The value of ideas in Tallinn

Creative and enthusiastic people are the lifeblood of the smartness and richness of Tallinn. They provide the ideas and initiative for the layer of contemporary culture that will ultimately save  this city from becoming a pure office plantation or medieval  theme park. Acknowledging this, cultural institutions, educational centers, private businesses and the city administration have already put it on their banners to nurture and comfort the development of this fragile branch. In this context it is especially disturbing how the attitude towards this group by the Kultuurikatel reminds more of common exploitation than supportive encouragement.Last year the garden of Kultuurikatel had been host to a range of activities centering around the garden theme, most notably a bar to attract promenaders and to host a wide range of events, the opening of the velonaut bicycle workshop, an open air theater and the popular mini chicken enclosure, the Kultuurikanad.

Since we are talking about Katlaaed, the people behind the different projects were not simply occupying the place as in the time before, but had been selected by a jury, instantiated via Kultuurikatel. This had specifically not been a competition for curation of the garden, but merely a call for all projects possible. Hence also all projects had been accepted. And with the closing call of this jury one could say, that the involvement of the institution of Kultuurikatel had been over, because henceforth the initiatives were left to themselves in organizing and realizing their projects. There had been no monetary funding and barely any material made available to the groups. The labour, many man-hours of on-site construction work, cleaning up and running the show – were merely compensated with a pat on the back, a name on a poster and the title “partner to Kultuurikatel”.

Over the summer, in particular the Kultuurikanad turned out to be a successful branding strategy, since the adorable furry chickens in their posh garden establishment were a magnet to young and old and the accompanying brunches with mini egg sunny side up reflected exactly what kultuurikatel and the whole area on the sea is craving for: a bit of chic urbanity on the fringes of the dull tourist entertainment machine.

Further along the year, the cultural chickens received more and more fame, up until the honorable mentioning by 2012’s Eesti Disainiauhinnad and a nomination by the “Eesti Maastikuarhitektuuri Aasta Tegu 2012“

One of the more important aspects of establishing an image of a place is continuity in its effort, sincerity in its goals and some solid resource base to put things on. To continue these efforts the group around Kultuurikanad, most notably Grete Veskiväli, Isabel Neumann, Kaisa Kangur, Triin Orav, Juula Saar, Liisi Tamm, and b210’s Mari Hunt and Aet Ader proposed already early this year to offered the concept and design of the Kultuurikanad installation again to kultuurikatel. They politely declined the offer.

Kultuurikatel now opened Kohvik Kanala.

For what it’s worth, this part of the story can certainly be judged one way or the other. The authors of last year’s chicken outlet agreed obviously to the conditions put into place by kultuurikatel, to pay all material and labour themselves. And they did – as many others – pay with their money and sweat and by using every connection they can think of in order to get this wood delivered or that metal frame welded. They work without a clock and without pay to provide this one thing extra that this city can henceforth gladly present – in this case under the name kultuurikatel. The authors of Kultuurikanad also agreed to this deal, because in Tallinn, you have to do so in order to get access to locations like Katlaaed. The gatekeepers are the institutions, even when it’s only their name on a call for ideas and a press folder in their archives and reports afterwards.

Since the ending of the year of the cultural capital 2011, the renamed Kultuurikatel SA struggles for a valid meaning of existence, having found a purpose finally in the support of the cultural and entrepreneurial creatives of Tallinn. I wonder how this goes along with extorting the ideas off of this very group? What kind of attitude must be in their midst, if the value of intellectual property – even the assumed one of a concept – is meaningless and what kind of assumptions must they have about the effort and costs associated with this work?

The new café in Katlaaed is a beautiful place, and it will be a trending spot this summer, with refreshments and food – a calm island in the busy city. But it certainly did not need the ugly treatment of its pioneers to accomplish this.

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