Reconstruction. Idea. Project. Object. – Jüri Okas’s solo show
In the late 1960s, the Artists’ Union set up a small room on the third floor of the Tallinn Art Hall to enable artists whose works had been rejected from official exhibitions to show their work. Access to these exhibitions was technically open to all, but since one could enter the space only through the premises of the Artists’ Union, the wider public was automatically excluded. The exhibitions were approved by a board of Artists’ Union functionaries and a poster was produced for each exhibition.
The walls of the exhibition space displayed black-and-white photographs and print works—what were called “reconstructions”—dealing with structural analyses of concrete, mostly urban, environments. With the additional use of black-painted wooden staves and mirrors, Okas created an all-encompassing perceptual environment, and with this installation he made one of the first attempts in Estonia to redefine the exhibition genre and also the art object.
Perhaps referencing Minimalist art practices as well as El Lissitzky’s Proun Room (1923), Okas fully engaged the viewer with the exhibition space—distorted and deformed by mirrors, it was a deconstructive space that confused and disoriented viewers as they moved about. Following the exhibition, Okas shot the 8 mm film Environment (1976, black and white, 5 min.). The film combines exhibition views with exterior views of the city. Like Reconstruction, the film is characterized by bustling montage, jumpy rhythm, and sharp cuts; it provides an analysis of the space and perceptions of it.
Later, Okas preferred the title “Environment” for the exhibition as well as the film.
Date: 18–29 March 1976
Participant: Jüri Okas (1950)
Location: Tallinn Art Hall, exhibition space on the third floor of the Artists’ Union