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Interview with Laura Kuusk

Laura Kuusk (1982) is an Estonian artist, who mainly works with photography, video and installation to address such issues as identity construction and relationships between the viewer and the image. She has studied at Annecy Higher Art School (DSRA, 2014), Estonian Academy of Arts (MA in Photography, 2008) and Tartu University (BA in Semiotics and Cultural Theory, 2005). Now she works as an assistant professor and project manager in the Photography department of the Estonian Academy of Arts. Laura is one of the participants of the Riga Photomonth main exhibition New Chic, which will run from 9 May until 3 June at Riga Congress Centre.

Could you tell us a bit about the work we will see at Riga Photomonth?

The 360-degree video work is a choreographic journey of the distance between bodies and the environment, the spectator and the image, the idea of a genuine self and the reality of loans and citations within global standards of desires. The video can be seen by one spectator at a time (at Riga Congress Centre there will be one VR headset). The spectator becomes a dancer/actor of the choreography when turning his/her head and looking around – seen by other spectators of the exhibition. Therefore the situation of watching the video becomes itself a process of seeing a choreography of watching. Another part of the work is photographic images that look like frames from the video in the VR headset. The images are printed and attached to the wooden dado-panel: the lower part of the wall on the second floor of Riga Congress Centre, a mostly marble- and wooden-interior building completed in 1982. As the viewers pass by, they will activate the image in sequences as if it was a moving image (referring to the still images of movement by Eadweard Muybridge).

Laura Kuusk. Photo by Mark Raidpere

How would you describe your interest in photography and arts?

I work with human behaviour, desires and the possibilities of our bodies. I mainly use the mediums of photography, video and installation in my work. Most of my works are connected to recycling anthropological visual materials. My latest works address identity construction and its’ links to the environment and visual signs of behaviour. How do we act as a social body, both on an individual and collective level?

What is the biggest challenge when working with VR?

VR videos are very data-consuming and need computers that can manage it. Therefore the biggest challenge is being dependent on computers to eventually transfer a human experience to the human spectator.

A view from the group exhibition “Image Drain” at Tallinn Photomonth in 2017

What is your daily agenda at the Tallinn Art Academy?

My work is to give classes, guide the students in their process of creation, to try to open up their resources and curiosity. The project management part of my work means organizing classes of guest professors, workshops, projects and travel for the students.

What do you think about the position of photography within the contemporary art scene in Estonia?

The field of contemporary art and the artists working with photography within it has become more active during the last decade. It is an ongoing process. In 2011 Tallinn Photomonth was initiated by artist Marge Monko. This initiative has by now become an important international biennial of contemporary art and visual culture, led by Artistic Director Laura Toots and Managing Director Kadri Laas.

The activation of the field has also been helped by the creation of the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center. It is a private organisation that aims to create strategic international connections, for example, by bringing curators to Estonia and sending artists to residencies abroad.

There have been many other initiatives on a smaller scale. Photography is part of the tools that contemporary artists use. There is a lot going on in this field and more to come soon – these are exciting times!