Merike Estna and Maria Metsalu at Art in General, New York

Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia and Art in General New York present the exhibition Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence, an international collaboration featuring artwork and performances by artists Merike Estna and Maria Metsalu, curated by Maria Arusoo, Director of CCA Estonia

Opening: Friday, November 17, 5–9pm
Exhibition: November 18, 2017–January 13, 2018

For the opening night on November 17th 5pm-9pm, there will be performances by the artists presented in conjunction with Performa: Merike Estna Red Herring and Maria Metsalu’s Mademoiselle x. Find more information on the performances here.

During gallery opening hours, Lugemik Bookshop will also be presented within the exhibition (November 21–January 13).

Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence observes a shift taking place in the realm of our aesthetic and emotional sensibilities. The exhibition wonders if our over-consumption of virtual space, and submission to the stress of competition and acceleration has provoked a deep mutation in the psychosphere; it explores the zombified body as a response to today’s evolving societal structures.
Today, individuals suffer under the duress of a continually fractured and precarious landscape and—even more acutely—understanding of the self. Looking particularly to the female perspective, this exhibition attempts to address this uncanny post-accelerationist body in its new surroundings, questioning our state of turmoil, loneliness, and uncertainty surrounding the future. 

Merike Estna's Red Herring engages painting as a stage for human interaction. Merike Estna’s practice incorporates what she terms “performative paintings,” with allusions to the digital and the nostalgic, and a romantic reverence for parts of human existence that are mutating, melting, or slipping away. Estna's multidimensional works question the diminished value of traditional female labor, bringing craft and performativity into focus. For Red Herring, she serves artist-crafted cocktails, inviting the audience to drink and converse atop her paintings. Inspired by Aleksandr Pushkin’s A Feast in the Time of Plague, Estna plays with our ideas of Romantic forms of representation and social space.

Maria Metsalu uses her body and voice to activate a programmed, sound-responsive installation in Mademoiselle x. The performance is inspired by a psychosis diagnosed in 1880 by French neurologist Jules Cotard, whose patient believed she was organless, dead, and, paradoxically, immortal. Metsalu mobilizes this notion of the body as a complex yet uncomplicated system—a realm where everything could be possible. The performance combines light, music, scenography, movement, and text lifted from video games and sci-fi movies to question the boundaries between reality and virtuality, considering our increasingly desensitized experiences of the surrounding world.

Merike Estna, born in 1980, is an Estonian artist whose work inscribes the vocabularies of painting onto scenery and stage design, inviting visitors to activate her artworks with artist-made drinks, snacks, and napkins. Her recent works question the gendered separations of painting, craft discourses, and digital communication. She graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Painting, and from Goldsmiths College, University of London with a Master’s degree in Fine Art Practice. Her work is featured in current and upcoming exhibitions at London Kunstraum; SIC Gallery in Helsinki, Finland; Karen Huber Gallery in Mexico City; and Kim? Riga.
Maria Metsalu, born in 1990, is an Estonian performance artist. Her works express an ongoing interest in self-mythologization and autopoiesis via new, corporate technologies in an attempt to understand their unique terms of social exchange and transformation. Metsalu graduated from SNDO (School for New Dance Development) in 2016, and is one of the founding members of international performance group Young Boy Dancing Group. Her work has been shown in Manifesta 11, Kunsthalle Vienna, Tallinn Art Hall, and the 2016 NU Performance Festival, CORPORATE OCCULT, let’s talk about the body baby in Tallinn, Estonia.
Maria Arusoo, born in 1983, is an Estonian curator and director of the Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia. Since 2013 she has been the Commissioner for the Estonian Pavilion at the Venice Bienniale, executing large-scale commissions by Dénes Farkas and Adam Budak (2013), Jaanus Samma and Eugenio Viola (2015) and Katja Novitskova and Kati Ilves (2017). Recent independent curatorial projects includeCORPORATE OCCULT, let’s talk about the body baby, NU Performance Festival (2016), which presented works by international artists that dealt with contemporary issues surrounding gender and the body; WINTER IS COMING (Homage to the Future) (2016) an exhibition at the Georg Kargl Fine Arts Viennawhich focused on the changing state of Europe; Art in the Era of Digital Capitalism (2016), co-curated with Rebeka Põldsam, a conference considering the tendencies of acceleration and post-2011 institutional alternatives, which included Franco Bifo Beradi as its keynote speaker; and numerous others.
Center for Contemporary Arts (CCAE) Estonia, founded in 1992, is a non-profit expert institution in international cooperation projects with a role to activate and develop the Estonian contemporary art scene, conceptualizing the current tendencies of visual culture and participating in a critical dialogue in society. CCAE organizes international exhibitions, conferences, artist talks, lecture series’ and curatorial visits, publishes catalogues and online editorial, collecting and distributing information about the Estonian contemporary art scene, and also holds an extensive video archive of contemporary Estonian artworks made since 1990s, offering a significant overview of the past two decades. Since 1999, CCAE has been the commissioner of the Estonian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and since 2016 co-commissioner of Baltic Triennial. CCAE works on collaborative projects with both local and international partners. For an overview of CCAE’s recent activities, visit our website
Art in General was founded in 1981 and supports the production of new work by local and international artists primarily through its New Commissions Program and its International Collaborations program. Art in General also produces an annual educational program on critical and timely issues in artistic and curatorial practice.

Lugemik is an independent publishing initiative based in Tallinn, Estonia, founded in 2010 by graphic designer Indrek Sirkel and artist Anu Vahtra. Lugemik publishes books and other printed matter, working closely together with artists, writers, designers, and printers in every step of the publishing process. In 2013 Lugemik opened a bookshop on the premises of the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM) and in 2017 its second location in collaboration with Tallinn Art Hall.

The International Collaborations Program is supported by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, FUTURA, the International Visegrad Fund, The Asian Cultural Council, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, and Kanuti Gildi SAAL. Support has also been provided by: Commissioners’ Circle leaders Elaine Goldman, Richard Massey, Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters John and Andrea Nylund and David Solo; and Commissioners’ Circle members Nader Ansary, Rob Colangelo, Don Erenberg, Roya Khadjavi-Heidari, Mary Lapides, Eric Nylund, Leslie Ruff, Steve Shane, and Diana Wege.

Special Project Support by Maaike Gouwenberg, Roya Khadjavi, Anu Vahtra, and PERFORMA 17.

CCAE Thanks Antonio Trecel Diaz, Priit Raud, Eneli Järs, Kanuti Gildi SAAL, Temnikova & Kasela gallery, Nikola KneĹževic, Young Boy Dancing Group, Annina Machaz, SPARK Makerlab, and Sobarzo de Larraechea.