by Mare Tralla
1996, single-channel video, 9’52’’, color, sound | Estonian with English subtitles | Courtesy: the artist
The recording of the performance Kiss (1996) by Mare Tralla bears witness to the escalation of gender rivalry in the field of art concomitant to the imperative of individual artistic success. It also bears witness to the re-birth of the artist as a feminist, when after a long fight with “stupidity and ignorance,” she decided to use rather provocative and shocking tactics to clarify her feminist point of view especially in relation to social issues in post-socialist Estonia. During the same time she was distancing herself from the feminist movement inspired by Western feminist theory.
Kiss was the last performance of the show Second-Hand-Lovestories (June 1996, Vaal Gallery in Tallinn) and, according to the artist, it won over even the most adamant male critics. In the performance Kiss, she transforms from an immoral artist whose nudity and humor offends the art world into a quintessential submissive feminine who showers the critics’ faces with kisses. Reflecting on this experience, the artist declared, “I have passed all the necessary Western and Leninist feminism exercises now I can start to create my own feminism.”*
* Mare Tralla, “T.Est.Art,” in: n.paradoxa, Online Issue No. 5, Nov. 1997, pp. 63-64.
Mare Tralla (*1967, Tallinn) is a queer-feminist artist and activist. She studied at Estonian Academy of Arts and at the University of Westminster. Her professional art career began in the early 90s when she was one of the very few artists drawing on her personal experience in order to formulate a critical response to the transition period of East European societies and its effects on women. She participated in A-tishoo, A-tishoo, We All Fall Down, EKKM, Estonia (2019), steirischerherbst’20, Graz, The X-Files [Registry of the Nineties], KUMU, Estonia (2018-2019), Baltic Triennial 13’, among many others, and most recently had a solo exhibition entitled Before and After (2021) at former Pärnu prison.