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Family Guy: Marko Mäetamm, one of the best multimedia artists you’ve probably never heard of

Marko Mäetamm is a multimedia artist, who works within the mediums of video, photography, drawing, painting and the Internet. Over the past 2 decades, Marko has established himself as an original and provocative artist, and his work has been exhibited across Europe.

Born in South Estonia, Mäetamm ‘grew up without any artistic influences,’ and did not consider becoming an artist until he was 18.

‘The first time I thought doing something creative was through this friend, who was a great fan of Prog Rock and Heavy Metal,’ Marko explains. ‘And the first time I felt I really wanted to do something visual or artistic was when I was looking at the these Heavy Metal and Prog Rock album sleeves at his place.

‘This was at the beginning of the 1980s, when Estonia was part of Soviet Union and you couldn’t legally buy any Western music in stores. It was all smuggled in somehow, so you had to know people who knew people who knew other people to get access to original albums of any kind of Western music. It was more common to share tape-recorded copies of the albums rather than to have the original vinyl.

‘So, my first “serious drawings” were copies of all of these album covers and bands.’

Marko jokes that these were ‘terribly bad drawings,’ but it was still enough to inspire his interest, and after 2 compulsory years in the Soviet Army, he studied study printmaking at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn.

‘It was still the end of Soviet regime, so we didn’t get much information of what was happening in the world of contemporary art. My first influences were all these great modern artists we had to study—Rousseau, Matisse, Chagall, Picasso and so on. That was until I discovered Pop Art, at the end of my studies, and got really into it.

‘This was all happening around the same time the new wave of Young British Artists jumped on the stage, but then nobody was talking about it in Estonia. So it shows you how huge a gap there was between the art here in Estonia, and international art. It took the whole 90-s to cover this gap.’

Dangerous Minds: How would you describe yourself as an artist and how would you describe your art?

Marko Mäetamm: ‘It is always difficult to describe yourself. It is kind of a tricky thing. We never see ourselves the way like the other people do, even when we look in the mirror we actually see our image in a mirror – the eye that we think is our right eye is actually our left eye for other people and so on. And our voice we hear coming from inside us is totally different from the voice other people hear us talking with.

‘But to try to say something - I think I am quite obsessed by my work and I probably need it to keep myself in balance. I say, “I think” because I do think that it might be like that, I don’t really know. And I think that I may not function as good if I didn’t have that channel – art, to communicate with the world. I have come to recognize this by thinking of my own projects during my career. And how my ideas change. People have asked me if I have a therapeutic relationship with my work, and I have always answered that it is absolutely possible. But I really don’t know and I don’t even know if I would need to know it. I don’t know if that would make my work better.’
More art and answers from Marko, after the jump…

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‘The World of Christo’: A rare interview from 1971

In this rarely seen television interview from 1971, the artist Christo explains why he knows what he likes, and what he likes is to create art, and he doesn’t care what others think of his art. It’s the kind of interview one would expect from the Daily Mail or, Prim-and-Proper from Tunbridge Wells, where the intonation is bemused, condescending and, at times, aghast by an artist who has achieved fame by wrapping up landmarks and landscape in plastics and rope.

Christo looks like he could be in Pink Floyd, but even his pop star looks doesn’t stop the interviewer from asking such inane questions as: is Christo mad?

Going by Christo’s responses, I’d reckon this interview was cut short - the whole interview only lasts around a minute-twenty, and the package is padded out with voice over and archive, before the interviewer wonders what Christo will do next:

“...Could he be sizing up the sea perhaps? Or, will he plump for a parcel of the whole world, instead?”

Like I said, inane - though, it doesn’t really matter, as Christo didn’t say.

With thanks to Nellym

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‘The Dinner of the Lonely Man’: A film from the fabulous world of Augustin Rebetez


Augustin Rebetez gives answers to questions that are as quirky and idiosyncratic as his films.

The Swiss conceptual photographic artist and film-maker describes himself as “a sad child full energy.” I don’t know whether he is sad or not, but his work is certainly full of energy and boundless imagination. I was particularly impressed with his stop animation film The Dinner of the Lonely Man, which he tells me was made “With my hands” over “Some nights.”

It is a beautifully eerie, funny, Lynchean dream, that tells the story of “The painting of Ulf, the old owner of a house in Norway who was living there alone.” Now you know.

This isn’t his only film, “The others who exist already are more epileptic that this one,” and his work has been exhibited and screened across the world.

Augustin’s only aim when making art or films is: “I try to be honest and to present good stuff.” He certainly does that, and in an amusing and highly original way.

He is currently working on “Some stuff, one new film which is called maison.” Check out more from the highly talented Mr. Rebetez here.


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Who is Bruce McLean? And what does he want?

Back in the 1980s, when I had nothing better to do than watch TV and collect unemployment benefit, I saw a video of the artist Bruce McLean. It was shown as part of Channel 4’s art series Alter Image in 1987, and after watching, my first thoughts were: Who the fuck is Bruce McLean and what does he want?

I was lucky, I had time to go and investigate. In the library, I found this:

Maclean / McLean an Anglicisation of the Scottish Gaelic MacGilleEathain. This was the patronymic form of the personal name meaning “servant of (Saint) John”.

Interesting. But not quite right. Later, there was more.

Working in a variety of mediums including painting, film and video projection, performance and photography, Bruce McLean is one of the most important artists of his generation.

It was with live works that McLean first grabbed the attention of the art world. An impulsive, energetic Glaswegian, he became known as an art world ‘dare-devil’ by critiquing the fashion-oriented, social climbing nature of the contemporary art world in the ‘70s. At St Martins his professors included the great sculptors of the day, Anthony Caro and Phillip King, whose work he mocked ruthlessly. In Pose Work for Plinths I (1971; London, Tate), he used his own body to parody the poses of Henry Moore’s celebrated reclining figures, daring to mock the grand master himself.

Pose Work for Plinths (1971)

The notion of using his whole body as a sculptural vehicle of expression led him to explore live actions: ‘it was when we (a collective) invented the concept of ‘pose’ that We could do anything’. Pose was live sculpture: Not mime, not theatre, but live sculpture. My colleagues, Paul Richards, Ron Carr, Garry Chitty, Robin Fletcher and I created Nice Style ‘The World’s First Pose Band’, which performed for several years, offering audiences such priceless gems as the ‘semi-domestic spectacular Deep Freeze, a four-part pose opera based on the lifestyle and values of a mid-west American vacuum cleaner operative’. Behind the obvious humour was a desire to break with the establishment, something that he has continued to do throughout his life and work. In 1972, for instance, he was offered an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, but opted, for a ‘retrospective’ lasting only one day. ‘King for a Day’ consisted of catalogue entries for a thousand mock-conceptual works, among them The Society for Making Art Deadly Serious piece, Henry Moore revisited for the 10th Time piece and There’s no business like the Art business piece (sung).

Now, I knew. Bruce McLean is a performance artist, a conceptual artist, a painter, a sculptor, a film-maker, a teacher, a joker, who knows art can be fun, which is always dangerous.

Bonus clips, including Tate Gallery interview with Bruce McLean, after the jump…

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