Sven-Erik Stamberg interviews Vilen Künnapu
1. What are the tasks and responsibilities of an artist? What is their place in society/the social order?
The artist’s job is to be a mediator of divine light to the world – in a way, the artist is a priest. Like everyone else they are responsible for their actions. When they get involved with dark energy instead of divine energy then they harm themselves and the world. Currently, the artist is an object of admiration in society, but in the future this role will decrease. In the future, all people will be artists and creators. For artists today the most difficult thing is to overcome ego, competitiveness, slander, envy and pride. If they could get these under control, they would all be powerful, radiant people, loved and respected by society.
2. When solving architectural problems is there a common factor in the different projects? Do you have any principles that you have used over the years?
I gave my exhibition at the architecture museum the title “Kunst, arhitektuur, revolutsioon” (“Art, Architecture, Revolution”). These three words have always been important in my work. When I am working on an architectural design I often feel like a painter or a sculptor, and when painting or planning an installation, like an architect. Strong intervention into existing structures, and if necessary changing them, has also been one of my tendencies. In my family there have been revolutionaries and looking at them I have understood that this is their calling and it is not at all important what kind of revolution is going on. They seem to speed up events that need to take place anyway. Recently, I have come to the understanding that true revolution must take place inside the person. When my mind clears I am in harmony with everything, then I become a useful being for the world. And if I am internally pure, my art and architecture become much more powerful. This has actually happened, life itself has shaken me and changed me. Once I received a letter from a Chinese journalist asking for permission to publish photographs of my Elephant House and they said that this building has passion. And they added that this is precisely what China has a great shortage of. This was a great compliment, and in answer to your question, I would say that the common factor is passion. When I begin work on a new building or painting, I often feel an inner need to make something special. This feeling is power, energy and passion.
3. Can you name the important people or exemplars that have influenced your development? From which sources into which soil do the rhizomes of your beliefs extend?
Firstly my family – my grandmother Johanna, my mother Flora, father Peeter and older brother Edgar. They are all very interesting and important people for me. My grandmother and mother, in one respect, remind me of village witches and in another, metaphysical aristocrats. By the way, grandmother’s father was a Baltic baron. In my father’s family there were farmers, teachers, revolutionaries and a few alcoholics. My father had the ability that wherever he went things started to happen there. He was like an antenna, a catalyst for events, and had great artistic talent and a great sense of humour. My older brother is truly a mystery. He explained to me, in passing, what electricity is, what time is, what high mathematics is. He has always been ahead of his time and consequently many people do not understand him. When my father taught me how to draw, in about 1962(3), my brother brought me a catalogue from Moscow of an exhibition of US architecture. In other words they both guided me towards architecture.
There have been many important people in my life, primarily my wife Liivi and son August. Inside, they are both very pure, radiant people. Also the artist Raivo Korstnik, a mystic and a brilliant drawing teacher; Edgar Kuusik, a classic architect and very knowledgeable; Toomas Rein (junior), a brilliant architect at EKE Projekt; Veljo Kaasik, the absolute opposite to Rein and a very interesting architect; the painters Ando Keskküla and Andres Tolts, and later Lembit Sarapuu.
My fellow students at the Estonian State Art Institute (ERKI) were also influential in my development. These include Kristin and Himm Looveer, Ülevi Eljand, Leo Lapin and others. My partner Ain Padrik, architect, yogi and mystic, has been very important. People abroad who have been influential include Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and others like the husband and wife team, the Smithsons, and Adolf Loos, Luis Barragan, Ricardo Legoretta, Le Corbusier and the Russian constructivists. Important artists are Giorgio de Chirico, the Pop artists, and later Francesco Clemente, Georg Bazelitz and others. Picasso has always interested me. I have had personal contact with Finnish architects, such as Reima Pietilä, Kristian Gullichsen, Erkki Kairamo; Norwegians, like Sverre Fehni, Snøhetta architects; the Swede, Ralph Erskine and Dutchman, Aldo van Eyck. Later I had contact with greats like Vittorio Gregotti, Peter Cook, Ricardo Legoretta and Russian paper architects, like Aleksandr Brodski, Yuri Avvakumov and Mikhail Belov. An important international artist for me was the Finnish modern art ideologue, Carolus Enckell, who I had regular contact with in the 1980s and 90s.
In the spiritual world my teachers have been Jesus Christ, Saint Francis, Jean of Arc, native American Indians, Castaneda, Ursula Liblikas and many other wise Estonian women (and men). I have also been influenced by Buddhists and people involved in yoga.
My wellspring has been my Estonian peasant blood, local forests, rivers, lakes and the sea. My travels in the desert, jungle, ancient energy centres and large cities have tempered and taught me. Sometimes I feel that I belong to a greater and higher community, I often feel a certain soaring sensation and a connection to the unseen.
4. Are there any places, locations or cities on our planet, which you particularly like and where you would like to return to or even live?
