Friday, December 09, 2011

Ideological exploitation of landscape
Recently there was a Facebook wave of sharing a comparative image "Forest in winter vs Estonian flag". The image is like this:
I think it is a good example of landscape turning into ideology or the ideological content of landscape itself. Estonian flag has institutional background as it derives from the flag of Estonian Students Society, created in 1884. The meaning of the tricolour is stated by Estonian Students Society as following: 
Blue - belief and hope for the future of Estonian nation; loyality
Black - the dark and painful past of Estonian nation; the soil of homeland
White - motivation for educational and mental development of Estonian nation; also snow and white nights; the white peel of Estonian birch trees.
So, landscape has no straight link with the tricolour. In 19th c. context, landscape has a specific meaning, mainly it`s related with enjoyment - a painting on wall or a nice view of nature. Enjoyed and controlled by the privileged class, of course - by a romantic wanderer, poet, landlord, etc. Just like this:
 Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818), painting by Caspar David Friedrich
"This is not a wanderer, this is a conqueror!" said my friend Luca, when i showed him picture of this painting, after discussion on legendary Estonian poet Juhan Liiv and his poem "Wanderer". That poem is also something that makes questions on ideological exploitation of a content or the presence of ideology inside the content. "Wanderer" (and also Juhan Liiv) is in almost every Estonian`s heart, but the poem and the poet have a controversial exclusive-but-marginal position. Like the landscape "forest in winter". It addresses human condition, also human`s relation with nature and landscape such a way that it cannot be considered as nationalist propaganda, written by a hegemonist intellectual. (It must come from pre-ideological consciousness. Is such thing possible?) But it`s clear that it can be portrayed and exploited as such.
What is the wanderer doing, when standing on the mountain top and looking over the foggy Bohemian landscape? Observing the perishes of Austrian Empire, covered by fog, which signifies the multiculturality, ethnic diversities! And he, the German, is above it all! For him the sky is clear and the sun is shining!
Singaporean psychogeographer Debbie Ding has interpreted the wanderer of Caspar David Friedrich in a very proper way (link), projecting him as a colonizer and capitalist to views of London, Paris, Singapore. Yes, the wanderer has won, the contemporary world belongs to him. Wandering as capital accumulation!
"Colonize this" (2011) by chaneldior
The wanderer facing an empty landscape, which just coincidently refers to Estonian tricolour. What is he looking at? His lost colony or a potential market? National pride for Estonian birch trees? Or is it maybe contemporary Estonian society as a normal consequence of global capitalism - an empty and abandoned land, which is left behind by unemployed, underpaid and underdeveloped East-Europeans? The popularity of the landscape tricolour image speaks about the ongoing conservative turns and progress of nationalism (as emotional resistance to globalism) in Eastern-Europe that refer to the common need for security and identity. But not only. There is also this unexplainable matter, a specific relation with nature, which quickly dissolves into East-European syndrome - an irrational will and inability to make onself understandable and acceptable to the great master - the Western Society.
The same wanderer appears in a landscape painting of Estonian artist Kiwa - in his paintings, digital landscape photos (but also sounds, videos) have been deconstructed by functional misinterpretation technique (photos, sounds and videos are opened by a text program). 
Fragment of painting from exhibition "Wildlife documentaries", Kiwa, Draakon Gallery, Tallinn, 2010
In discourse of pre-semiotics vs semiotics the wanderer refers to the relation between language and its resources, or the end of language, chaos. But in current context he is himself - the capital owner - observing the flooding information and chaotic file sharing, which has turned into religion (Church of Kopimism) already. But he has the ACTA in his pocket and the chaotic text landscapes are like swampy Oderbruch area, waiting for human hand! Walter Benjamin has written that an ecstatic encounter of masses and technology is like copulation - and index of sexual deliht and the birth of something new.   
The flag of Soviet Estonia has a straight and intentional reference to landscape:  
The seawaves refer to the main identity basement of the whole region. But the image also speaks about the political status of the country: under the rule of soviet symbolics, the flag has pan slavic colors - red, blue, white.
This is a fragment from Old City Hall of Bratislava. How did the fire salamander get into architecture? Well, Central-European forests, covered with dry leaves, are the home for this creature. Aswell as the entire Europe to the south or west from the Carpathians. Fire salamander is the natural source for mythological creatures, symbolics, ideologies, etc. The animal itself (salamandra salamandra) is a black lizard with yellow spots, which in the head area are poisonous. It burns, when you touch. Because this lizard has seen the fire.
In mythology, salamander is the one, who is guarding deep caves with gold and silver melting together in the deep of earth. Therefore, basilisk is coming as the owner of the worst poison, which has also power to return life when it has passed in special cases, and which is associated with philosophers stone. Basilisk - the king of snakes, or the dragon. Together with salamander, they handled the treasures, as salamander could stand the powerful fire of basilisk, the fire, that could turn anything to gold (reference to Nina T).  Who was the owner of those underworld treasures? Of course, all such treasures belong to dwarfs. The germanic dwarfs! 
It is an historical interpretation and a symbolic legitimation act that the colors of Habsburg flag correspond to the colors of Holy Roman Empire`s coat of arms. In this case there is also another layer of reality. The Habsburg empire can be compared with fire salamander, a site specific creature, that`s mythology reflects the Habsburg identity quite well. Basilisk is universal symbol of The Other, mainly a hostile force or an enemy. Killing a basilisk is a common symbolic act of taking power, creating a kingdom, spreading an empire. Its represented in symbolics of many countries. Not in Habsburg Empire, which was an extremely diverse and multicultural area. In this empire basilisk and fire salamander live together, basilisk creates wealth and salamander protects it. Everything is owned by a dwarf. Or not. That is still a question, whether Austrian identity can be linked with dwarfs. Lets call it a silent presence of a dwarf. Probably the empire is most comparable with the basilisk itself, a german dwarf, who has gone too far to the east and is protecting himself with fire salamander, the site specific content, a lot of nations, who he uses and exploits as a shield against Russian and Ottoman empires.
Here is a legend from Vienna about basilisk as mythological creature living in a well. The basilisk is killed with a mirror. This story probably refers to real estate issues.

