Kristina Norman (b. 1979) is a Tallinn-based artist whose interdisciplinary practice includes video installations, sculptural objects, urban interventions, as well as documentary films and performances.
Norman’s work is devoted to the exploration of the political potential that contemporary art offers in dealing with the issues of human rights and the politics of memory. Norman’s latest piece Bring Back My Fire Gods (2018) is a video based on a site-specific performance carried out at the Song Festival Grounds in Tallinn, a venerated place of a national importance, symbolic of national liberation and the secession from the Soviet Union in 1991. The artwork includes an original musical composition by Estonian composer Märt-Matis Lill and serves as a comment to the recent discussion on the impossibility of including a song in the Russian language into the repertoire of the Estonian all-national song festival. The artwork draws attention to the process of cultural exclusion of the country’s vast Russian-speaking minority as well as it exposes the means that are being used to construct a nation. The piece was a special commission for the exhibition The State Is Not A Work Of Art at Tallinn Art Hall, curated by Katerina Gregos.
After-War, one of Norman’s most renowned projects, is a case-study of a memorial strife around the so-called Bronze Soldier monument, a Soviet statue which the Estonian government had eventually removed from the center of Tallinn. The art project is centered around an intervention in the former location of the monument, evoking a major discussion in the national media concerning the boundaries between art and a political provocation. With After-War Norman represented Estonia at the 53rd Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2009.
As part of her academic research on memory and human rights in contemporary art, Norman produced a triad of projects involving site-specific video installations and public interventions, focussing mainly on the use of narrative memories of the protagonists. In these works, the artist explores the ethical dimension of juxtaposing of different historical and geographical contexts and draws attention to the transnational nature of memory in the age of mass migrations: In 0.8 Square Metres (2012), Norman works with the physical and emotional dimension of imprisonment. She draws a parallel between the contemporary experiences of political imprisonment and the conditions in the concentration camp set up on Suomenlinna island in Helsinki in the aftermath of the Finnish Civil War (1918–1919). In the video Common Ground (2013), the memories of the Estonian war refugees of the WW2 are juxtaposed with the experiences of contemporary migrants waiting for their asylum decision in an isolated place amidst the Estonian forests. The last project in the triad was a commission for Manifesta 10, the biennial of contemporary art that in 2014 took place in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The project was built around a psychological mashup of the topographies of Maidan square of Kiev and the Palace square of St Petersburg. A metal sculpture titled Souvenir in the form of a Christmas tree, reminiscent of the one that became a symbol of Euromaidan demonstrations was installed in front of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. In the video Iron Arch, a guided tour around an imaginary Maidan is given on the Palace Square by a Ukrainian performer and Euromaidan protester Alevtyna Kakhidze.
As a result of a series of research residencies, with a group of artists from Latvia and Estonia Norman co-authored a theatrical production The First To Leave (2018) which is a commission from New Theatre Institute of Latvia and Kanuti Gildi Saal of Estonia. The performance deals with the fate of Livonians, a people that had once inhabited the coastal areas of both Estonia and Latvia. Even though the attitude towards Livonians has been different in each country, this small nation has played an important role in the context of statehood and different ideologies governing Latvia and Estonia throughout the 20th century. The piece takes a closer look at the role of each country’s politics in the extinction of this small nation. The performance premiered at the LATEST festival in February 2018 in Riga and will next be presented in Kanuti Gildi Saal in Tallinn in November this year.
* Kristina Norman’s art has been exhibited at such exhibitions as Manifesta Biennial (2014), Aichi Triennale of Japan (2013), Venice Biennial (2009), Baltic Triennial in Vilnius (2009), Berlin Biennial (2008). Her works belong in the collections of Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum of Finland, KUMU Art Museum, and Tartu Art Museum of Estonia.