Interview with Eve Kask
1. You are a Frenchwoman living in Berlin, but you represent Estonia at the triennial. How did you come to Estonia and become engaged in a subject as hot as atomic cities?
The way from Paris to Sillamäe is not that long for me, since my grandmother was an Estonian citizen. My great-grandmother, Olga Baranova’s family had lived in Estonia for four hundred years. My grandmother's father, Leo Zinovieff, was Russian and his family owned factories in Narva for several generations. My grandmother's family escaped from Bolshevik Russia in 1918, and they settled in Estonia. Later, my grandmother married a Frenchman. I was born and educated in France. I have had an Estonian passport since 1992.
This led me to question the very notion of citizenship and borders and languages and to work with people of Russian nationality in Estonia.
Sillamäe where all these issues crystallise was a fascinating starting point. I now continue to work on these topics in Narva and Ivangorod.
2. Those of your projects I have seen are painfully social. Has social and political art always been your main subject? Is this also the most important aspect of art to you as a spectator / consumer of art?
My projects are indeed socially and politically oriented but hopefully not painful! Far from playing with an image of misery, I try in my films not to direct the viewer. My heroes show pride and joy and hopes and anxieties, there is no single point of view. The interviews I have and the use I make of them underline what to my opinion is universal: that our understanding changes with the light shed on a situation.
My main subject has always been one's relationship to the immediate environment, on an everyday basis. The questions I deal with are actually always my own, and they grow as life goes on, I made films ranging from the symbolism of a wedding dress (1998) the relationship to one’s home (2001-2003) or as today, broader issues such as border crossings, identity. But basically, it is about story telling and finding heroes.
The most important aspect of art for me…a tricky question!...joy, uncontrolled elements, how to tell a story thus reaching beyond the images or the words. As for my position regarding the spectacle and consumption of art, it is highly critical. I had never intended to be an artist, though I am glad that my work is presented also in this field, since it is definitely an open space, a space of stimulating encounters with people and ideas. I keep looking for what could help me for my own research. I am very interested in how others use documentary material, how artworks and films deal with a social and political engagement, the decisional process they go through. On the other hand, cinema is a passion, I watch any type of moving images for the sake of them.
3. Two of the triennial’s videos take us to Northern Iran. What made you relate to Iranian customs and what did you learn from that experience?
I do not relate to Iranian customs, but being a woman I was fascinated by Iranian women, and shocked by the rules imposed on them. I was very impressed by the fact that -coming from the West, from a country where the hijab issue is prominent- I had to admit after meeting women in Iran that there is no simple approach possible, that the sore point is not the hijab itself but the rules of behaviour requested in a country where you face imprisonment or beating up if you don't wear this hijab.
4. What is your relationship with printmaking?
My very first works were actually prints! I like the precision, the technical requests, the time and steps needed to prepare a print, the delay of the process as well the fact that a print is a multiple. I did not go to an art school, but while I was studying economics and art history, I attended evening classes in printmaking. Furthermore, at University, I was specialising in Old Masters' prints and drawings. I had access to the Louvre's collection of drawings and prints. For us, students, opening archived boxes full of Rembrandt prints for example was a precious and unforgettable experience!
5. What do you think about the point of an event like the Tallinn Print Triennial?
I appreciated the mix of generations of printmaking, the larger understanding you offered of the notion of printmaking, ranging from videos to paper prints. Also, as any art event, the Triennal was a very interesting social gathering and I enjoyed the festive aspect of it.