everything becomes rather less urgent and interesting and more of a curiosity, an excavation of an old settlement.
It cannot be emphasized enough that this is not the case. Marje Taska has been able to induce that which is her personal sphere, with a universality that feels numbing and instills you with a great and painful wonderment.
The way winds through Jung's collective unconcious – the desolate landscape where we all feel at home if we but bear, dare and can get there. This is not the story about some people's captivity once, it is the story about my, yours, everybody's captivity then, now and in the future. However we reckon we must do fifteen years, live on potatoes and onions, feast on the insipid soup, crowded in the white star, threatened by a “Falling Star” that is dangerous to step on. It is a true comeback, an important return to a life where we easily forget its limits and circumstances. This is for me a brilliant figuration which will for ever remain in my soul!
Fertile black soil from north of Moscow. Mediocre sandy clay dug out of an Estonian potato field. And soil from Ukraine's fields. Artist Marje Taska brings the question about the meaning of soil to a head. The soil samples – about a dozen – from the former Soviet Union's turf, are collected mainly for scientific purposes. When she mixes them all an forms them into an ingot it becomes clear how loaded the question is. Here is the soil that is so necessary for man, as well as the fatherland's soil whose symbology was used by the Nazis in their 'blut-und-boden' ideology. Desirable as gold it is a permanent cause of conflicts. By itself, it blurs the border between Ukrainian and Russian, between the Baltic states and Moscow – it is the same soil we all step on. And all the same, the samples show strong variation.
In the exhibition Baltic Gold at Galleri 21 in Malmö, Marje Taska brings together some of more important names in Estonian contemporary arts into a strong presentation in the frame of the 100th Anniversary of the Baltic Exhibition. In 1914, Estonia participated as a province of the Russian Empire. At the close of the Exhibition, two of the participating countries were at war with each other. The parallel with the present is too obvious.
Last spring it was 120 years since Marjes grandfather Eduard Taska was born. Marje took the opportunity to make an exhibtion about him. It was a poetic installation about the memory of a man – and how easy it is for a life to be blurred into oblivion.
In the exhibition, she wrote her grandfather's name in chalk on the wall. Just a careless visitor could have erased the name. She made a kind of memory game with pictures from eduard's family life: gardening, playing chess with the children, Sunday dinner...
The memory cards top is made of articial grass. It becomes a macabre game with memories, which can disappear as soons as they put under the tussocks, oblivion's or reality's.
In the exhibition, shown at the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design in Tallin last spring, there was also a double-portrait of both. Her nose by his nose, Cupid's bows meeting each other, brows.
The protrait becomes an symbol for the relatives we carry within, even those we have never met. They define our person – and sometimes we don't even know about it. Eduard Taska died, apparently alone and abandoned away in Siberia. Nevertheless, in many ways, he endures. Here and now.
After his death he became grandfather six times and great-grandfather sixteen times. In this way we all are carriers of time: both our own and our ancestors'. Within us, so many people abide. Maybe as simple a thing as someone asking. Who are you? Who was your grandfather?