Pavilion of Estonia

58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Kris Lemsalu - Birth V

11 May – 24 November 2019

The Estonian Pavilion

c/o Legno & Legno, Giudecca 211, 30133 Venezia

Birth is always an action.

Deep in the primordial ooze, an accidental creature came to life. Perhaps cooking on a volcanic vent in the dark depths of the abyssal ocean, it may not have even been the first, but from that birth flows all life. That one quirk of heat (love maybe?) squirming through the water into primal existence makes us family to dinosaurs and squids, snails and bacteria, oak trees and algae, that first weird lost root in the tree of life. For better or worse, that creature invented themselves.

The “ooze” feels right. Life often begins somewhere wet and hot, squelching and viscous. But there’s also of course the wet depths of our mothers. From itching desire to slippery fucking, the deep choices and growing weight, the screaming hot mess of birth for each of us. And after that, equally messy in its way, we have a second birth: the one where we invent ourselves.

We’re here because of the artist Kris Lemsalu’s sculptures and actions that she’s made for the Estonian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Birth, life, and death in three stories, spurting upward with a shaman’s summons from the wet depths of tangled pools through the broken music of life and up to an angelic conclusion, the rebirth of art. Sprayed with spiritual ecstasy, sprouting more than a few polychrome porcelain pussies, reaching with a hundred hands ever open and outward, pulling us into life, helping us along, lifting us into the beyond. Between here and there, a boat like Chiron’s, but one that just doesn’t take us out but also into life. Even if we invent ourselves, we’re not so lonely as that first creature, we have the help of others to get there.

Kris Lemsalu was born in 1985 in Tallinn, Estonia, and lives and works between Vienna and Tallinn. She creates mixed-media sculptures, installations and performances with unexpected materials. Lemsalu’s pieces evoke the bestial side of human beings and civilizations and are often underscored by feminist themes. Lemsalu has shown at Goldsmiths' CCA (2018), Secession Vienna (2018), as part of Performa 17 (2017), DRAF performance night (2017), Bunshitu Gallery, Tokyo (2015), Ferdinand Bauman Gallery, Prague (2015) and is represented by Koppe Astner, Glasgow and Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn.

Among the writers, artists, curators and friends Lemsalu invited collaborate with her on the exhibition include Andrew Berardini (1982, Los Angeles) a writer of quasi-essayistic prose poems about permeability between fiction and reality; Sarah Lucas (1962, London) – artist, friend and a mentor of Kris Lemsalu; Irene Campolmi (1987, Copenhagen) whose curatorial research focuses on various performative endeavours that think through postcolonial, queer and feminist theories, and Tamara Luuk (1952, Tallinn) who has been Kris´ friend and collaborator for a long time, currently working as the contemporary art curator at Tallinn Art Hall.

It makes sense that Kris’ totem rises out of Venice, a place where directions tangled up in gushing canals, a crossroads where everyone sooner or later gets wet, where the water that made this ancient town possible will swallow it up and sink all its churches and bridges with a gulp. Hardly ashes to ashes… rather water to water. The world won’t end with a bang or a whimper but a splash. The first life swam out of it, the last will swan dive into it. And somewhere in between is Venice.

The exhibition opening on May 10th at 5pm will be accompanied a performance by Kris Lemsalu, Michael Kleine, Roman Lemberg, Kyp Malone, Michiko Takahashi, Carola Caggiano.

The exhibition is organized by

Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia

and supported by Estonian Ministry of Culture.

Opening Ceremony