ISCP residency application Copy
I see myself as a North-Eastern European artist having roots in the indigenous Võro culture of Southern Estonia. With that comes my interest in minority languages, Finnic mythology, and forgotten or neglected history. I’ve always been eager to discover universal aspects and connections between different cultures and our commonly shared biosphere. My creative research explores how our interpretation of history, memory, identity, and time perception influences our sense of belonging. Some of my projects will be life-long, started over 15 years ago.
The concept always comes first, and the form follows. I work with painting, text, video performance, moving image, photography, and installation. But I consider moving image to be the most marginalised genre in the contemporary art scene, although it seemingly exists everywhere. The community of artists working with moving image is crucial to me because we share the same language and face similar challenges. As practitioners or presenters, we have a shared educational mission to take time-based media closer to the art audience and collectors. Therefore, besides working on my artistic research, I put a lot of effort into questioning how the artists’ moving image could better become internationally supported, developed and shared?
In my artistic practice, I’m interested in the notion of solastalgia – the feeling of homesickness caused by one’s home environment’s unwanted demise – and coping mechanisms for it. Since 2018 I’ve been looking at it in the context of Livonia – a historical region on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, the language of which was declared extinct in 2013. Although I was brought up in the same geographical area, the old Livonian history was hazy for me until I coincidentally understood the lyrics of a randomly heard folk song in the Livonian language. It felt as if I had stumbled upon a dormant timeline, which became an inspiration for a larger body of work that I would build up in the upcoming years.
The integral character on this journey is Riekkēji (Traveller in the Livonian language). S/he travels simultaneously through the past, present, and future stories and finds ways to preserve and connect them. The journey takes us through fiction and reality, straight into the heart of the folkloric storytelling formats; myth and ritual making.
I worked with historical archives and filmed new footage in Southern Estonia and Northern Latvia for my recent short film After Betelgeuse, narrated in the Livonian language by myself. The dominant historical narrative often neglects Finnic and Baltic tribes’ colonial past. World War II, Russian deportations to Siberia and the marginalisation of the Livonian language during Soviet occupation became the last straw for its survival. Today, through myths and folk songs, one can still sense the language’s connectedness to nature.
I would work towards exhibiting the new works and the film alongside an artist’s book inspired by the theme, for which I’d like to find co-authors. The concept is developed enough for sharing this vision. Still, I would like to find collaborators and interested parties to take it to the next level. I hope to see contributors from different disciplines, such as environmental studies, language studies, ecofeminism, memory research, and general history.
I believe this kind of juxtaposition between cultures is crucial these days, and for me, there are many ways to pursue this goal. My passion is curating artists’ film programmes because it enables knitting together ideas from different backgrounds. Still, I want to be more knowledgeable on contemporary artists’ film scene to be able to make those comparisons more profoundly.
I appreciate your consideration!
See more at www.lenmurusalu.com
Overview of my recent creative practice
My latest major project is the Time Quartet expanded cinema project consisting of four artists’ films exploring human nature through time, language and empathy. The films, combined with live performative and visual arts elements, as well as the participation of the four filmmakers, constitute a unique shared experience for each screening.
My role was producing all four films and directing After Betelgeuse, a 2-channel film about a journey through the past and future myths of the dormant Livonian language.
Films and authors of Time Quartet:
- Kissing Your Tongue – Anna Hints, Tushar Prakash
- In the Storm of Roses – Liina Siib
- Cellula Filia – Piibe Kolka
- After Betelgeuse – Len Murusalu
Time Quartet’s premiere took place on November 20th, 2022, at Sõprus cinema, which also marks the launch of the newly established PÖFF Expanded platform. In cooperation with PÖFF, I’m developing a platform for artists’ and experimental films accompanied by performative and location-specific elements, creating an immersive environment to push the boundaries of cinema. I’m hoping that in the following years, PÖFF Expanded will redefine how we perceive artists working with moving image and open new opportunities for them, which are usually reserved for the cinema context.
I will also continue to support artists working with moving image so that they can have access to the technical facilities needed. I have had a conversation with Corina Apostol regarding having my retrospective solo exhibition at the Tallinn Art Hall in 2023. I have organised a screening for the Time Quartet expanded cinema project at the Whitechapel Gallery in early March 2023. I have already been invited to the screenings of “After Betelgeuse” in Portugal, Italy, and Scotland. One of my goals is to publish a book about the theme which will unite all my collaborators from all over the world and from different mediums.
In 2019, I released my first major moving image work, Inherited Memories, about a grandchild revisiting a place where her Grandfather had survived a near-death experience in 1941. The film was my graduation work at the RCA and was screened in the Whitechapel Gallery, Aesthetica film festival and PÖFF, among others.
Goals summary for the next three years
- Maintaining a strong research-based artistic practice.
- Releasing at least one expanded cinema work every year. I have several screenplays ready to get started.
- Releasing at least one full-length artist’s film in 3 years. The script for Third Choice is already in development.
- Continued development and screenings of my existing expanded cinema and performative art projects.
- Making moving image more accessible to Estonian artists, helping the community find additional funding and cooperation options via AmiLab, an NGO dedicated to artists’ film and moving image.
- Continue my lifelong art projects – paintings, photography and installations.
Awards, Grants and Residencies
- 2022 IDFAcademy programme, Amsterdam
- 2022 Silver Eye Award nomination, Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival. Czechia.
- 2021 Bergman Center Residency, Fårö, Sweden.
- 2021 MOKS Residency, Mooste, Estonia.
- 2020 Oberhausen Seminar, Oberhausen, Germany.
- 2020 Rucka Residency, Cēsis, Latvia.
