Markus Kasemaa is a contemporary Estonian artist, with a background in philosophy and painting, dedicated to creating art that drags viewers out of what they knew to be normal, comfortable, or pleasant. His opinions are as strong as his work; he is a firm believer in the human capacity for good, freedom, and change.
With his artworks, Kasemaa creates a new species, citizens of a dystopia; nameless, faceless and unclaimed by ties of personhood or kinship. His figures are always caught in motion, yet hopelessly stagnant, directionless while waiting for the unravelling of their fate. Their stories simultaneously belong to everyone and no-one; isolated characters unable to conquer their universe or control their nature.
Their identity is their strangeness – bodies that might have been human, are now distorted, deformed, hybridised, salvaged in the aftermath of unknown acts of violence, or intense emotion. They carry with them relics of battles passed, interrupted games, or unfinished love affairs, trying to make up for their strange, nearly illegible universe. Objects belonging to the human realm turn into distressing artefacts, as their function is uncertain and intentions are unclear: rifles, soldiers´ helmets, toys, ballerina skirts, harlequins´ garb, aprons and shoes – directing viewers into recognising and challenging a narrative they might otherwise ignore.
Elements of normativity in Kasemaa’s art – gendered corporeality, breasts on female bodies – are countered, in a tendency towards their own inversion: ´negative breasts´, unfinished bodies, missing limbs, replaced by common objects or prosthetics. They may be shocking, distressing to the eye of a comfortable beholder, but they are also soothing – they speak to endless possibilities, creativity, endurance and hope.
Kasemaa implodes established notions of ´good art´ and ´bad art’, as he challenges what ´beauty´ is generally endowed within our era. In a way, he is a seeker of truth. In another way, he complicates what we see, with the certainty that, in order to understand ourselves better, we need to face the vague, the unknown and the strange.
Words: Elena Stanciu
Illustration: Markus Kasemaa