Pyre provides. And we twirl some hula hoop.

Play it out and then read the following.

It’s the same pyre that tries to burn down the man, the MAN representing the machine behind the neoliberal market system, the MAN as the elite, the MAN as the those with evil power, the MAN as the First World ego, the MAN as the sexist asshole, the MAN. At the Burning Man, the pyre provides. It’s the pyre connecting all those wonderful people and that makes things happening. You through a wish towards the universe, and you get what you deserve.

Me, for example, got myself a hula hoop. Never in my life had I twirled a hula hoop like this before. This blond sweet girl taught me a quick lesson and I was in the hula-hoop-mode for the rest of the eternal afternoon at the Burning Man Decompression party in San Francisco – one of the epic parties of the year, as they say. Whenever we stopped to catch up with another friend, I rolled my golden hula wheel around my waist, keeping it tuned with the beat of the band of seven drums.

As I entered the festival, impressed by all the colorful crowd who had certainly taken some time to dress up, acting out a fantasy, a joke or their deepest desire, I immediately remembered a song by Mr Bungle from his album California – Vanity Fair. And it is hella vanity fair here, as we all live it out, embody and FEEL that we’re somewhat awesome today.

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Pics by Jocelyne Hershey

Of course there could be many ways to be critical of the whole commitment around the Burning Man – “it’s just a party scene, it’s all about vanity, drugs and alcohol”, right, that’s what some say. People decide to be part of that scene for various reasons, yet all of these reasons are just reflections of what they had heard or thought about it previously. But once you’re in it – the essence of it all starts suddenly emerging. You might not even get it immediately, but there will be moments when you do, and it will change your life as all the intensive, beautiful, fun, heartily experiences might do.

Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin worked on the concept of carnival describing it as the sphere where our fears and desires, social tension and inner imagination come together and manifest through the carnevalesque. Carnivals have been held around the world for centuries in very different cultures, and no-one doubts their ‘reason’.  Burning Man – the annual artistic event and temporary community held  in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada  is a rather contemporary manifestation of such drive, originating from the hippie movement and artistic circles. No spectators, only participants.

Then the hipsters took over, then the yuppies took over. Well, better that than nothing. Let the yuppie burn his Man.  You already might be a member. And we twirl some hula hoop some more.

As a bright comet, the rock’n’roll legend takes off straight to the heavenly cosmos

We continue with our hippie journey through time back to the 1970s Estonia – the so-called Soviet West, where young people were thrilled by the radical youth movements that had been taking place earlier in the West, and now against the expected Soviet codes of behavior and morals they were seeking their own bitter trajectories towards something that would allow them to feel free within this rigid Soviet system. I’ll introduce you one of the rock’n’roll legends in Estonia – poet Aleksander Müller. 

As you read the post, here’s the soundtrack to put on – by Suuk – Statistiline (words by Jonnhy B, vocals Aleksander Müller)

The University town Tartu has always been the intellectual hub in Estonia, so some progressive thought developed here around the poetry evenings at University Café with Ave Alavainu or Johnny B on spot, or the Oriental Cabinet in University of Tartu where Buddhist studies were introduced by Linnart Mäll, or the avant-garde artist group Visarid, where painter Enn Tegova was one of the leading figures.

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Enn Tegova, painter in Tartu

Some guys like for example the poet Aleksander Müller took off wild with the principle of “live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse”. He says these vibes were definitely in the air back at the time, as the surrounding politics were so depressive and left no space for hope.  His large apartment at Supilinn in Tartu became a legendary place of coming-together to listen bootlegged records, read poetry and talk all the shit that had to be spoken, but couldn’t have done in public. His home formed an important social center for free-thinking and free will in the context of Soviet power along its propaganda machine and overall stagnation. The door was always open, there were always people around. There he had a piano that didn’t have any white keys. Meaning, all the keys where covered with cigarette butts black spots! And according to a rumor, Müller started drinking constantly since he was 15, he was a god damn rock’n’roll spirit. He later became a well-known blues musician, but in 1970s he was  involved with psychedelic rock music. 

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Aleksander Müller in front of his legendary old house in Tartu, summer 2012. By the time, he was already pretty week and couldn’t move himself, so he’s being carried by another poet Päärn Hint.

Music making certainly became one of the few sources of joy at the time, or the means to express the hate, the anger against the established system. But this social criticism, of course, had to be always served hidden, hidden behind the lines of poetry, in metaphors, as the punishments could become very real.

