View of “Flo Kasearu,” 2018. Photo: Stanislav Stepaško.

View of “Flo Kasearu,” 2018. Photo: Stanislav Stepaško.

Flo Kasearu

Flo Kasearu’s great ongoing project is where she lives. In 2013, she opened the Flo Kasearu House Museum in her home in a district of Tallinn comprising typical Estonian wooden houses. The property had belonged to her great-grandparents before her, but when the Soviets took over, it was nationalized, and the family lost the house that had been theirs since 1911. After the Soviet Union fell, Kasearu’s family waited twenty years for the final tenants to move out or to die in order to get the house back, by which time it was finally the artist’s inheritance. (The fascinating story of the house’s restitution—which, amazingly, concluded with Kasearu and her mother arriving at the vacant structure at the very moment it was being robbed by thieves who may or may not have been her neighbors—is the linchpin of the tour the artist offers to museum visitors.) In 2009, the young artist began to experiment with her new position as owner, showing her own work, operating project spaces, and initiating residencies, before ultimately settling on the concept of a museum dedicated to the “collection,” display, and promulgation of her oeuvre. The Flo Kasearu House Museum is a self-consciously playful and ironic gesture, to be sure—the artist is still only in her thirties but has modeled her project/institution on the “house museums” that typically preserve the live/work spaces of famous dead artists—yet it serves simultaneously as an ongoing site-specific work in progress, a lived exploration of museology, a critical riff on the politics of domesticity, and a cheeky nod to the prejudicial notion of “woman’s proper place.” On the second floor, visitors can stand behind a velvet rope to observe Kasearu’s living quarters, where she makes work while also raising her child. If you arrive at the right time, you might be introduced to the museum’s “technical director,” who is in fact her life partner.

Kasearu, however, still also mounts traditional gallery shows. Her most recent one included eight sculptural works but focused on the documentation of two projects that took place in the backyard garden of her home museum. Inspired by the artist-residency model, Kasearu invited a security guard she befriended on a research trip to Poland to do a “guard residency” for a few days. The resulting video work, (De)Fence, 2014, shows the gentleman in his museum security uniform standing watch over a hole in the fence separating Kasearu’s backyard from her neighbor’s. In this act of displacement, the institutional protector of artworks has become a private security guard—in a space that is very purposefully constructed to challenge the private/public divide. A new contribution to the theater of the absurd! For how, in this specific context, to distinguish a home invader or nosy neighbor from a bona fide museum visitor? What needs protecting here: the artwork or the home? With the guard’s ironic presence, the sacred space of museum and home alike are called into question. Yet ultimately, what greater task is there for art than to rob us of our illusions?

The second project was also residency-based. Here, Kasearu invited a professional gardener from South Korea to build an “authentic” Korean garden in her backyard. Beyond a couple of requests (Kasearu desired “mountains” in the form of grassy hills, since Estonian topo-graphy is flat, and a flower pond), she gave the landscape architect free rein to practice his craft. A video work, Korean Garden, 2016–18, documents the process, but it was also worthwhile to visit the garden—and the house—to experience the result, crowned with a plaque identifying it as the first Korean garden in Estonia. Yet another inspiring displacement that shows that “home” is whatever we make of it.