ink on paper x 30 / 30 x 42 cm

Using a wide variety of media, Flo Kasearu has often addressed the issues of tradition and national identity in her work. Her newest series of drawings, Basic Pride (2017), conceived especially for the exhibition The State is not a Work of Art, depict an object resembling a potato—a symbol that has become closely connected to Estonian nationality. Although the potato was not introduced to Estonian tables until the 18th century, it soon became a staple food. During the Soviet occupation, Estonia was one of the leading countries for potato production and became known in the Soviet Union as the “Potato Republic”; it even became common for Estonians to find themselves being compared physically to potatoes.

In Kasearu’s drawings, the sprouts of the potato become flagpoles of different shapes and configurations, suggesting various ways of ‘being’ or ‘behaving’ as a state. The drawings with one flagpole, for example, may be read as reflecting on the good and bad qualities of being an only child: not getting along with oneself, reaching for contact with other nations and countries, behaving egotistically or being introspective. There are also drawings that symbolise the (forced) union of two countries or nations, each becoming dependent on the other, providing mutual support but also being at odds with one another. The potatoes depicted with many flagpoles refer to a strong union of many nations, each being different yet somehow able to contribute to the whole. Through these different imaginative configurations, Kasearu associatively explores the many different outlooks a nation or state can adopt and reveals its literal ‘constitution’ in terms of its primary belief systems – from being open to dialogue and cross-fertilisation to being a hermetic, self-protective and defensive entity.

Text by Katerina Gregos