At some point in 1970s, Müller Sass joined a psychedelic rock band Suuk from Tartu as a singer. Suuk has often been compared to The Doors, as it sounds tripping, rebellious, destructive and liberating at the same time. But different from Jim Morrison who actually put in practice his principle of “live fast, die young” belonging to the “club 27″, Sass lived much longer.  He passed away just recently on the 4th of July 2013. We all knew his soul was going straight to the wide heavenly cosmos and this comet deserved some celebration.

We were actually the very last ones who interviewed him last summer for the Soviet hippies exhibition and documentary. And oh, this rock’n’roll legend seemed so very happy to chill around on a wheelchair at the massive exhibition opening, to enjoy his 4cl of cognac, and to experience that finally his bitter pain and sorrow and the inner burning sunshine has made it to the local cultural history, right there at Estonian National Museum!

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At the opening of the exhibition “Soviet hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of 1970s Estonia”. Photo by Merilyn Püss

Listen to the full album of Suuk recorded in 1976 in Tartu here with comments in Estonian from Aleksander Müller. The band Suuk, as the host of the broadcast Jaan Tootsen says, is a band which by all parameters of the time could not have possibly existed in Soviet Union. And no-one would even believe that the band existed, if we didn’t have this remarkable recording from 1976 that only happened only coincidentally when Estonian Radio stereo-bus came down to Tartu to take this recording.

Rest in peace and in rock’n’roll, Aleksander Müller (1947-2013).    IMG_8054

Drugs from Petersburg, politics from Moscow

All the signs were referring that there was a hippie culture in Soviet Union, but not everybody believed it. Not yet.

Introducing two old hippie souls from Tallinn – Aleksandr Dormidontov and Jaakko Hallas. 

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Aleksandr Dormidontov, my favourite Sass, trouble with hair since 1968

The directress of Estonian National Museum, for example, encouraged us to meet some prolific cultural researchers, to ask guidance and material. As soon as we had another shooting day planned – as with extremely limited budget, we often had to make 15h working days – we booked the morning for an interview Linnar Priimägi. He’s a recognized art and cultural researcher, but for our mild distress he rather announced that hippie culture was apparent in America only, certainly not here, and then he even added, sounding almost like an apostel, that “it will never return.”

I couldn’t take these words.

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Our director of photography Andreas Press, Kiwa, Linnar Priimägi and me

Later on I understood that his rather different understanding from ours was mostly about his rigid definition of what ‘hippie culture‘ is – i.e. living in communes, raising children collectively, dropping lots of acid – all of which indeed was not really apparent in Soviet Union. But which doesn’t necessarily mean that the ‘hippie culture’ was totally absent here. More so, hippie culture emerged most vividly underground and it was not open to public exposure, as this could have been followed by various sanctions by the Soviet authorities (e.g. dropping out from universities, treatment in mental hospital). And even more so, because Soviet hippie culture is something that has not so far been researched and written much about!

But it was Linnar Priimägi, who together with Ants Juske wrote a manifesto of their generation in 1978. The manifesto known as “Tartu autumn” stated their generation as the generation of indolence – taking the long story short, the outside reality is so ridiculous and painful, that you just don’t care nor feel anything about it anymore. And certainly this attitude was part of the local hippie realm.

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Meeting Aleksandr Dormidontov, the tailor-Sass

But thank god (e.g. Shiva), already in the afternoon we met some of the living proofs of the Soviet hippie culture – Aleksandr Dormidontov and Jaakko Hallas.

Aleksandr Dormidontov, locally known as tailor-Sass was one of the central character of the hippies in Tallinn, who apparently sewed wide trousers for most of the hippies in Soviet Union.  His commune house at Nõmme  with its massive book archive of the ninth generation of Estonian Russians – as this is what he is –  and record collection dangled intellectuals and vagabonds alike. Sometimes, especially around the 1st of May – which became a legendary meeting point of Soviet hippies in Tallinn, to celebrate the launch of the hitch-hiking season – his house was full of more than 100 people, all longhaired, all into rock’n’roll music from all around the whole Sovietico. Sass explains the relations of Tallinn between bigger Russian cities: “Drugs we got from Petersburg, politics came from Moscow.” I also find his speculation about the collapse of the Soviet Union remarkable: “Lenin didn’t invent rock’n’ roll. That was his trouble.”

Sass’ house at Narva street in Tallinn, opposite to the Tallinn University, is usually open for guests. Gosh, this man is so awesome. Especially I like his beard.

