Shadows inspired folklore to be born
Viinistu Art Harbour
A project about everything you've ever imagined there
is in the dark
When we think of folklore, we depict a thing of the past, labelled objects behind a glass, and traditions which only exist in the countryside. To put it shortly, a shadow of what it used to be. Or is it?
When creating this project, I avoided evoking the sense of nostalgia over the olden days. I wanted to create something more alive — something that moves. However, achieving movement is challenging as I mainly work with printed material, and this project is no exception. I focused a year's worth of research about Estonian folklore into a book, and as a result it became an entrance to a world full of hiding spirits, lurking creatures, murky forests and magical lands. I made them move by adding pop-up elements, and the reader is free to interact with them: casting their shadow with the help of a flashlight fills them with additional meaning.
As I mentioned, I saw this book as an entrance to the world I created, and the next step was to expand the world itself. The project grew from a printed artbook into a poster series, from images into an atmospheric installation.
The expansion of the topic onto multiple platforms means that the reader stops being just a reader, but becomes a visitor of these enchanted lands. I let the illustrations conquer walls, and the shadows to escape from the pages: I aim to create a location-specific exhibition. The Viinistu Art Harbour would be a perfect place to host a show that talks about folklore in a contemporary way, as the exhibition room itself is a building with history, which aims to link the present with the past. The height of the barrel and the limited amount of light helps to create a matching atmoshpere, which could be enhanced by light installations casting shadows on the walls.
However, no written word can substitute experience. So I visited Estonia twice before moving here to do "field research", which means I touched every strange looking thing in a bog, and sniffed every plant I couldn't name. I let myself slip on wet moss, discover my shoes are not waterproof, and stand surprised when I see actual sunlight. I refrained from activities tour guides recommended — folklore was written from all kinds of emotions, not exclusively joy and comfort.
This project is something personal, as it inspired my move to Tallinn, Estonia. I am a creator originally from Hungary, and I experience a really big contrast between the culture I grew up in, and the culture here. Still, creating authentic work requires a great understanding of the topic, so I threw myself into online folklore databases, literature, and folk tales.
The exhibition would consist of:
An interactive book with pop-up elements.
The book explores Estonian folklore, interveawing shadows to be part of the book through interactive pop-up pieces which show their true nature when the reader uses a flashlight on them. My goal with the shadow pieces was to explore how illustrations can expand outside of the book, and can have an animated nature without a screen. I wrote/curated the contents, which meant writing chapters and selecting folk tales to pair with my imagery. The photos used in the book were custom made by my Estonian artist friend, Karl Kaisel. Every picture is authentic and the locations can be found in Estonia.
The project won the ArtHungry award in 2020, which came with the opportunity to participate in this year's exhibition.
The posters are 70×100 digital prints of the given graphics. These versions I prepared exclusively for the Viinistu open call, which means they are limited prints. Other versions of the graphic posters took part in an Opla Project exhibition in Hungary, and are currently part of the Poster City cultural initiative which is displayed as an open gallery on the streets of Budapest. Smaller prints of an alternate series were part of the international show in ASP Wrocław in 2020.
And location specific
In case my project gets accepted, I'd like to use the unusual, circular walls of the Barrel Gallery to project shadows on it. These shadows would be casted by a mix of natural materials (branches, etc.), and custom made stencils, which would work similarly to the ones seen in the book, only to be projected on a large surface.