Octopus Rococo

19.1.2024 — 2.3.2024


19 January at 18.00


27 January at 16.00 exhibition tour by Šelda Puķīte

23 February at 18.00 Art Club event Why and how to invest in art? Gallerist Liina Raus in conversation with lawyers Vita Liberte and Keit Kukk. Tickets from Fienta

1 March at 18.00–23.00 Gallery Night vol. 12

The world is burning, so we are laughing. That’s just one punchline we could use to capture how humour is exercised by artists, comics and other creative minds to address the many troubling issues the world is facing. Humour has been a tool for detecting the zeitgeist and exploring power relations for hundreds of years. Some artists have become masters in expressing their trickster and sinister entertainer’s role so skillfully that their work makes you laugh and shiver simultaneously. When humour is used to cope with life’s more serious challenges, it can be described as “serious humour” or, to borrow German philosopher Kuno Fisher’s phrase, “a playful judgment”. The exhibition Octopus Rococo brings together works by Estonian, Latvian and Ukrainian artists who are known as explorers of irony and humorous mischief. Together they send up, give social commentary and create poetical metaphors to address what it is to be human in the contemporary world. 

The combination of the words octopus and rococo is itself nonsensical, used by critics at the turn of the twentieth century to mock the ornamented facade of the legendary Hofatelier Elvira in Munich designed by architect August Endell. The joke or mockery works best when it manifests as something short and sharp. The combination of two such elements as the octopus the strange alien of the oceans and rococo the sweet overdose of baroque style perfectly captures the message and attitude that the critics intended. In the exhibition, octopus rococo becomes a code name for serious humour a strange, seemingly nonsensical, dadaistic joke that, in truth, camouflages the different layers of a very complex existence. It is without taste, boundaries, etiquette or rules; it makes no sense until it does.

The exhibition could be described as commedia dell’arte, with artists playing harlequins who use artworks as masks to perform their stories. Each of them presents a certain mise-en-scene inside the bigger picture. The particular scene being presented to us could be a door with a zipper inviting us to step into the art world, a doll house with an explosive cloud encroaching on the space, a bizarre creature with big white teeth smiling from all the corners of its body, or the stare of multiple stray cats in a musical carousel of images. Some scenes are more political, capturing the messiness caused by humans’ never-ending thirst for violence and destruction. Others contemplate the fragility of relationships, which can be sweet as a cake or throw up disturbing red flags. Some are like a clock, slowly ticking till the water starts spilling over.

A burst of laughter breaks out again. Could it be a warning or a therapeutic exercise to let us cope, let us see the stream of light in the overcast sky? Or maybe it’s just life in its truest form, as octopus rococo, having a bit of fun.


The exhibition is part of Kogo Gallery’s this year’s programme Performing Existence. The gallery’s programme is designed to capture a certain vibe that embodies the emotional undertone of the events and questions topical in that particular moment and which define the contemporary zeitgeist. This year we are also in dialogue with the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 which carries the title Arts of Survival. The gallery’s previous exhibition programmes have been titled Ecology–Economy (2021), Past is the Present (2022), Queer It Up (2023).



The exhibition is funded by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the City of Tartu.
Special thanks to the VV Foundation and Valmiermuiža.



Curator: Šelda Puķīte
Production and public programme: Stella Mõttus
Administration: Liina Raus
Communication: Karin Kahre, Kristlyn Liier
Installation: Siim Asmer
Photo documentation: Marje Eelma
Event photography: Evelin Lumi
Graphic design: Aleksandra Samulenkova
Translation and language editing: Refiner Translations

Press and Publications

.Saliva Live, photo reportage, 2.2024
.Echo Gone Wrong, photo reportage, 31.1.2024
.Echo Gone Wrong, news, 1. 2024
.ERR culture news, photos from the opening, 25.1.2024
.ERR, TV + online, news, 23.1.2024

HD video (04:35 min), 2023
HD video (60 min), 2022
Video (03:22 min), 2012
Ink on paper, 30 × 24 cm, 2022
Acrylic on canvas, 115 × 90 cm, 2023

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