Flowers in your hair and in your head, body walking in space

IMG_8956I have arrived. I am in America. All these dreams, illusions, memories and hopes for the big America start folding out in front of me through each and every second I walk on this earth, in the city of San Francisco, where you must go with flowers in your hair. I like to add here also flowers in your head. And your body walking in space. It has been wonderful to enter the country right on the spot, never leaving the airplane, rather floating on the yellow submarine.

When me and Berit were 20 and having our first bigger social experiment in life – that was when we decided to move to London, just for the excitement of it, just for the sake of the social experiment and fun – the idea of San Francisco sneaked in. Probably the overall materialistic attitude and class society of London was eating our brains the way that we started longing for the left-liberal dream.  San Francisco – the good old hippie capital – must be the right place to be. We were singing the “if you’re going to San Francisco” song and tried to figure out the visa case. Settling in in London was not a big deal, why would it be different in Frisco, we were wondering. But soon we started to realize that Europe and America are two different things and hippies in San Francisco have died out long ago.

It was not before I moved together with Monica in Indonesia while working on my fieldwork research in Yogyakarta. I spent the days with warias and working out my stuff, and in the evenings we had a lot to talk about with Monica. It seemed to be rather miraculous how similar we were when it came to the music, films, political attitude or thoughts on gender and (post-)colonial situation. Yet we had grown up each on different sides of the globe, but I wanted to pay her a visit in San Francisco.

Thank god that Susan Stryker, again her, as we met at the conference in Sweden, told me as the first thing: “Bay area would definitely be the right place for you to be!” One thing led to another, I was gifted with Fulbright scholarship, and when I now come to think about it, then I didn’t pick San Francisco, San Francisco picked me.

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Raja Ampat wonderland in flow

Shot in one of the most amazing diving locations in the world, Raja Ampat in Papua, Indonesia, i’m happy to share possibly the most beautiful hour spent in my life with seven gorgeous manta rays.

Sometimes you’re just lucky for having to conduct your anthropological fieldwork in the area, where such spots of Alice in Wonderland are just few hours boat trip away. I had been working in Sorong already for weeks, when my psychical abilities – and after all these stories I had heard from warias, and experiences we shared, also mental abilities  – were challenged hard. That, on the other hand, formed a great excuse for a weekend getaway to Raja Ampat.

Raja Ampat advertises itself as the ‘Last Paradise on Earth’. Witnessing the massive piles of fish under the sea surface it’s hard to argue the contrary, especially when also encountering the manta rays. These huge birds of the ocean fly around endless blue of the globe and stop around Raja Ampat only for a few months a year. They’re incredibly intelligent and I’m pretty sure they can sense the human vibrations and if you really try, you can communicate with them in some meditative ways.

I combined the video clips I recorded in February 2012 with a random improvisation we played last week with my good old sound collective Voog (translates as flow) in Tartu, Estonia. Guitars: Mänts; drums: Martin, keyboards: terje. Camera, editing by terje

Read more about Raja Ampat here and here.

40 years no go out

Just as there are its own spritis and ghosts in Tartu, Paris or London, we could aslo find some of incredible souls in the deepest corners of Yogyakarta, Java. Our local friend,  performance artist Iwan Wijono invited me and Kiwa along for a visit to these legends – born artists, who have totally abandoned the norms of the conformist society. 

Through thick rain shower and rivers of water floating under my motorbike wheels we zigzag ourselves along the narrow streets until we find the house of P’trus. Coming from the gray of the outside we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of the striking psychedelia – the walls are covered with colorful dragon paintings, various masks are hanging on the door. There’s a little baby riding a weird machine on the floor, singing merrily a tune, that somehow reminds me of  Pink Floyd‘s early psychedelic chords. 

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P’trus

P’trus is a legendary street artist, who supposedly used to ride a huge high bicycle around the town, blowing trompet, which sound was known all around Yogyakarta. With this trompet, he sometimes intervened some concerts, no-body minded, it was rather seen as a bliss. Or he was organizing performances on a daily basis, making people happy to be together and share the passion of making art out of life. For him esthetics and ethics are the same. Experiment and spontaneity are his keywords for life. Life is art. Art is life. Smile with tears, as he sais. 

