Soviet soldier undresses to the Brazilian beat

Central Station | Milch, London
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The Independent Online

Several soundtracks compete for attention in this exhibition of seven contemporary artists working in the Baltic republics. But curiosity soon gets the visitor over that obstacle, because in this show a recognisable art world sensibility is matched with unfamiliar historical experience.

Several soundtracks compete for attention in this exhibition of seven contemporary artists working in the Baltic republics. But curiosity soon gets the visitor over that obstacle, because in this show a recognisable art world sensibility is matched with unfamiliar historical experience.

Only 10 years ago Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were under Soviet rule, and there is no getting away from that. Deimantas Narkevicius shows a 90-minute Soviet propaganda film made for a Lithuanian audience in 1957 which the artist has subtitled in English.

It's surprisingly watchable (for 10 minutes at a time), and an effective backdrop for the rest of the show which, for me, is dominated by Private Dancer, a collaborative video between Hanno Soans and Caterina Campino.

A Soviet soldier is standing guard against a white backdrop, but succumbs to the mesmeric beat of a Brazilian soundtrack. He is soon shedding his uniform, dancing in a state of ecstasy to the repeating line "Nine out of 10 movie stars make me cry . . . I'm alive . . . "

The video helps you to appreciate what an exhilarating culture shock it must have been to go from conscription to Western-style freedom in such a short period. Having said that, the dancer ends up looking ludicrous - in his underpants, with camouflage trousers down round his ankles and combat shirt wrapped around his still-helmeted head. Whatever he's evolving into, he's not got there yet.

From citizen of the Soviet Union to member of the European Union? The artist Kiwa is not so sure about that. In his video, dressed and acting somewhere between Ali G and Joseph K, he phones the newly established EU office in Tallinin, Estonia.

The official doesn't speak Estonian so they have to get by in English. "I want to make graffiti on your house," the artist states. The official can't give permission for this because the building is rented, not owned by the institution. The artist must try to get in touch with the real owner before using his spray cans.

Actually, two of the artists' groups in the show use computers and the world wide web, though those works make much less impact on a British viewer seduced by the exotic historico-political works mentioned above.

'Central Station': Milch, SE11 (020 7735 7334), to 21 October

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