Väike teatmik (Tartu) paranoiakriitilise risoomi kohta / A Small Guide to the (Tartu) Paranoiac-Critical Rhizome


  • Aare Pilv Under and Tuglas Literature Centre




The paper gives an overview of a network of authors who have been active since the end of the 20th century, mainly (but not only) in Tartu. They can be characterized as having an experimental attitude and maintaining distance from the literary mainstream, but at the same time they do not try to be consciously polemical or novatory, because partly they repeat the techniques of the 20th century avant-garde and, what is maybe more important, they sidestep the dialectics of innovating or altering the literary canon. The network is not strictly organized; it is rather a rhizome that has some denser nodes (literary journals and mailing lists). There have been different attempts to name the phenomenon: Tartu avant-garde, microcosmic literature, cognitive realism, Y-literature, "eksp" and so on. I have chosen "paranoiac-critique" as the term that best captures the common characteristics of these authors and their artistic practices (some of the authors are active not only as text writers, but also as conceptual artists).

The paper then gives a list, with commentary, of the most important groups and individuals of that movement. In the role of "predecessors" are the group 14NÜ (Paavo Matsin, Mait Laas, Marianne Ravi et al.), which also experimented with the format of the book, and a company in Tartu that developed a specific actionist stylistics called "mugiv" (Marko Kompus, Mehis Heinsaar, Martiini, Kaspar et al.). The sovereign figure in the experimental network is Valdur Mikita, who has also academically researched the problems of creativity; he is also a theoretician and metapoet. An important institution for the network has been the literary journal Vihik (initiator Berk Vaher); the later editor of the journal Jaak Tomberg has also participated in activities of the Tartu Theatre Laboratory (managed by Andreas W), which has experimented with "technological theatre". In the middle of the first decade of the 21st century the network has gathered around the mailing list "eksp", whose central figure is Erkki Luuk. Kiwa (also known as a conceptual and sound artist), Tanel Rander et al. are also important authors of the network. The poetics of the authors sometimes resembles classical avant-gardism (surrealism and dadaism), sometimes it is connected with ideas of schizoanalysis, and sometimes it is a mixture of absurdism and stylistic play. Beside texts, an important role is played by specific performative events, e. g. the annual "International Conference, Scientific Conference", which rigidly follows the format of a scientific conference, but the content of the "papers" extends from pure glossolaly to sophisticated mock-research.

The main purpose of the paper is to sketch a map of this peculiar phenomenon in the contemporary Estonian literary field and to create an initial database of works and reception for further analyses.


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Author Biography

Aare Pilv, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre

MA in Estonian literature. Researcher at the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre. His main research interests are contemporary Estonian literature, self-writing and other modes of the literary construction of identity, relations between artistic and social/political discourses, and problems of the interpretation of Soviet literature from today's perspective.