Irwin - Construction of the Context

A comprehensive exhibition at KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn

IRWIN. Construction of the Context, an exhibition by the Slovenian art group IRWIN at the Kumu Art Museum.

The group has compiled a survey of its works during nearly three decades. The exhibition is part of the Kumu programme that promotes internationally recognised contemporary art. The exhibition is accompanied by public programmes and a voluminous Estonian- and English-language newspaper.

"IRWIN is a recognised and actively operating group in the international field of contemporary art, and one of the most noteworthy artistic forces to have emerged from the former Yugoslavia," said Ellu Maar, the exhibition's curator. "One of the most important themes of the group's recent work is posing the artistic-political question of whether it is possible to compile a uniform modernist history for eastern Europe, and the interim result is the work of art and research the East Art Map."

The art group Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), which also includes IRWIN, has declared that it is a temporal state, with its own national symbols and voluntary citizenship based on passports. With the help of the fictional state, the group studies the sacrality and functioning mechanisms of modern symbols of power.

The exhibition includes the following: paintings from the IRWIN series Kapital (1984−2008), documentation on the 1992 art happening NSK Moscow Embassy, topics related to the East Art Map and declarations by the fictional state of NSK, such as the self-organisation of NSK citizens, the NSK Garda action, with soldiers from various countries in the NSK colour guard and posters with IRWIN slogans.

IRWIN, a five-member group of painters, was created in 1983 in Ljubljana, as the art wing of the Neue Slowenische Kunst group, along with the Laibach industrial band. The activities of NSK aspired to undermine the reigning ideology and expose the functioning mechanisms of this ideology.

In its creative work during the 1980s, IRWIN proceeded from the "retro-principle", which consisted of reusing and combining ready-made images from the history of art and culture. In their paintings, they juxtaposed the avant-garde propaganda art of the totalitarian regimes of the early 20th century, thereby dealing with the last century's most revolutionary modernist utopias, the complicated intertwining of art and politics, the ideology that dominated art relations and the power of images.

Starting in the 1990s, IRWIN's art practices have been characterised by parallels between aesthetics and institutional criticism, the creation of discussion platforms and international dialogue.

The exhibition was designed by IRWIN. The exhibition is accompanied by an Estonian- and English-language newspaper, with articles by Jürgen Harten, Viktor Misiano, Mary Jane Jacob, IRWIN and Ellu Maar. The newspaper was designed by Jaanus Samma and its publication was supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

IRWIN. Construction of the Context will be open at the Kumu Art Museum until 27 January 2013.