Laura Põld, Gary Markle and Anica Huck use the concept of smoke saunas to create Arts of Survival

Tartu 2024 has introduced the initiative “MagiC Carpets” to Estonia. It brings together 20 European cultural organisations in a joint platform – or voice – to change the world through creating art projects. The organisers have successfully completed 147 art residencies, and a total of 4,020 members have participated in the community’s activities to date.

The MagiC Carpets journey in Estonia will start with the residency of international artists in the Southern Estonian art and tech farm Maajaam, where three diverse artists will rethink the tradition of smoke saunas through Arts of Survival.

Curator Ann Mirjam Vaikla chose the smoke sauna as a starting point of the creative house. To rationalise this choice, she highlights the lack of balance between the capitalist world and a way of living that is based on traditions. “The initiative presents a critical analysis of the downsides of the modernised world. Using a smoke sauna is something that is culturally specific to Estonians. It is in our DNA. Now, it is going to be interesting to see how the artists perceive our unique practices,” Vaikla says. “The entire programme follows the Tartu 2024 artistic concept “Arts of Survival”, which are the exact wisdom and skills that will help us live better in the future.”

The residency brings together participants from a host of backgrounds. Laura Põld is a modern artist practising traditional crafts; Gary Markle’s background is as a fashion designer and textile artist; Anica Huck’s artistic practices combine art, science and technology. In November and December, all three artists will spend time familiarising themselves with the smoke sauna tradition and will then create artistic interventions drawing from their experience. The residents will visit smoke saunas in various regions in Valga and Võru counties and will meet experts in the field.

Smoke saunas are an important part of daily life in Võru County and Setomaa. In 2014, the smoke sauna tradition in Võru County was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

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