The planet has its own places of power, energy centres, chakras. In Estonia I have felt the special energy of Toompea, the magic of Merivälja Road, the metaphysics of Kaali Crater and Saaremaa. There are special places here on the north coast, in south-eastern Estonia and south Estonia. Many manors in Estonia are located on energy centres. I have experienced supernatural feelings and visions, not only on Toompea, but also at Varanasi in India, near the Ayutthaya stupas in Thailand and also the giant stupas of Kathmandu in Nepal. Santorini, with its architecture of another world, has moved and awakened me, as has Malta with its stone geometry and ancient temples. The cities I have experienced include Rome, Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I like to visit these places from time to time, but I would prefer to live at home.
5. At your last exhibition in Tallinn at Vabaduse Gallery you placed your architectural paintings randomly, irrespective of location (Santorini, Tallinn, New York, Malta, Morocco). In the world what position does Estonia/Tallinn hold for you, as an architect, artist or simply an inhabitant of Estonia?
Estonia is unique because it is located at the meeting point between East and West, North and South, politically, culturally and in an everyday sense. In Estonia there is an attitude that is close to nature, but we are also a part of Western civilisation. As Valdur Mikita says, we are shamans with smart phones. People have deep potential, but many have not been awakened. On a spiritual level Tallinn and Estonia have very great significance. There are great energy portals and an abundance of knowledge here. Actually, all places on the planet are special and there is no point comparing them.
6. How do you make sense of what it means to be a human being on Earth? Can we find a common denominator for human life, what is the point, as we tread our path?
People are different, some have developed from monkeys, some have come here from the stars, some have a young spirit, others an old. Their one common denominator is that they are all connected to the Creator. Our spirit has been made incarnate, so we can learn and develop. Being in our bodies, overcoming the hurdles we encounter here, the spirit changes and develops intensively. It is said that on the Other Side there is a long queue of those waiting to be made incarnate.
7. What makes the human spirit go, and where can it find the thing that will carry it?
Man’s dualism is what makes the human spirit go – the action between opposite energies creates the abovementioned passion. I think passion is what carries us. Passion for another person, passion for art, music and architecture, passion for God.
8. What measures or opportunities are there for an artist/creator to get inspiration? Are there some techniques which you recommend for an artist, or whoever, to practice?
The foundation of inspiration is curiosity and an interest in our secretive world. If we become free from prejudice and all the nonsense, which society has drummed into our heads, we become parts of this powerful, divine game, which has no beginning or end. My suggestion is not to cling to one field, but to pendulate between different areas, whether it be drawing, painting, writing, making music or designing. It is always worth swimming against the current a bit – only dead fish swim downstream. I always have a desire to tease, annoy, rouse or teach someone a bit. While the child, filled with curiosity, still lives within us, then so too does inspiration. The people around you are also important – friends, colleagues, muses, students and teachers. Creativity is often a collective activity. If, for example, I sketch or paint a model together with a small group of people, then the atmosphere we create together is important. It would be worth learning something from our footballer Kostja Vassiljev – he is a true artist-goal scorer. He designs a path for the ball into the top right hand corner, and as Castaneda says, creates an endeavour, and then kicks. As a rule the ball goes exactly where it needs to, and the goalkeeper, the defenders, no one can do anything – there has to be a gaol and there is.
9. How do you respond to a world where negativity reigns in the form of wars and destruction? Is there some remedy to stop this or what can an individual do, if they come face to face with it?
In 2012, our solar system reached a point where one era ended and another began. The night, which had lasted 13,000 years, came to an end and the day began. The outbreak of negativity will end, sooner or later. If we radiate goodness to the world, the world will win and we will win. Constant contact with the Creator gives us this potential. We now live in an age where the old rules no longer apply. The more people say to themselves that all is well, the better the world will be.
10. What significance would you place on human relationships (as an exchange of energy) in our interactions with others – with colleagues, family, friends or whoever?
Everything is connected with everything else; people are like figureheads, like mirrors for one another. The law of sowing and reaping applies and in the end we might think that nothing is relative. Even the equation for Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=mc² is somehow doubtful. From this we might assume that mass becomes energy through some crazy speed of light square, but in reality material is energy. Solid bodies are just denser energy. It is also believed that there is no greater speed than the speed of light and for information to reach the stars it takes thousands of years, but in fact information is received instantaneously through a common field, through the Creator. Tell a star that you love it and the star will know it right away. Therefore, I present a new equation: E=m.
11. How do you think people can learn or develop better as they journey through life and at the different stages of life? What do we have to do to avoid moving backwards, into chaos or freefall?
Development is our essence. That is why we are here. But why do some regress or fall into chaos? I think that every soul has its own path of development and if some lessons are not learned, then this is regression. If someone commits suicide or drinks themselves to death, this is a great regression. Maybe in their next lives, much later, they will start at the beginning again. In the case of especially great villains, their souls were supposed to break apart and a giant being is supposed to swallow those pieces. I do not believe this. I think that going back is part of moving forward. I believe that if people hang on to the Creator and remain in constant contact then everything will be fine.