On 8 November Johannes Saar will defend his doctoral thesis „Discourses of Hegemony in Estonian Culture: The Press Communication of the Art Museum of Estonia 2006–2015“ („Hegemooniadiskursused eesti kultuuris. Eesti Kunstimuuseumi pressikommunikatsioon 2006–2015“).
Professor Veronika Kalmus, University of Tartu
Professor Marek Tamm, Tallinn University
Doctor of Philosophy Margaret Tali, Amsterdam University
Professor Emeritus Rein Veidemann, Tallinn University
In the first decades of the 21st century, Estonia has consistently maintained its course towards the liberalization, internationalization and globalization of public life. Cultural policy has been boosted by more radical liberal reforms, which have been understood as the introduction of an arm’s-length policy separating the state and culture. Public and state-funded cultural institutions have become foundations operating on a commercial basis and according to private law. This has also forced cultural and memory institutions to re-invent themselves in competition with the entertainment and leisure industry. The aim of my doctoral thesis is to examine how the Art Museum of Estonia (AME) has been able to cope with this creative challenge in the years 2006–2015. I focused on exploring the public image of the museum in a specific way – asking how and with what kind of rhetoric does the EAM convince the general public to visit the art exhibitions open in its various institutions. During the research, I discovered that the way that works of Estonian art are introduced to the public in press releases is remarkably similar to theoretical descriptions of colonized cultures. In the context of intensified competition, sales arguments that emphasize how the art scene in Estonia coincides with that of Scandinavian countries, Western European metropolises and the global art world of biennales and triennials have been used to draw the attention of the public. Cultural significance is not attributed to Estonia, its position as one of the Baltic States or within Eastern Europe, nor to the significance of being with the Russian neighbourhood. Such selectivity in the cultural space led me to look at the modern self-image of Estonian culture in light of postcolonial research concepts, such as cultural self-colonization and Western cultural hegemony. The arguments of cultural ethnocentrism, eurocentrism and globalization in the press reports suggest that the main bearer of Estonian culture is, so it reads to me, the ‘colonial subject’, who establishes its positive self-image as a kaleidoscopic mosaic of provincial stigmas, and does this within a scope that is distant from the imagined cultural metropolis and assumes for itself the view, like a personal identity narrative, that it has formed in its own imagination of the view from the metropolis.