Linus Raudsepp is a complicated fellow. In an interview with AlterPraxis he described the variety of<
mediums he works in: "I do performance shows on stage, installation art at galleries, clubs & huge parties, avantgarde horror fetish films on location, macabre ballet dance shows & noisy dirty romantic music. Writing poetry & painting with dark oils on big canvases are also devoted scars of my creative wounds." Aside from this I found some photographs by Linus on the web as well as an Italian site which described him as a 'fetish ballet performer.' Suffice to say, Linus comes recommended by the small yet highly particularistic coverage he has received.
Of his many works, I am in possession of three books of poetry and two works of art. The artworks are reminiscent of the found-object genre, for instance, the first piece consists of six pages torn from a Bible, smeared with black paint and contained in plastic sleeves, giving the impression of being archival. It would be obvious to say that this work is of a religious nature. Exactly what is being said about Christianity or religion in general, however, is not so clear. Raudsepp's Bible pages, which are suspiciously absent of a title or any other indication as to their meaning, remind me of a cross between Paul McCarthy's performance where he wiped his ass with stuffed animals and Andres Serrano's Piss Christ. The difference between those pieces and Raudsepp's is that with the former the object of derision, whether it be childhood innocence or Judeo-Christianity, is thoroughly befouled with actual bodily fluids. Suffice to say, it has been done before. To go for the same effect by using a representation instead of the real thing is doomed to fail. But then maybe I am misinterpreting this piece, perhaps the frenzied smears of black paint are just that. Instead of representing feces, the viewer is supposed to assume some maniac, some zealot has done this as part of some sacred rite of the past and, as the plastic sleeves indicate, we are privy to a work of history. But this interpretation is mostly the work of my own imagination and not so much the power of Raudsepp's art. I think I should mention that I am, by no means, a fan of what can be termed obvious art. What I mean by this is art where the meaning of the piece is blatantly apparent upon the first few seconds of viewing. This is something that is taught to designers and illustrators, those utilizing aesthetics for commercial means, and should be something avoided by fine artists. Raudsepp's Bible Pages is somewhere between obvious art and being just confusing. At first glance, it seems he is journeying into well worn territory, art that shits on mainstream religion. The problem with this is that not only has it been done many times before but the supposed iconoclasm is glaringly absent. After all, those who frequent the arts are mostly upper class liberals, that is secularists. Fundamentalist Christians are not traveling to contemporary art galleries let alone performances, especially by someone who has been billed as a fetish ballet performer. As such, it seems like a cheap shot at an easy target that will nary fail to win support from patrons of the arts. But as I mentioned before, this may not be Raudsepp's intent at all. After all, his pieces, with the exception of the books of poetry, are suspiciously absent of titles. The Bible Pages were also accompanied by a single feather which adds to the perplexing nature of the work. This is because the feather gives the works an air of whimsy which takes away from the dark and critical aspect they seemed to embody before.
Moving on from the mystification of Bible Pages, the next work is welcomingly humorous. Also part of the found object school, it features a postcard, seemingly purchased at the Kunst Historisches Museum in Vienna, of Gerard David's Geburt Christi. Inside there are three playing cards, each a six, and the word 'murder.' written in sharpie. Here Raudsepp is slyly commenting on the banality of evil. However it is not in the way that Hannah Arendt, who coined the phrase, meant. Instead it speaks of the falsehood of the Manichean dualism, or at least in an era of unchecked relativism. David's baby Jesus juxtaposed with the number of the Beast and a word descriptive of one of the deadly sins is quite predictable, and this is entirely the point. What else could we expect from contemporary art? A statement of faith or hope would certainly be greeted with a 'What the hell?'. Most would certainly regulate a work of art which had the audacity to preach hope or religious conviction as outsider or folk art("Oh, those colorful Appalachian sure do love that Jesus"). Us moderns don't care about good and evil, this is an outmoded system and we rightly realize that. Therefore we can't have one with out the other, lest we be accused of actually believing in that shit. This attitude, this reflex of modernity, is exactly what Raudsepp is commenting on. He also effectively balances the gap between ideas of the past with present circumstances by framing his representation of the Manichean dualism with thoroughly contemporary tools. There is also a certain dryness in this pieces which is refreshingly comical. David's beautiful 1495 work is presented in the commodified form of a postcard, something fit for a tourist, while the playing cards forming a'666' are smacking in how commonplace they are. The only part where the artist's hand is directly used, the tongue-in-cheek scariness of the word 'murder', is done with the laziness and unartfulness of a sharpie. This piece is so delectably low that it could be a prop on Murder She Wrote, serving as a calling card for some ludicrous serial killer. Here Raudsepp is right on the mark for addressing a concept from the past while utilizing the aesthetics of the contemporary to do so.
Before I continue reviewing the last of Raudsepp's works, his three books of poetry, I think I should make something clear. While I appreciate the time, $$$ and effort it takes to produce such works, I was generally unimpressed. His prose, and this exactly what it is as he has no formal considerations, consists of very short pieces which utilize religious and mystical imagery mixed with an angsty pseudo-rebellion. Basically it just reminds me of bad teenage poetry written by your local High School age Goth kid. Postcards of religious paintings are inserted between a few of the pages, but Raudsepp's prose is so lackluster that the beauty of these paintings do little to help it along. Again I am confused as to their purpose or relevance to the works in question. One of the reasons I'm being so harsh on Raudsepp for his books is because it appears he didn't even try. Some of his poems are only a line or two long and often feature imagery that makes little sense except maybe to impress a thirteen year old. For example, titles include 'Christ Vampire', 'bunkermystique', and 'hogtied'. 'Sylphide' reads: "The phantasm bastard/apocalyptor/& his collection/of tired/butterflies." Can somebody remind Raudsepp, as well as the millions of brooding teens across the world, that a sentence divided into stanzas doesn't make a poem! I hope you see what I mean because now I feel like a bitchy English teacher.
My conclusion: Raudsepp is a talented guy who has his fingers in many different mediums of artistic expression. The only problem with such diversity is that his work is either hit or miss.