Three years ago he found himself a young women, who cleaned his house and made the eyes of this old hippie shining even brighter. 

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P’trus blowing his magical trompet

When the rain was finally over, we took a ride to a man, who’s living even more radially underground. Iwan told us: “This man, 40 years no go out.”

In the house of Puthut al the things are left as they are. Here’s no electricity, no water. He cooks his meal outside on a tiny gas lamp. The man with dark pony tail smokes his thick roll of tobacco happily and seeks for some pieces of wood under our butts. What first seems to be a pile of trash now rather takes a form of some of his creatures – there are tiny sculptures made of cigarette packages, some retro-spirit works of collage and many other things that Puthut has created along his daily blows of inspiration. 

So you never leave the house?

Why don’t I?! As soon as I run out of tobacco I have to go outside to get some more. 

He gets the tobacco from just around the corner – 40m walking. He smokes from the moment he wakes up until his eyes fall close again. And he doesn’t fall into bed when it happens, he sleeps gently where he happens to be at the very moment of falling asleep – in a chair, on the floor or on the pile of these unidentified objects, usually in lotus position. 

If he doesn’t find a canvas, he can use any other piece of paper, seems to be his artist statement. As we wander around his dark house, I come to realize that probably he approaches any piece of paper or furniture with equal creativity and good-hearted apathy.   His monthly costs are around 100 000 rp (10 euros). 

The most important … (he first laughs loud at my question)… is to be happy in this life.

What makes a person happy?

There’s nothing particular. It gotta be flow. There’s no certain thing – you can sit in your house and be happy, or travel from Estonia to Indonesia just like you, and be happy.

Just the feeling!  sings P’trus happily and Puthus plays some blues. 

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Exactly one year later I was back in Yogyakarta. I visited Puthus again, and you know what – nothing had changed! Still no bed in his house,  no electricity, some wonderful miniature sculptures had appeared in his garden that wasn’t there before, he’s shown some creativity, and… his eyes have the same happy shine, just as a year ago.

Seems like nobody cares if these guys live or die, but I do. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe myself how much I care for people like Phutus and P’trus, whose existence seems to amplify the colors and richness of life on this planet. Personally even more – when  looking back at these sweet encounters now, me and Kiwa consider these two gentelmen giving us the first direct input that led us to the path of the hippie-underground of Soviet Estonia. 

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Puthus in in his house 2012  – nothing much had changed since one year

Travel in time – a journey into the psychedelic underground of Soviet Estonia

News from the meanwhile – had my very first curating experience, welcome for a visit in Estonian National Museum in Tartu!

It’s long time since I’ve posted a story to share. Not that we would have buried the blog and lost the passion for writing, but just the past winter has been incredibly busy.  In fact I have been busy with another kind of avant-tourism, this time it’s about travel in time – to the period of time that has been haunting me my entire life, that I almost feel nostalgic about although I’ve never directly experienced it. This period of time has inspired me in the music I make, the life me and Berit have led on our vagabondage travels, the values I care for, the smile I shine, the dress I wear, the spirit that burns me inside.

Something important happened in late 1960s. Not only in America, not only in France or London. But you can also find the traces of this  – what i’d like to call as psychedelic revolution – in countries with radically different social background such as Soviet Union or Indonesia.

When me and Kiwa were living in Indonesia couple of years ago, we visited some local crazy hippie-artists. They made their turning years of youth in early seventies, they became legendary street artists in 1980s in Yogyakarta and now leading their weird lives in their personal private kingdoms of their little lebenswelt, totally abandoning the norms of the common Indonesian society. One of them hasn’t left his house for 40 years, sleeping wherever happens, there’s no bed, no electricity, but bunch of creatures that have become part of his life, his art, which for him are all the same. Happiness? Happiness is just the flow.

