The Transition: Siim-Tanel Annus – Performance 1987 and an Overview of the Oeuvre
Siim-Tanel Annus (1960) started his art studies as a teenager in the studio of the artist Tõnis Vint (1942–2019). Early on, he began participating in exhibitions and, in the 1980s, performances that were organised in his backyard were added to his repertoire. Annus acquired a higher education in art history at the University of Tartu.
The first part of the exhibition introduces Annus’s legendary 1987 backyard performances Transitions (also known as Mooni 46a, based on their location). Careful preparations were made for the performance that occurred on 5 December:Finnish TV had secured a permit from Moscow to film it. In the performance, Annus conducted a fire ritual, while dressed in a white robe and wearing a crown. The performance culminated with the blindfolded Annus passing through a gate of fire on a wheeled platform. At the end of the performance, the audience was surprised by the police, who took the artist and TV crew to be interrogated at a local police station. Thus, the artist’s initial universal intentions became intertwined with political reality. Gaining momentum from subsequent events, including Estonia regaining its independence, Annus has retrospectively been awarded the title of prophet. The ambivalence of Annus’s images has created fertile ground for very different interpretations of his performances, including ones related to current events. The artist has also effortlessly accepted these interpretations, saying that he tore down his wall two years before the Berlin Wall was torn down.
The exhibition includes traces of the performance that have been preserved in various media, including the art historian Evi Pihlak’s eye-witness testimony, Katariina Lahti’s documentary film and Ariel Lagle’s sound design.
Annus’s pictorial works from the late 1970s to the present day enter into a dialogue with his performances. In a sense, Siim-Tanel Annus has spent his life creating a single large integrated work of art, in which the visionary geometrical graphic pictures created as a teenager intertwine organically with his mystical backyard rituals and today’s large-scale murals. A common element they share is a striving for “another, brighter world” as the art historian Evi Pihlak has noted. This ideal world is characterised by minimalist transparency – a tabula rasa – onto which viewers are allowed to project themselves. The artist has not strictly described the emerging symbols, so they form in our imaginations. Therefore, the very nature of Annus’s work is also a therapeutic “state-of-being art” that provides viewers with the opportunity to rise above their daily experiences, without forcing the experience upon them.
Exhibition curator: Liis Kibuspuu (Estonian Academy of Arts)
Exhibition design: Sylvia-Johanna Annus
Graphic design: Külli Kaats
The exhibition is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.