Estonia Patrons Circle

Jaanus Samma‘Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale’, 2015

In 2015 Outset Estonia supported the Estonian Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, with a new project from emerging Estonian artist Jaanus Samma, Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale,curated by Italian curator Eugenio Viola.

Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale is a fragmented fictive opera, which follows a Soviet Estonian collective farm chairman on trial for acts of homosexuality in the 1960s. The exhibition brings together archive materials from Soviet Estonia and the elegant aesthetics of opera.

Since 2007, Jaanus Samma has focused his artistic research on collecting the hidden histories of gay lives in Soviet Estonia. Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale is based both on rumours and the criminal file of war hero, family man, and kolkhoz chairman Juhan Ojaste (1921–90). Due to his involvement in homosexual acts, Ojaste was expelled from the Communist Party and later sentenced to one and a half years in a labor camp. Following the loss of his social status as well as his dignity, family and job, Ojaste moved to a new town, where, as an ex-convict, he was offered only low-status jobs. In 1990, just a year before Estonia regained independence and homosexuality was decriminalised, Ojaste was murdered, allegedly by a Russian marine and male prostitute. The baroque-opera-like plot of a simple man, Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale aims to connect the social debate on LGBTI rights with the broader issue of the violation of fundamental human rights, as common in the past as in the present.

JAANUS SAMMA (b. 1982, Tallinn) lives and works in Tallinn, Estonia. Since 2011, he has been studying towards a PhD at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn. In 2013, he won Estonia’s most prestigious contemporary art award, the Köler Prize grand-prix, as well as the audience award. Recent exhibitions include Hair Sucks! Sweater Shop at Tallinn Art Hall Gallery (Tallinn, 2014), Feeling Queezy?! at The Museum of Contemporary Art of Estonia (Tallinn, 2014), Is This The Museum We Wanted? at Tartu Art Museum (Tartu, 2014) and After-Life of Gardens at Kumu Art Museum (Tallinn, 2013).

Not Suitable For Work. A Chairman’s Tale is a Collateral Event at the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, on view from 9 May to 22 November, 2015 at Palazzo Malipiero on San Samuele Square.