Just the feelin’” as P’trus sings some blues on the guitar that has lost around 3 strings.

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P’trus, happy in his house, 40 years no go out

When already back in Estonia, couple of months later visited Tallinn a legendary hippie a writer and researcher Vladimir Wiedemann, the author of the juicy novel “School of Magicians”, which is the first thorough investigation of the hippie-underground of the Soviet Estonia published in Estonian. As a big fan and curious to draw the connection between the souls of psychedelic revolution between the continents, me and Kiwa settled a 3-days date with him in Tallinn.

We were wandering around places where Soviet hippies used to gather and… got stuck in it… for another couple of years, or perhaps a life-time. Well, time is just another construction, so no matter much of that, but what I’m trying to say is that these interactions with Indonesian old hippies and these days with Wiedemann planted a seed into a project that has now laid out its first eggs – all those in Estonia this summer, welcome to visit the multi-disciplinary exhibition at Estonian National Museum in Tartu: Soviet hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of Soviet Estonia. Yes, the one I had joy to curate together with Estonian artist Kiwa, the one that kept me away from blogging, the one that burns my soul.

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Aare with his girlfriend visiting Estonian philosopher Mihkel Ram Tamm who became a source of spiritual inspiration for many Soviet hippies. Photo: from the collection of Vladimir Wiedemann

Soviet Hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of 1970s Estonia

The hippie movement, which converted hundreds of thousands of young people in the West to the cult of “peace, love and freedom” during the 1960s and 1970s and shook the entire world, also had an impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Coveting Western freedoms and spiritually inspired by the cultures of the East, a counterculture of flower children developed in the Soviet Union, which was disengaged from the official ideology and expressed itself through rock music, the cult of love, pacifism, actual and cosmic travel, and a physical appearance that was considered unacceptable for Soviet citizens.

The Khrushchev Thaw (1956‒1964) that followed Stalin’s repressions brought a breath of fresh air to some places in the Soviet Union.  In Estonia, foreign radio broadcasts kept people updated on the happenings elsewhere in the world. Young minds were enthralled by iconic hippie-era albums from the West that were illicitly distributed and the knowledge that their contemporaries in the “free world” were rocking in the spirit of the slogan “Make love not war.” The stagnation that accompanied Brezhnev’s rule did not leave much room for hope or personal freedom. Thus, against the background of contemporary politics, the generation that grew up in the late 1960s could not do anything but accept the fact that the world was one big lie and it was better just to deal with your own things.

The hippie movement in Soviet Estonia was not a clearly defined phenomenon, but rather the distinctive flow of the era, an explosive youth culture with a perception of life that could unite vagabonds and academicians. However, the mere trend toward hippie fashions, long hair and great rock concerts was enough to make the Soviet authorities see a political threat that could subvert the regime.  But the more absurd the reality, the more fanatical the Soviet flower power became. They created their own world in the shadow of harsh rules and repressions, and opposed the ruling system through symbolic expression.

This multi-disciplinary exhibition documents and analyzes the unofficial youth culture and presents an alternative trajectory in Estonian cultural memory by focusing on the manifestations of the hippie movement in Soviet Estonia. In our approach we have also included individuals from Estonia’s music, art, and literature worlds who ignored or opposed the official socialist code of behavior.

KIWA & Terje Toomistu

Exhibition curators

Peace and love! More background stories follow soon…

I made it into the fifth life cycle

Some first nation people in North America talk about 7-year life circles. Each of them carry some specific function for personality, each of them opens up some new layers in life. Since I was child, I somehow never imagined my life lasting longer than the age of 27. I just didn’t see it coming afterwards, except perhaps an image of driving a motorbike when already retired. But apart from that I didn’t really relate to any imaginations that would go towards the period of life which would start the fifth life circle.