- 2020 Production grant for the expanded cinema project Time Quartet. Estonian Film Institute.
- 2020 Development grant for Third Choice. Estonian Film Institute.
- 2018 The Cultural Scholarship of the Republic of Estonia Ministry of Culture. 2018 Study Grant of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
- 2017 The Cultural Scholarship of the Republic of Estonia Ministry of Culture. 2016 Gjutars Residency, Vantaa Artists’ Association, Vantaa, Finland.
- 2016 Permanente Residency, Bogota, Colombia.
Selected Group Exhibitions, Screenings and Festivals
- 2021 Swedenborg Film Festival 2021, Official Selection, London, United Kingdom.
- 2021 Isolation Dialogues, Jaani Seek Gallery, Estonian Photomuseum.
- 2021 AFF Ars Filmfestival 2021, ARS Art Factory, Tallinn, Estonia.
- 2021 Teatepulk Kütiorust Kadriorgu. Vägi. Vaim. Võim, Võru museum, Estonia. 2020 Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, Non-Fiction Program, Tokyo, Japan.
- 2020 Finno-Ugric Film Festival, Sänna, Estonia.
- 2020 Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Open Screening Programme, Germany.
- 2019 Tallinn Black Night Film Festival, PÖFF Shorts Official Selection, Tallinn, Estonia.
- 2019 Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Artists’ Film Official Selection, York, United Kingdom.
- 2019 RCA Degree Show, Woo studio, London, United Kingdom.
- 2019 Togetherness. Assembly Point, London, United Kingdom.
- 2019 Whitechapel screening by Gareth Evans, Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom.
Organisational and Curatorial Work, Talks and Panels
- 2022 Curating and producing the expanded cinema project Time Quartet of four artists’ films: Kissing Your Tongue by Anna Hints and Tushar Prakash, In the Storm of Roses by Liina Siib, Cellula Filia by Piibe Kolka, After Betelgeuse by Len Murusalu. While being in a position of both a producer and an artist, the project serves as a research experiment for defining different funding and distributing strategies of an artists’ film.
- 2022 Member of the board of the Estonian Documentary Guild and a member of the advisory board of the Estonian Union of the Photography Artists (FOKU) – main organisations in Estonia that represent artists working with moving image.
- 2021 Co-curating with Julian Ross the artists’ film programme Diplopia and discussion panels for the Tallinn Photomonth Biennial at the Sõprus Cinema, Tallinn, Estonia.
- 2021 Initiating via AMILab the platform for the Baltic Artists’ Moving Image Symposium in collaboration with leading art and film organizations in the Baltics, partnering with Latvian Academy of Culture (LV), Latvian Center for Contemporary Art (LV), Kaunas International Film Festival (LT), Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (EE) and Estonian Union of Photography Artists (EE).
- 2021 Founding member of DAMI – Developing Artists’ Moving Image Network for international producers working with artists’ film, experimental film, film d’auteur and hybrid documentary in an exhibition context in addition to the cinema.
- 2020 Establishing ongoing research project on new strategies for creating artists’ moving image practices. Conducting and collecting audio and video interviews with renowned art professionals in experimental film, including Ben Rivers, Lawrence Lek, Mika Taanila among others.
- 2020/2021 Oberhausen Seminar Fellow, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Germany.
- 2020 Organizing Zoom roundtable with Tuuli Penttinen-Lampisuo on artists’ moving image production and distribution development and international collaboration with leading European film festivals and producers, including International Film Festival Rotterdam (NL), Nordisk Panorama (SE), Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (EE), LUX London (UK), Av-arkki (FI) among others.
- 2020 Artist talk on the film Shred of Dernier (Len Murusalu, 2009) at the Finno-Ugric Film Festival, Sänna, Estonia.
- 2020 Establishing AmiLab – a non-profit dedicated to artists’ film and moving image research and development.
- 2019-2020 Conceptualising and coordinating a series of artists’ film workshops at the KAI Art Center in collaboration with the Black Nights Film Festival by Benjamin Cook, Jacqui Davies, Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Gareth Evans.
- 2019 Defining Artists’ Moving Image Production and Distribution symposium, On & For Production, Kaunas International Film Festival, Lithuania. Moderated by Ilona Jurkonytė. Speakers: Lene Berg (Artist, Filmmaker, NO), Mindaugas Bundza (Chief of Staff, Lithuanian Council for Culture, LT), Dr. Lolita Jablonskienė (Lithuanian National Gallery of Art Chief Curator, LT), Len Murusalu (Artist, Filmmaker, EE), Audrius Kuprevičius (Film Production Department, Lithuanian Film Centre, LT), Dagnė Vildžiūnaitė (Producer, Just a Moment, LT), Asta Vaičiulytė (Curator, Contemporary Art Centre, LT).
- 2019 Navigating the Foggy Seas of the Artists’ Film Production. Artists’ Film Case Analysis by Len Murusalu, Kaunas International Film Festival, Lithuania.
- 2019 Artist talk moderated by Gareth Evans. Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK. Speakers: Joe Bloom, Maud Craigie, Ekaterini Koliakou, Len Murusalu, Kamile Ofoeme and Andres Saenz de Sicilia.
- 2019 Selected participant for the workshop Memory and Borders: Examining Nationalism and Identity through Material Culture. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.
Selected Media Coverage
Works in Collections and Archives
- Estonian National Film Archive.
- Võru Museum, Estonia.
- Permanente, Colombia.
- Fondazione Benetton, Italy.
- Vantaa Artists’ Association’s Sculpture garden, Finland.
- Private collections.
Selected Moving Image Works and Previews