Curatorial Theme

Thread of Life - The Absurdity of Time
“The thread of life embraces, on the one hand, a sign of connection (natural or cultural) between different times, and on the other, an (allusive) call for maintaining life. The cornerstone of each performance should be the ‘thread of life’, but what is associated with it can be decided by each of the creators.” Jaan Malin

The event’s title refers to well-known Estonian surrealist Ilmar Malin’s exhibition ‘Thread of Life’, curated by his son Jaan Malin, a.k.a. Luulur (1960). Jaan Malin is an Estonian poet, artist, curator, writer, editor and publisher who focuses on surrealist creativity and is serving as the curator of performing arts at Art Week Pärnu in 2021.

The goddesses of fate who determine the destiny and death of every man are known from Ancient Roman mythology, but are also common in Indo-European cultures. The Greeks called them the Moirais, the Scandinavians had the Norns and Baltic peoples had Laima. If they determine our lives, what is the point of it all?

The absurdity of life also emerges when comparing time and space. We are tiny particles in an endless universe; on the global scale alone our lives are mere moments, not to mention the cosmic scale. Even if we lived forever, would an absurd life of 80 years be endlessly absurd if it lasted for all eternity?

Why do we study and work only to pay bills, buy food and consume entertainment when it leads nowhere? Everything related to human activity repeats the past and inevitably ends with death.

Absurdism as a belief system was born in Europe after World War II. Its idealistic and theoretical basis is shared with existentialism and nihilism. In philosophy, ‘absurd’ refers to the conflict between our tendency to search for the innate value of life and our inability to find it in an aimless, chaotic and irrational universe. Søren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus claim that individuals should accept the absurd condition of human existence, because only by doing so can the greatest freedom be achieved. Without admitting any religious or moral restriction and by rebelling against the absurd – while still accepting it – a person could find peace from the personal meaning created in the process.

Are we able to accept the absurdity of human life?

Estonian art historian Anu Allas describes how manifestations of existentialism and absurd drama arrived in socialist countries in the 1960s, where they were vividly welcomed on the local cultural scenes and tightly intertwined with early forms of performing arts. In Estonia, support for happenings developed during the summer beach camps of the magazine ‘Youth’. They were directly inspired by nature, often connected to social activities and interventions, to create a better environment in which to live. The absurdity of life was tragicomic, and absurd theatre was sought not just from stages: social organisation as a whole at the time provided a platform for it.

When looking at our situation in the world today, including political culture, we can recognise that the absurdity of life and time has brought us further down globally than any wars have ever managed to do. We have reached a dead end in our social organisation. Could accepting life as absurd, as proposed by Kierkegaard and Camus, give us the freedom for every single individual to be able to create their own meaning of and for the world? At least such acceptance might liberate us from the anger that is spreading like wildfire these days.

With performances, spatial installations and art pieces on the beach and in the city during Art Week Pärnu, we want to put the absurdity of life to the test – because only art is bigger than life.

Andra Orn,
Art Week Pärnu