IMG_8823Exactly one year ago I was raising some glasses with my friends in Yogyakarta, joking, that I sure will have a great last year of my life. And I felt I didn’t want any party, but at the night of my 27th birthday I wanted to pray. Pray for some absolute energy, ultimate vibration, null-energy, tone of the universe. And Shiva, yes. Hindu temples could possibly raise this connection. So I told my friends that I’ll be taking a motorbike an hour drive away from the city to a small hindu temple at night, feel free to join me. Instead of couple of friends (I didn’t expect anyone care to drive out in the middle of the night), we were altogether seven people – Berit, Marie, Monica, Jali, Ethel among them.

What happened though, was that our crowd turned out to be joyful people, full of life and… bigger plans. So on the way we managed to set up another plan for a much bigger Hindu temple. The one which was so heavily calling.

What followed, was the most exciting, beautiful, breathtaking birthday one could ever imagine. And then what followed, was the most absurd, ridiculous, embarrassing and terrifying birthday one could imagine. Which eventually still ended without any real problems, but the threat was real – to be fined for 10 000 rp!! And we only wanted to pray… Luckily, we were left with just the bittersweet memory of an adventure of layered meanings, absurdities, guilt, joy and a fortunately, a sweet follow-up.

Although I probably knew a year ago that setting my age of 27 as the last one to remember must be a joke, I was still curious enough – am I gonna make it or not. The year blessed me with moments, when I almost didn’t care for further. But even then it also striked my mind that the exhibition I was curating was supposed to open when I would be already 28. That kind of meant that I should become 28. How otherwise?!

Anyway, I still love, therefore I am. Now 28, silently entering my fifth life circle. It will be a blessing. How otherwise. 

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Life goes in spirals, let’s make this world possible

This year was full of strong strange vibrations, I’m sure I was not the only one noticing the magical forces floating around the 2012. Exactly one year ago I was doing my fieldworks in a small village in South Sulawesi. The air was warm and sky sunny with some breath sudden tropical rainfalls. I was staying at a wonderful and powerful calabai – a local name for a waria among the Bugis people -, who then invited her friends and local authorities to the front garden of her popular salon and made me and Minna an amazing make-up, as that’s one of her talented skills.

Together with a bunch of funny young calabais we headed down to the center of the village, dancing wild and sexy on the stage, completely sober, as alcohol is generally forbidden here, as it’s considered to be important to keep up the proud morals of decent Moslem people. Besides, as we realized in the afternoon, all nearby houses producing local brew had already been emptied from the popular mild palm wine, that we all could have enjoyed anyway. And I had also discovered myself in the somewhat paradise of gender pluralism – a good start for the year, that was carrying me along this wave – to extensive few months in hot hot Papua, ghostly magical living with Monica in Yogyakarta, along with stripbots and revolution out of control with Monty Cantsin in Tallinn, to radical queer film festival Entzaubert in Berlin with a soul friend Alec Butler, to ILGA world conference in Stockholm, and getting more into visual and vivid with Judith and David MacDougall in utopic and stunning Sardinia, or dreamy days as a press at IDFA film festival in Amsterdam, hanging out with Alvaro, the sweet craziness from five years ago Peruvian Amazon. Lately I’ve been testing my shooting skills on the Gray of Utopia and getting lost in the nighttime underground world of Susanna and Vanessa. If I would give an imaginative title to some of my new friends, then this couple of ladies who have caught my camera would be my persons of the year. Me and Kiwa have been digging out the wonders of the good old Soviet Union – the bittersweet hippie trail on the other side of the iron curtain. And I’m continuously excited about the book of magic by me and Berit – our Seven Worlds is gonna be knocking on the door of 2013!

This year has also seen some shaking weird emotional states, I’ve been low and high, sick and healthy, in love and lonely, motivated to stand out for the raise of awareness and to fight for human rights and freedom of self-expression, and depressed feeling this being a naive dream and impossible mission. But as I’ve always believed – life goes in spirals.

Dear anonymous faraway friends and the ones I’ve had a chance to share some moments of this reality, I wish you warm heart and progressive moves for the coming up 2013. Let’s make this world possible.

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And for the fun part, once again, the sexy dance from the village of South Sulawesi: