EXHIBITION: Objects of Attention. Experiments with Knowledge in the State Museum

The Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design opens the 2019 programme with the exhibition “Objects of Attention”, curated by anthropologist Francisco Martínez. 

In this exhibition, ordinary things are revised into objects of attention. Ten artists have been invited to reflect on the capacity of artefacts to spark political concern and raise awareness of actual social challenges. Through the engagement of these artists with and through the expressive (material, design, functional, indexical) potential of things, everyday items have been transformed into devices for thinking about the contemporary — through topics such as migration, gender, environmental sustainability, digital rubbish, obsession with changes, and the role of humans in an automated world. The project is intended to transgress conventional ways of making, analysing, and representing things, exploring alternatives ways of producing knowledge. Also, it contributes to debates about the relationship of an artwork to its society, matters of aura and intentionality, the intrinsic properties of artefacts, as well as exploring the intersections from which the dialogue between contemporary art, anthropology, design, and museum studies can be brought forward. 


Francisco Martínez is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki and part of the editorial team of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures. In 2018, he was awarded with the Early Career Prize of the European Association of Social Anthropology for his book Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia. Martinez’ reflection upon material culture and his way of combining contemporary art and anthropology are intriguing for the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, and significantly open the scope and practice in the field. 


Artists: Jussi Kivi, Laura Kuusk, Nino Kvrivishvili, Camille Laurelli, Eleonore de Montesquiou, Eva Mustonen, Emeli Theander, Timo Toots, Kirill Tulin, and Varvara & Mar 

Graphic Designer: Ott Kagovere 

Architecture Designer: Hannes Praks  

The exhibition is open: 12.01-17.03.2019 

Public Programme of the exhibition: “Experiments with Knowledge” 

The public programme includes a performance at the opening of the exhibition; a research seminar with lectures and artists talks; two workshops and several guided tours in English and Estonian. A key proposition behind “Experiments with Knowledge” is that museums can be thought as places where things can happen and different participants can share experimental ways to connect their capacities together. In this light, the diverse events scheduled are not organised to know more, but to know differently and access to alternative forms of knowledge.  

12.01.2019 Research Seminar 

Moderator: Francisco Martínez 

Participants: Eeva Berglund, Derek Holzer, Roomet Jakapi, Ott Kagovere, Jussi Kivi, Mihkel Kleis, Nino Kvrivishvili, Laura Kuusk, Camille Laurelli, Patrick Laviolette, Eleonor de Montesquiou, Eva Mustonen, Hannes Praks, Kirill Tulin, Timo Toots, Varvara & Mar 

Practical workshops: 

Saturday, 19 of January: Timo Toots / working with floppy disks. 

Saturday, 16 of February: Varvara Guljajeva (from artist duo Varvara & Mar) / working with data cans. 

Guided tours: Two tours by the curator in English (19 January and 16 of March) and in Estonian (16 February). 


The exhibition is supported by: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Finnish Institute in Estonia and the University of Helsinki 


New Open Access book: “Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia” — Awarded with the EASA Early Career Prize

The book ‘Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia. An Anthropology of Forgetting, Repair and Urban Traces’ has been published by UCL Press. Also, it has received the Early Career Award by the European Association of Social Anthropology in the category of Best Monograph.


What happens to legacies that do not find any continuation? The author brings together a number of sites of interest to explore the vanquishing of the Soviet legacy in Estonia. The anthropological study of all these places shows that national identity and historical representations can be constructed in relation to waste and disrepair too, demonstrating also how we can understand generational change in a material sense.


By adopting the tropes of “repair” and “waste”, this book innovatively manages to link various material registers from architecture, intergenerational relations, affect, museums with ways of making the past present.
Victor Buchli, Professor of Material Culture, UCL

This book comprises an endearingly transdisciplinary ethnography of post-socialist material culture and social change in Estonia. It defies disciplinary boundaries and shows how an attention to material relations and affective infrastructures might reinvigorate political theory.
Maria Mälksoo, Senior Lecturer, Brussels School of International Studies of the University of Kent


Francisco jointed the University of Helsinki in May 2018; since then he has published three articles: ‘Doing nothing: Anthropology sits at the same table with contemporary art in Lisbon and Tbilisi’ (Ethnography) ‘Analogue Photo Booths in Berlin. A stage, a trap, a condenser and four shots for kissing the person you love’ (Anthropology and Photography); and ‘The Serendipity of Anthropological Practice’ (Anthropological Journal of European Cultures).
Also, Francisco has edited two books that will be published within the next months: ‘Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough: Ethnographic Responses’ (Berghahn); ‘Common Grounds? Locating, Contesting and (Not) Defining European Anthropology’ (Berghahn). Currently, he is curating the exhibition ‘Objects of Attention’ at the Estonian Museum of Applied Arts and Design.