My love towards Kütiorg (Hunters Valley in translation) dates back to late 70ies when I started to take painting classes with my teachers Valdur and Eetla Ohakas. Valdur and Eetla started this place in 1969, a crucial year of hippie movement and the tragic Spring of Prague. He rebuilt romantic and fancy old farmhouses deep in the woods and the place soon became a popular gathering place of Estonian artists, actors and writers. Now me and Leelo are living at this place permanently trying to keep its artistic traditions and fighting for the environment. Random sheets of our diary will give you some idea of the place.
june 23rd, 1996
We arrive at the midsummer midnight, it is dark, only the sky above the valley is glowing. The place has been abandoned for more than seven years. Valdur Ohakas, the artist who founded the Open Valley Studio, has left it after the skiing centre with its noise and mess started its business in the neighbourhood.
Birds have inhabited all the trees, bushes and buildings. Moss and grass has covered all the surfaces.
We come here just for three days and stay for many months to clean up everything, heat the rooms and start the things happen here again. We have no idea of how we can run the place, but we know for sure that we are moving here for good soon.
In the autumn we are back in Tallinn and understand that so many people have no idea if the working process is the thing that makes them happy or are they after money, career, power. What is good about money, power or career? Why do I do what I do, who needs it? Most often you dont ask these questions, when someone asks it creates embarrassment and protest.
Psychosoic era is the term of Vladimir Vernadski, designating the geological era when human intellect and technologies have started to affect our planet more than geological and biological processes. This is the last chance to change our attitudes, to understand that the resources are limited.
By the way, it is not money that makes the world go round, the sun does.
We have counted more than 20 species of frogs and toads in Kütiorg. This is a sign of a really clean and ecologically integral environment. No wonder that wealthy and intelligent people from abroad have started to move to Estonia in quest of a healthy and inspiring environment.
On this planet we, humans, have very few choices left really for our future. Either we understand that psychosoic era is a challenge for the planet that the humans have to solve or we just get drowned into our own junk and noise. Noosphere - the biosphere combined with human activity - is a very active and fastly developing sphere. It is possible, that there is not enough to have reservations and defence sites of the biosphere, but rather the testing sites of noospheres to find out ways for the sustainable civilization.
Someone has to test new things. We have moved to the ultimate test site. We start cutting the grass in Kütiorg to feed wild deer in the wintertime. Dung of the outhouse goes to the compost heap to feed vegetables next year.
Adam and Patrick, friends from London came for a visit and a similar thing happened with them like with us. They came for just a few days, but stayed for much longer postponing their flight. At the starry nights we bring out soft armchairs, sip ether and look at the stars falling.
We daydream about the things that could be done here, an artistic colony of some sort, people worshipping nature coming here and living in a bronze-age style and making their art being inspired of the nature here.
Time moves like a frog in Kütiorg. It can stand still for days and suddenly, hop - it is autumn already.
The skiing centre is trying to destroy everything that is of value - silence, balance and wildlife. Do we want to be drowned into our own shit and aspirations? Is there any other way to establish a new way of life? Can we live without lots of things that we feel essential or can we find new essential things? Is it possible to live in an environment without destroying it? Facing the psychosoic era we can talk about the sustainable versus wasting technologies as well as the sustainable versus waisting aesthetics.
If we ever can find means for building a new house here we’ll try to do it so that it won’t harm anything else but the conventions of civilization. There are means to get rid of your sewage economically , there are means to build houses without importing synthetic materials, there are means to reduce our entropy building skills without ceasing to be alive.
Evening. Cranes sing far away in the deep valley. Everything you need here in the woods has to be brought from much further than the cranesong sounds from. Or made by yourself.
Therefore all things, food, books and tools get their real value here and you get very careful about what to bring here and how to get rid of the unnecessary. Simple everyday acts becoume a ritual - bringing water from a spring, cooking over an open fire - it is so much more meaningful and luxurious than just turning a tap or litting jour gas stove.
Time, thoughts and words live different life here. You have much more patience to listen to each other and to the environment. You have more and deeper contacts. Beavers at the lake have started to trust us and show up more often
We have started running the place as a residential colony for artists, writers and musicians. We focus on the projects and pieces that address the certain site and leave something behind that is tailored specially for this environment. Lisa and David, composers from New York were the first ones to leave their mark behind.
They rehearsed here together with local Setu choir and new music band Perception Unit for a whole month and created lots of wonderful pieces for a music theatre show “Sanctuary”.
... a day has passed, an evening has passed, it is a dark and starless night. I was standing in the darkness by the cherry trees, alone and quietly. In the sauna Kalve (photographer) developed photo plates from the 1940ies. Lisa and David (Karrer and Simons, musicians from New York) improvised an islamic folk song. Peeter and Tambet (young computer nerd) were digitalizing todays pictures. In the barn Poslavski (gallerist), Mart and Akulin (musicians) had their talks.
Suddenly there came rings of torchlights. Kalves torchlight came uphill from the sauna and entered the studio. Peeter and Tambet came with theirs from the witches house and entered the studio. Mart, Akulin, Poslavski and Jakub came from the barn and went to the studio.
Everyone in the studio, children and grownups, played theremin and other instruments, changed the microphone and sang and ..... Congo took his seat in the biggest armchair. The Open Studio had opened again.
