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.
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.
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
Peace and love! More background stories follow soon…