Writing, Curating and Lecturing on Visual Arts, Public Space and Architecture

The Ground Dissector’s Misfortune 

Article on Art Allmägi's exhibition at Artishok Biennale 2012.

Text exhibited during the exhibition (14.10.2012) and later published in the catalogue.

Gregor Taul x Art Allmägi


The Ground Dissector’s Misfortune


Allmägi practises institutional critique, though not following the tradition of art history, rather fundamentally suspecting the institutions and doing so very personally.


Institution – a social arrangement, tradition or establishment

Institution – L. tradition, education; economic, national, political, art or some other social organisation or tradition.


L. instituere – set up, establish, found, institute

L. in + statuere – in + establish / initiate

L. statum – law, disciple

L. stare – stand

Persian stan – ground / (word by word) that on which one stands


In ‘human language’, institution might mean standing on the ground with two feet.



Latin-based terms such as critique, criminal and crisis come from the Ancient Greek word krinein, which meant divorcing, dissecting, deciding. Kritikos denoted someone who was able to give evaluations. For Hippocrates, the word krisis meant the breaking point of a disease. Crime which can be found in French since the 13th century refers to breaking the law and the accusation that follows. A critic is therefore first and foremost a dissector.


In Estonian the one who criticises institutions might then be called a ground dissector: the one who dissects standing on the ground. It is presumable that the archetypal ground dissector isn’t too much of a philosophical type, rather someone who, as though out of pride, doubts whether and to which degree to accept the given ground beneath. Possibly, the great ground dissectors like the ground wreckers or country leavers come from the country[1]. For example: Ella Ilbak, Leonhard Lapin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Valentina Tereškova, Art Allmägi.


But Allmägi dissects the ground in such an earthly method that is sculpture and therefore the suspicion, whether he really is an archetypal ground dissector, arises. Maybe he is just a person with a good conscience who does not care much for institutions ethically because, in addition to his own freedoms, they also violate the freedoms of those who cannot protect themselves from the institutions.


If Allmägi really is a man of solidarity then it is still unclear why he has decided to take his grudge against institutions so weak on the social scale such as Tallinn Art Hall and Tartu Art College? However, there definitely is something about the height of thought that is the correspondence with the Vatican, and to shake the ground on which the church is standing should be part of the main programme of a ground dissector. But will there be any fruitful consequences following the letter to the Pope? Highly doubtful. John Paul II is a saint to a billion earthlings anyway. The officials at the Vatican read hundreds of letters with the same contents every day.



Maybe Allmägi is dissect-ground, standing that can be dissected? During stable times the strength of a single human being is smaller; it is harder for one to blow something up helter-skelter. We are all part of the dissect-ground, by the way: even more so, the easier we find it to accept and spread the knowledge that we are standing on the boring periphery with our two feet on the ground, where sending mock-letters offers change to idleness.


[1]In Estonian the word ’maa’ can be used for all these: ground, country, earth, land. (Translator’s note)

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