Edith Karlson x Museum of Viljandi

Edith Karlson — Lemmikud

The lights are on, the air is cooled. Cultural heritage lies in innumerable display cases organised logically, following a timeline and divided thematically. Artefacts are accompanied by labels; the rooms have explanatory texts on the walls. History unfolds itself throughout these spaces coherently in front of the visitors. Stepping into the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Viljandi makes one feel that the world is under control. Entropy can be
tamed! Even wolves!

Inside this objective world, actual people are working. Collection registrars with their abundant experience who have created their own pathways through more than 150 000 objects in the collection. Edith Karlson asked them to select one item from the collections and to record a justification for the importance of that object to them. Sometimes it is evident from the beginning what they are talking about, sometimes we must take time to ponder. The stories about the items are juicy, full of intriguing details and humorous.

However, the white forms created by Karlson, which have become the nests of these stories, resemble modernist abstract sculptures. It would be difficult to precisely categorise them or exhaustively describe them. They are definitely not a flask, a book or a wolf. Neither are they the dogs, dinosaurs, birds, snakes nor people that are familiar from Karlson’s earlier works. They are like sheets that have been crinkled and have solidified into different positions, resembling organic forms. They can be something that we see through a microscope or, on the contrary, something that is seen far away in the distance. The monumental approach is trying to force its way inside and takes over the permanent exhibition by demanding space and emitting stories. Favourites are unleashed! Vagueness and subjectivity have entered the organised world…

EDITH KARLSON has graduated from theInstallation and Sculpture Department of the Estonian Academy of Arts (BA, 2006; MA, 2008). She has been awarded the Academy’s young artist prize (2006), the audience award of Köler Prize (2015) and the annual award of the Visual and Applied Arts Endowment of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia (2019). Karlson received the artist laureate salary in 2018–2020 and in 2022–2024. In 2021, she was awarded the grand award of the Visual and Applied Arts Endowment of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

MUSEUM OF VILJANDI is located in a former apothecary that was constructed for the Schöler family in the end of the 18th century. Although the museum was founded in 1878, it moved to its present premises in 1942. Of Estonian county museums, Museum of Viljandi with more than 150 000 objects in the collections is one of the largest. The permanent exhibition of the museum is located on two floors and offers an overview of the nature of Viljandi county and its history from prehistory until the middle of the 20th century.

The display begins with a room that introduces the local nature. An overview of prehistory and the Middle Ages is offered by a rich collection of archaeological finds. The distant eras are made visible by the models of the castle of the Livonian Order in Viljandi and the prehistoric Lõhavere hillfort. Besides folk costumes and jewellery, folk culture is shown with the assistance of a large-scale model of a traditional farmhouse interior.

Thanks: people of the Museum of Viljandi, especially Jaak Pihlak and Reet Vaiksalu; Raul Saaremets, Roland Karlson, Johannes Säre, James Pearson and Peeter Talvistu!

Supported by: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, National Heritage Board of Estonia


Opening of the exhibition and artist talk based
on Reskript scenario “Top 10 of an Artist”

“Artist at school” – Edith Karlson visiting
gymnasium students in Viljandi, meetings in
Viljandi Culture Academy

Artist talk with Edith Karlson, led by art
critic and lecturer Gregor Taul

Finissage of the exhibition

Johan Laidoneri plats 10
Tue–Sat 10–17
Ticket 4 €; student 2 €; family 8 €

In English