Greetings, and Whatever Customarily Restores a Bond About to Break
3.2.2023 — 25.3.2023
Fri, 10.3 at 18.00–19.30 – Speed Friending with MTÜ Peemoti Raamatud (free)
The exhibition Greetings, and Whatever Customarily Restores a Bond About to Break begins somewhere in the tangle of the cosmic timeline. Although the first written record in my notebook about the reading club on the topic of friendship between women dates back to November 2019, the artists and I owe a debt of gratitude to many people who have shaped our thoughts and attitudes about friendship. For example, hitting it off with our first best friends was as exciting as falling in love.
The project’s actual starting point was the middle of last summer, when the reading club began meeting. Our goal was to understand women’s friendship by reading texts and sharing our experiences. Although the words written in my notebook more than three years ago have faded, the original idea has grown a body that is gradually taking shape: in addition to the reading club, an exhibition will soon open at Kogo Gallery with artists Agnė Jokšė, Anna Trell, Cloe Jancis and Diāna Tamane.
The exhibition Greetings, and Whatever Customarily Restores a Bond About to Break explores friendship and intimacy between women, and the sense of security, caring and romance as well as the grief of breakup that stem from it. It’s driven by the effort to navigate the meanings related to friendship, where personal experiences, cultural representations, ideals and reality, and personal and societal expectations of close relationships collide. Caring friendships are widely held to be fundamental to people’s lives, making the female subject a meaningful point of departure, especially because, ever since the 19th century, female friendship at its best has been the epitome of intimate nurturing relationships that provide comfort and security in difficult moments.
When we dig deeper into the history of friendship, it turns out that female friendship has not always been associated with closeness and care. The persistent ‘mean girls’ stereotype asserts the classical understanding of friendship – friendship between women and friendship between men are different in kind and value. While camaraderie between men has been considered authentic and noble with few reservations since antiquity, friendship between women has often been perceived as superficial, uncertain and competitive. Although controversies persist, the images of friendship in culture today are, to the delight of many, increasingly diverse and give reason to queer up merely binary readings.
Four works have made it to the exhibition; three of them are inspired by the summer reading club. Agnė Jokšė’s video performance Dear Friend from 2019 was inspired by the pain of breaking up with a close friend. The letter, which combines autobiography and fiction, is placed against the background of the societal pressure to value romantic relationships instead of friendships. Jokšė’s sensitive writing continues in Anna Trell’s installation, which will hopefully grow into a social sculpture with the help of the audience. Trell invites viewers to reflect on their own conflicts, breakups or the gradual demise of friendships and write a letter to a past or present companion. Cloe Jancis was inspired by the cognitive aspect of friendship, the feeling of being cared for. The intertwined bodies speak of trust, security and emotional openness. Diāna Tamane took photographs of twins, whose family resemblance and different personalities suggest a friend as another self – the nuanced set of similarities and differences is also the basis for recognising their soulmate. The altar-like work is dedicated to the artist’s friends and includes her first attempts in ceramics.
The title of the exhibition refers to the numerous manuals in medieval Western Europe that helped people write a letter to a friend. One of the instructions suggests to begin a letter with the very sentence: “Greetings, and whatever customarily restores a bond about to break.” This literary phenomenon began fading in the 18th century alongside the rapid spread of fiction and may seem like a humorous historical fact today. But it also reflects modern times: in the context of increasingly easy, effortless and largely virtual communication, it is important to remember the people around you and devote your time, attention and energy to them – whether through writing, giving gifts, dining together, partying or just being there for them.
Artists: Agnė Jokšė, Anna Trell, Cloe Jancis, Diāna Tamane
Curator: Brigit Arop
Graphic design: Aleksandra Samulenkova
Letterpress labels: Maria Izabella Lehtsaar
Funded by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the City of Tartu
Special thanks to Eva Mustonen, Ingrid Ruudi, Marge Monko, Siim Asmer, Alice Aaviksoo, Elyne Aaviksoo, Eva Krivonogova, Kairi Look, Ingel Vaikla, Karoliina Tomasson, Doris Tislar, Kristiin Räägel, Kulla Laas, Aadu Lambot, Kri Marie Vaik, Ulla Väljaste, Anna Fattakhova, xwevp )), Karl Joonas Alamaa, Anita Kodanik
Photographer of exhibition views: Marje Eelma
Greetings, and Whatever Customarily Restores a Bond About to Break is the first exhibition in Kogo Galler’s this year’s programme entitled Queer It Up. This title celebrates all that is positioned as fluid, different, unidentifiable, glitchy, marginal and uncomfortable. Topics like friendship, nature, magic, gender and failure will be tackled within the programme.
Press and Publications
IDA Raadio, Vitamiin K, intervjuu Brigit Aropiga, 20.3.2023
Sirp, Naiste sõprus, 17.3.2023
Echo Gone Wrong, photo reportage, 13.3.2023
Müürileht, „Sõbranna” ei tundu õige sõna olevat. Intervjuu Brigit Aropi, Anna Trelli, Cloe Jancise ja Diāna Tamanega, 7.3.2023
ERR kultuuriportaal, Anna Trell: me oleme ühisorganism, mis diskuteerib palju ja on natuke skisofreeniline, 23.2.2023
Klassikaraadio, „Kunstiministeerium“, Stuudios on Anna Trell, 18.2.2023
ETV + ERR kultuuriportaal, Tartus avatakse nelja balti naiskunstniku rühmanäitus, 8.2.2023
Vikerraadio, kultuuriuudised, 7.2.2023
Müürileht, Müürilehe kultuurikalender veebruaris – naiste sõprusest kevadiste hetkedeni, 3.2.2023