 Basilisk; Old City Hall of Bratislava

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dwarf goes through Hungary
(translation from Estonian)

From a green morning soil

on a field,

in maize leaf shades,

the sniper rises from the east,

and chariot is golden.

And roads all in dust

and sledges rolling over,

the märd is singing
like the nürd -

a foggy, hilly promise!

If you
brought a donkey there

he is going in the front

of burden,

tanks and pieces,

the basket squat releases
in maize leaf shades,
one is hiding in a box,
and fresh is mind,

in this cucumber field.
Already someone rises there,
under sharpened sky,
above a little lake
it makes a turn,
for a while,
sterna hirundo
from Emajõgi,
that`s who it is,
Im all happy, so...
well...hello.. hello!

the song


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Danube under Margit Hid, Budapest

Everything runs into Emajõgi

Emajõgi (direct translation from Estonian: mother river), the pulsating vessel that runs through Tartu and distinguishes the North and East European landscape paradigms (in my opinion South Estonia belongs to the inland paradigm that covers the eastern part of the Baltic States, Poland, European Russia, Belarus, North Ukraine). The huge inner European rivers begin from South Estonia, Emajõgi on top, just like a monument. Rivers are earth`s blood vessels, carrying the same stream. It`s not just a romantic translation of reality, but it`s something that goes on in language and consciousness, in the cultural layer of landscape.

Emajõgi in German is Embach. There are several villages named like that around München and Innsbruck. Emajõgi in Latvian is Mètra, it`s direct translation is peppermint, Mentha Piperita in Latin. All roads lead to Rome and from Rome to Ancient Greece, so you can see how Mentha Piperita transforms into Mintha, the underworld goddesses, associated with underworld rivers, like Kokytos. If we leave this track and try another association Mètra - Mithra, we will face a specific Persian religion, the cult of Mithra. In Aquincum, on the shore of Danube, there used to be the temple of Mithra, built by Roman soldiers from eastern areas of the empire.

A holy place, set up by trees around an amphitheatre, which i rather see as a signifier of the Mètra cult

Does it mean that all associations, all the roads lead to Rome? It`s up to us to decide, if we want to give ourselves to the historical narrative and support the institutional set-up of reality, or if all these villages around München and Innsbruck are dedicated to Emajõgi and so is the Mithra (Mètra) temple in Aquincum? Rivers are older than culture. Emajõgi and Danube speak the same language and flow in the same direction, from west to east, though Danube has got more spacial influences, it can speak in different dialects. It starts from the Black Forest, in Central-Europe, it`s water is blue-green and the stones in it`s bottom are white, though near the delta it`s quite similar to Emajõgi in it`s delta. It`s like a mirror effect - to the North from Emajõgi delta, there is Varnja village on the shore of lake Peipus; to the South from Danube delta, there is Varna city on the shore of Black Sea. Emajõgi is still like a miniature monument of Danube, or on contrary - it`s the result of something that happened in Black Forest and that flew into Black Sea.