Kris Lemsalu

Kris Lemsalu was born in 1985 and is currently based in Berlin and Tallinn. They studied at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, Danmarks Designskole in Copenhagen, and Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Lemsalu often experiments with ceramics and traditional techniques to create multilayered works. These can act as self-sufficient installations, or alternatively as a stage for Lemsalu’s performances, the sculptures sometimes becoming a part of their costumes and props. Lemsalu’s recent and upcoming exhibitions include solo shows at Secession, Vienna and Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, London; and shows at Kiasma, Helsinki; Koppe Astner, Glasgow; Performa 17 Biennial, New York; and a performance at DRAF, London in 2017.

Location: Tallinn, Riga
Kris Lemsalu I will be seven When we meet in Heaven 2016 Ceramics, textile, metal, hair dryers, wind chimes Courtesy the artist and Temnikova & Kasela Gallery
Photo by Matthias Bildstein

I will be seven / When we meet in Heaven are the two and only lines in legendary singer Nico’s repetitious song performed at what would be their final concert in Berlin,1988 while presenting their new album Fata Morgana. During the last few months of their life, Nico was on methadone replacement therapy to cope with 15 years of heroin addiction. According to Nico’s son, they had told him they needed to take a bicycle ride into town to buy marijuana, while on holiday in Ibiza in July 1988. On their way they had a heart attack, fell badly and was misdiagnosed as suffering from heat exposure, dying later that day. Despite causing controversy with racist remarks and political ideas, Nico was a muse for many artists and remains one of the symbolic figures of their time. Could Nico be one of Kris Lemsalu’s alter egos?


Kris Lemsalu’s performative sculptures and sculptural performances are a bit like souvenirs from the artist’s life. As a full-time nomad, Lemsalu has appropriated pop music, obscure religious cults and traditions concerning death, scenes from dazzling parties they attend, relationships with friends and lost lovers. There is pain. There is grief for dead friends. There is irony that is not funny. There are jokes made at the context and jokes made at theirself. There is social profanity and political incorrectness executed with lightness and excitement that encourage people to disregard details and be seduced by the rock ‘n’ roll allure of the installations. We are living in times of depression and despair, where sometimes everything frustrates, however, Lemsalu’s works carry the ethos that most of us do our best to overcome the difficulties without choosing means, and therefore, everybody’s life could be written into a punk song.


Now, who are these propeller-hatted characters with faces veiled by wind chimes, firing hair dryers like guns? Are they kids playing the roles of Pushkin’s Onegin and Lensky, duelling over Olga? What a silly death for Lensky to die – shot by Onegin! No one knows what happened to Olga, while Onegin only fully took note of Tatyana when they had risen to the highest class of society, become unreachable and told them that they were too late. Could this installation be a metaphor for the art world’s ethics in risk economy or is it a story of two friends? Or perhaps these are the gatekeepers of heaven and hell, bored from the lack of visitors? What an awfully decadent poem of fatality, seemingly innocently luring you to ask forbidden questions of good and bad taste. And before you know it, a death joke slips off your tongue, you blush, then pull yourself together and happily continue through the gate.


Rebeka Põldsam