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Sass and Jaakko

Jaakko Hallas used to hang out with hippies around 1968-1971 – the time when he experienced emotional high-voltage and enormous inner freedom. His close relationship with hippie world was mainly through his interest in esoterica and Eastern religions. After graduating from university he started learning about everything that was not taught at school or even prohibited. He proudly announces that “Hedonism of the mind is most important.”

As we all sit around the round table, the secret history of the Soviet counter-culture started to leak with some intriguing memories. Sass tells us how once he had a joint in his hand, but had no fire. He then went to ask a lighter from a militia man. The militia just wrinkled his eyebrows murmuring that “This tobacco smells weird…”

Weed was apparently not known as a drug for the authorities back at the time here. So hippies indeed used to smoke quite freely in the cafeterias or on the streets. Only if they had something to smoke – marijuana was certainly not widely available in the 1970s, but it was around, especially when some hippie friends from Petersburg visited Tallinn or someone hitch-hiked as far as Ukraine, Caucasus or Central Asia and brought back a decent handful of weed.

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Our director of sound Björn Norralt, Aleksandr Dormidontov, Kiwa, me, and Jaakko Hallas

By Terje

This man is really flying! – how to baptise a documentary film project

Hiiumaa is a place of magic in Estonia – an island that happened to provide the setting for our first shooting session into the Soviet hippie trail.

Sountrack for the post:

By the time the nights went light in Estonia – in the end of June we have indeed an awesome period of white nights here when the sky gets especially hallucinogenic – our team of hippie trail through Soviet times had grown bigger by young promising producer Liis Lepik who took the courage to lead the game behind the matter of subject where me and Kiwa had already lost our heads.

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Poet based in Hiiumaa – Ave Alavainu

We cruised out of Tallinn on a huge jeep ruled by one of our most adventurous friend, known as Fabrique. It was promising a storm, the wind was huge and sky threateningly dark, but we only had a little tent, filming equipment and a crazy idea in mind to catch the ferry to an island Hiiumaa. Namely, one Estonian poet Ave Alavainu is living there and what could be better that to start our journey with a female voice. Ave used to center the avant-garde social life in late sixties of the university town Tartu, reading her lines in the university café along with other progressive thinkers, such as catalyst-provocator Johnny B Isotamm. Btw Johnny B gained a personal myth of being the leading hippie of Estonia, as one foreigner in café in Tallinn once gave him a badge “Make love not war”. Wearing it publicly was already a statement enough for Soviet era.

Ave used to be the vagabond lady, hanging out with various crowds, constantly in love. Later on in Tallinn she used to live in a apartment  where she never locked the doors – because the doors are supposed to be open, in order to let the energies flow.

There we were – in the ferry, hopelessly steering into the dark sky. We had agreed an appointment with Ave for the next day, but the night was still young. But just as we saw the first sparks of the setting sun making its way through the thick gray of clouds we suddenly remembered – one legendary drummer from 1970s Paap Kõlar, the founder member of progressive-experimental awesomeness band Psycho, hasn’t stopped advancing his human capabilities attached to the social fabrications. If we’re lucky enough, we might find Paap right here on this island, surfing on the waves, or perhaps flying.

The closer we got the island, the sunnier it went and by the evening we were indeed witnessing how this man gets his ‘high’ not so much from playing drums as no-one had ever heard played in Soviet Union before, but now he indeed is flying (sic).

And so were we. At least in our minds when following with cameras this unknown flying object, listening to the rocking tunes of Psycho.

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Legendary drummer and adventurer Paap Kõlar getting ready for the high

Paap hosted us nicely, inviting us for a sauna on the beach and offering us a simple inca tent for a couple of hours of resting, before we had to head out for an interview-appointment with Ave in Kärdla. Later on the surf boys caught a black poisonous snake which we cooked and shared. Apart from that occasion, or maybe just on the contrary, these days in Hiiumaa were the new-age-pagan-psychedelic baptism our hippie trail in time.

Stay tuned!

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Completely empty space with souls

I’m still not yet over with the very first session of “fieldworks”, meaning, when me and Kiwa met some of the central spirits of the Tallinn’s hippie underground of the 1970s for the very first time. These were warm starlight nights of august, handicam in the pocket.  As a result of these evenings  with Vladimir Wiedemann and Aare Loit, we kind of started to sense where the hippie dharma would be carrying us. Perhaps we too have already been there, in our own times, with our own means. The road, the time, the political and social situation could be radically different between my generation and those with whom I  choose to create cross-generational friendships, or rather, they just happen, but the direction, the law or dharma seems to be quite the same.