We have lots of work done here and a lot more to be done in the future. Cutting bushes, repairing buildings, making new paths and roads - this will end never here. Got the papers for our 4,4 hectars of land ready finally. Thanks to the local municipality we can build our site-specific art here on a much larger area really. The whole valley was allowed to be used for our projects. Many artists have submitted their ideas and projects this year but few things only seem to be suitable for this place. We have decided firmly that artists who wish to work here must not bend nature according to their needs but adjust themselves to the local nature. Foreign artists, by the way, are much more attentive to the environment than Estonians themselves. Sometimes you understand the value of things or environment only after you have lost them.
The spring water has a taste of ice crystals. There is a little hooftrail leading to the spring. It can be either deer or fauns, it is hard to tell if the creatures have two or four legs. The colder it gets the more mice and rats attack the house. Cat Hippolit has a feast. He kills all that he sees moving around, but eats only the youngest of mice with most tender flesh. Still we have to keep our food in a rat-proof cupboard.
Lots of artists have come this summer to worship this area. Anke Mellin (Germany), Kalle Pruuden (Estonia), Paul Rodgers (England), Peter Rjabov (Ersa). They have built their sanctuaries here. Tourists come to see the wildlife and try to ignore that this is a postmodern community. They want to see wildlife only. The only way for us to survive is to combine communication technologies with ecological technologies. Fortunately both are well bred in Estonia.
Soros foundation donated us a sound computer system. We got plugged in the internet and now it is like a handshake between the bronze-age and postindustrial technology. When living in the woods it is essential to have good communication systems. You can miss all the other conveniences, but communicating with the rest of the world is the first thing here if you have to keep things running. But you have to keep the modern communications technology in balance with fairies and mushrooms of the woods. Otherwise you may face trouble.
We are looking to build a new house that would allow few residents and a gallery for visitors. It will be a testing site and a demonstration how it is possible to live with minimum of waste, heat your house with bushes cut from the same wood, clean your sewage with treatment wetland systems and eat biodynamic food. This kind of dispersed settlement is the best alternative to the dirty, noisy and stressing towns.
Whole Estonia could be a gateway to sustainable civilization, a noosphere test site.
Clay is this years most important issue. The kiln is ready at last, it is finished with granite stones and red clay. Kaido and Maanus (ceramic artists) toiled hard many weeks to make the whole thing happen. Now we just dig some clay out of our own land, dry it in the sunshine, grind it, sift it, soak it, model it and after it is dry we can burn it in our own kiln. It takes about 8 hours to get 1000° but that makes real fine pottery at last.
Secondly we made windowframes out of clay, huge panes of glass framed into robust hand molded clay. I am very fond of living among things that bear handprints of my friends or my own.
Some people ask us why have we changed our rich and famous city life against this wild misery deep in the woods. I don’t see the point. For me life in Kütiorg is the ultimate luxury, the best thing that this planet can offer us and fortunately there are many artists and friends with whom to share it. We are going on with our site-specific and nature art projects and anyone who is interested can email us firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Witches hut - an old granary taken apart into logs and brought here from more than 20 km. Now it rests on a steep slope, hosting a winter kitchen, an office and bedrooms.
Toilet - on one of the inner logs of the toilet there is an inscription 1870. This is the only evidence we have of the age of this farmstead. It is not very ancient, but the documents are gone and memories vanished. Dating with the help of the trees tells that the place has to be younger than 200 years.
Summer kitchen - is opened from the two sides into the forest, surrounded only by a chicken wire on which are supported the zoo tropical bird labels. Toads, elves and goblins visit this place every night.
Cauldron + straw - the smoke of the open fireplace and the old pots give a very good and different taste to the food. All the cooking is done here at the summertime. After the summer season we move in the winter straw for the wild deer.
Table w Leelo & Peeter - usually this table is much more crowded. In summertime we have many guests, mostly artists working here and friends with whom we develop our artistic and ecological ideas.
Toilet inside - you have to throw sawdust every time in order to keep the mouldering processes aerobic. Anaerobic processes take longer time and have a foul smell. After cooking one year on the compost heap the mixture of dung and sawdust is a good food for the plants.
Lake - The lake is inhabited by beavers, otters, lots of different fish and plenty of dragonflyes. This is one of the magical places of this valley, resting deep under the old fir-trees.
Peter in White room - This is the studio that we are using now for art work, rehearsals, small conferences or meetings. It was built by Valdur Ohakas as his summer studio and cannot be heated in winter time.
Sauna & Stream - sauna is a magical place in Estonian lore - childbirth, dying and healing of diseases were performed here. At nighttime it was visited by both good and evil spirits. People tried to avoid sauna at dark times of the day.
The Birdcage - this “birdcage for humans” is a piece of Paul Rodgers, a british artist who worked in Kütiorg this summer. The birdcage is big, 1x1x2 m, resting at 4 meters high on the tree.With this piece he is addressing both wildlife of the woods and the tourists who come admiring and disturbing it.
Falling down building - This was previously a stable, where donkey of Valdur Ohakas lived. It is collapsing because of age, but we have decided not to demolish it before its natural death.
Studio from outside - this is the summer studio, built by Valdur Ohakas, a monument for his love to the surrounding woods.
Inside of the Witches cottage - new windowframes made of clay and handmade furniture made of aged boards and logs. Computer is our main tool for contacting with the surrounding world, first we wondered if it didn’t conflict with the surrounding wilderness. Rather it is like a handshake of the bronze-age and the postindustrial era.