Friedrich Ludwig von
Maydell (1795 – 1846) was a Baltic-German artist, based in the
region that is now known as Estonia. He produced series of graphic
works that depicted the history of Germans in the eastern shores of
the Baltic sea. Those works were published in albums, titled as
“Fifty Images from the History of Russia’s German Baltic
Provinces”. Here you are witnessing one of these albums, borrowed
from the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia. More precisely, you
are witnessing the work that the artist depicts as the starting event
of the history of the Baltic states – “First Landing of the
Bremen Merchants at the Mouth of the River Daugava. 1156” (1839).
Most of all, this work
speaks about the gaze of the artist as the subject of the modern era,
also as the member of the privileged class in the society based on
slavery. This gaze over the history is similar to the numerous images
that depict the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean
islands. Maydell portrays the encounter between the Bremen merchants
and the local natives as the act of trade. The image contains some
details that refer to the elements known from the history of European
colonialism. Please find these elements from the image and read the
explanations added by me.
a) Alcohol – the
establishment of the system of dependency and control, used by
b) Furs – natural
resources and raw materials that are needed by colonizers in places
inhabited by natives.
c) Mirror – the
establishment of the system of representation and validation, also
the production of identity, history, knowledge and subjectivity.
d) Trade beads – the
establishment of the medium of exchange.
The area around the mouth
of Daugava should be preserved as public space and the site should be
celebrated as the historical landmark of colonial history in the
The exhibition “What do you see? What would you like to see?” is part of the collective artistic research “100 poplars” that is based on exhibitions, events and artist residencies in Valga. The exhibition is focused on identity creation and brings together perspectives and viewpoints of locals and outsiders. During the time of construction of the new central square that would unite Valga and Valka it is appropriate to think about developing the idea of the united city also in other contexts – in human relations, institutions, general mode of life. The global capital abolishes borders and generates the new ones. Art, in the other hand, has potential for autonomy in respect of the global capital. Therefore this exhibition calls up people to think of a united city by using artistic approach, intervention and activism.
“What do you see? What would you like to see?” is part of the trilogy, comprised of three exhibitions in three different locations. Simultaneously with this show a brand new art space – Brīvības galerija, located in Vabaduse 14, Valga (30 meters from the museum) – will open its doors to present Alexei Gordin's solo show “Weird feeling”. Gordin's exhibition speaks of an unstable position that artists have under the influence of contemporary art and art market. Brīvības galerija itself is an art project and brings up a rhetorical question – would the united city Valgka need an art gallery? Besides this, the third exhibition will be opened in the middle of April. On 11th of April German/Polish artist and activist Michael Kurzwelly will open his exhibition in Valga Cultural Center. The show introduces his continuous initiative “Slubfurt” that is based in Frankfurt Oder/Slubice, located at the German-Polish border. Slubfurt as a united city might inspire the people of Valga/Valka in working out a united city, therefore local people are called to join public workshops and discussions during Kurzwelly's 3 week residency.
The exhibition is supported by Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia and their Estonia 100 art program “Comers, Goers and Stayers – the histories of Estonian communities”.
Thank you Anna Laganovska, Helen Elbrecht Tanel Rander researcher-curator-artist
Anna Salmane and Krišs Salmanis (Latvia), Bence György Pálinkás (Hungary), Berat Işık (Turkey), David Kellner (Austria), Diana Tamane (Estonia/Latvia), Jevgeni Zolotko (Estonia), Matija Plevnik (Slovenia), Rapolas Valiukevičius and Aukstasis Moxlas (Lithuania) and Terje Toomistu (Estonia)