Here’s a short video to get a glimpse of the feel, semi-Estonian-semi-English, pardon. Introducing: Vladimir Wiedemann and Babai

What is the center of the world?

You are the center of the world.

Who is the creater of all this?

You are, Allah.

Traces of the Center of Psychotronics of the Soviet Union

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Vladimir Wiedemann and Aare Loit (Babai)

Vladimir Wiedemann was  largely influenced by Mihkel Ram Tamm who was a great philosopher and big thinker, and whose work eventually took a shape of zero-philosophy. Ram knew many religions, he synthesized a variety of theories describing the science (or rather something at the borderline between science and religion) of nothing. He did this often by using complex schemes and hypotheses. Out of his notes weighing kilograms, among other things, have been published 900-pages masterpiece Theory-Null-Hypothesis.

As I said in an earlier post,  Soviet-time hippies and dissidents gathered frequently at his place, where they made group meditations,  practiced telepathy, digged into guru’s library or helped him with everyday work. Wiedemann in his book referred to  this place at Langermaa as the Center of Psychotronics of the Soviet Union.
One old hippie Aare Loit, commonly now known as Babai, says that Ram eventually become even too popular. Visiting the guru became a trendy thing to do for alternative-minded youth of the whole Soviet Union – and there were so many!  – although they often knew nothing about his zero-philosophy.

There, between the green fields on around 100 kilometer of Tallinn-Pärnu highway we stopped the car and ask advice from a man on a bicycle.   Although Ram moved away from here for already more than 30 years ago, he knew exactly what we were talking about.

“Yeah there was one wise man here, still living,” he said, and instantly disappeared as if he was a ghost himself.

New owners of the house who now have lived here for the past 15 years, for our big surprise, did not know anything about the meaningfulness of this house among Soviet counter-culture. We explained a bit the context, but the man spread his hands.
“We have heard some stories about a witch, but …”
“And how about the current energies of the house? Have you felt anything special?” I was curious.
“I haven’t really thought about it!”

We asked the householder kindly to enter the room. Aare’s and Vladimir’s faces shone with some sparks of nostalgia, though, of course, everything had been completely changed. Along with artists Sandra Jõgeva, Minna Hint, Kiwa, magician Hannes Vanaküla and historian Margus Kiis we sat down in circle on the bright carpet, the way as  they probably did while making group meditations and  discussions. Ram sat in a corner near the stove, now this place was taken by the Aare, as he has the most gray in his hair. We felt the vibrations of the moment, Aare said Buddhist mantra OM MANI PADME HUM.

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Aare Loit, me, Kiwa (holding the book of Mihkel Ram Tamm) and Vladimir Wiedemann in front of the house where Soviet hippies used to gather in 1970s

When  later in the garden we discussed the mystic theories of Ram and asked about the practices held here from Vladimir and Aare, Ram let us know about his presence quite obviously. Suddenly all the cats started singing loud together, souls were freed on the move.

The Gray of Utopia – short visual essay

Linnahall or the City Hall in coastal Tallinn was built in 1980 for the occasion of the 22nd Moscow Olympic Games.  This short visual essay “The Gray of Utopia” explores how today it finds its new meanings in its ruins. 

Then named as V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport would fint into its amphitheater hall more than 4200 people.

The magnificent limestone complex appeared to be part of the Soviet Union’s project of modernism, which would allow people to be proud of their country and, of course, to send positive signals in vain to the Western countries. On the other hand, City hall opened the city towards the sea, inviting the glances to be turned on the horizon of the vast waters, which could possibly represent the coveted freedom.

After Estonian independency City Hall hosted annual school fairs in each September, Prodigy concert, and many musicals, which we sometimes in the stiff cold could be visited. This was the price to be paid for the pompous design – severe heating rates. In addition to increased pressure to be loss-making the interest for the building torn down in the background of the broader anti-Soviet winds. Although today the building has been included in the list of the prevailing architectural heritage, its fate is still questionable.
Limestone’s sensitivity to moisture and ambitious architectural plan has led a fairly young building into desperate conditions, while the plan of renovation doesn’t seem to be reasonable as well. The proud City Hall has turned into a gray old by the seaside, the gray of utopia, full of ghosts.

Camera & editing by Terje Toomistu. Sound by Jaan Tätte Jr.

Shot in October- December 2012, Tallinn, Estonia.

Thanks and admiration to Rein Maran.