Marko Mäetamm
Mixed media

Family Stories
2019 (2007 - 2015)
Marko Mäetamm is mostly inspired by his own life and what is part of it, "The idea has to have some connection with my person, otherwise I don't really see why to produce any work… If the work is based on personal experience it is like keeping your feet on solid ground. It gives sort of credibility to your work and you can always say: I know what I am talking because I have been through it." It has been for many years now that Marko Mäetamm himself, his wife, children, and the realities of their family life have been the main source of material and themes for his art. However, one can hardly suspect realistic truthfulness in these works. After all, even if we were to accept that Mäetamm's work portrays everyday life, we should acknowledge that unfolded before our eyes are "stories of everyday madness," staged by Mäetamm with relentless persistence bordering on obsession.

At the same time, repeated, almost automatic, actions form a substantive basis of daily life. Structured with daily rituals, which help us avoid dramatic events that fall out of the everyday routine, our life flows smoothly, almost unconsciously. At the same time, it is precisely the repetition of actions that is the object of humor. The philosopher Henri Bergson, who studied the nature of humor, noted, "For any ceremony, then, to become comic, it is enough that our attention be fixed on the ceremonial element in it… Every one knows how easily the comic spirit exercises its ingenuity on social actions of a stereotyped nature, from an ordinary prize-distribution to the solemn sitting of a court of justice." Humor is the protest of life against its dead forms. Upholding this type of humor, the French surrealists linked it with transgression and referred to it as "black humor". The path beyond rationality lies through the degradation of moral standards and common sense and the escalation of absurdity and unmotivated cruelty. By denying contemporaneity, the artist turns to archaic culture, predicated on in the basic life activities such as sex, discharging body waste, eating and death. Black humor, which goes beyond rationality, allows one to rise above reality, look at the world as a theatrical play, observe oneself and oneself observing.

These prominent features of surrealist aesthetics are present in Marko Mäetamm's work with one but significant change. Obsessively repeating transgressive actions, his autobiographical character reenacts ceremonial repetition and becomes laughable himself. In his work Surrealist black humor itself is the object of humor. Perhaps, Marko Mäetamm's character can "ascend to cosmos" like Antonin Artaud in his everyday Theater of Cruelty, but after that he will inevitably have to get back into the routine of daily life, which one cannot escape, since transgressive impulses, as the artist demonstrates it, are an integral part of everyday life. It is also true that time doesn't pass in Mäetamm's work: Marco's daughter is always six years old and his son is two, his wife doesn't age: time is perpetually zeroed. Life as structured by routines is devoid of events and therefore is stripped of biography. At some point, it just ends…

artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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