Tanja Muravskaja

Estonian Race

Tanja Muravskaja

Estonian Race (2010)

Digital C-type photograph, 92x68cm, 68x50cm, 12 photos in series.

The aim of the portrait series of the strong Nordic faces was a portrayal of modern post-soviet state, developing in the mono-national way. There is no such race as an Estonian race. This project appeals for reflection on historical mistakes, dominance of the main nation, tolerance – all of the issues still relevant in the new European countries. The photo series addresses one of the “elementary particles” of nationalism as an ideology - race. Muravskaja is using encyclopaedic thoroughness to find the most typical, the “purest Estonians” among Estonian people, turning to academic authorities for help and portraying the young men who have no names or social security numbers, let alone life stories or identities in the exhibition hall, but who obviously have a nationality, at least within the framework of this visual story. This artistic search could also lead us to a question about a “pure European identity”. Can we possibly define it? What does it mean to be a European nowadays? 


Tanja has before worked on the subject of identity; for example  ‘Positions’, (7 photos in series, 2007) which are part of the collection of the Tartu Art Museum. These photos were the artist’s first work on the subject of the contemporary Estonian identity, and opened a period of four years dedicated to it. This series was followed by works reflecting on the modern Estonia, the elite of the Russian speaking minority in Estonia, and the recent Soviet past. After having worked for four years on that subject, Muravskaja is hanging out the photos for her personal exhibition in the hall of the museum but then resolves to destroy them. She breaks with a hammer the works that had symbolised her hopes and illusions in attempting to analyse and understand the new ethnic identity supposed to be constructed in Estonia. By breaking her own works, Muravskaja obliterates her long effort to grasp the idea of monoethnicity in Estonia, and thus closes the chapter of studying the new ethnic identity in her art.