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Cure of ills - extract from A User's Guide To Tallinn

"Cure of ills, controlled ..." is probably the most famous graffiti message. Even those who have never seen it themselves have heard rumours about this text, written on the walls in block letters in crayon. In the middle of 1980s this weird and unexpected message was found all over Estonia. Somebody named Ülo Kiple spread his texts in Tallinn and small towns with confusing consistency.

It's hard to believe that one day some Estonian graffiti artist could become as legendary as Ülo Kiple. The reasons can be drawn from Kiple's personal story - from asylum and the decision to end his life (the impulse was getting to know that his letters to Mikhail Gorbatshov - the leader of the Soviet Union - never reached the adressee) to that time and society, from where these texts are from. The important part in formation of the Kiple myth is its totality - Kiple spread his messages all over Estonia - everybody had to be addressed, creating paranoia in house wives who demanded in newspapers him to be locked up to the asylum. At most cases Kiple's texts were removed as soon as they appeared.

"Cure of ills" can simply be read as notes from somebody in the asylum. On the other hand what upsets and bothers is the aphoristic and ambiguous nature of these texts. This way Kiple's texts affect suddenly as contemporary and important, especially to those who have read Foucault and realize the actual role of the asylum as an institution in the state apparatus - as a violent social machine producing healthy citizens from sick ones. The social context of that time is more complicated than that and allows to go even further with different speculations. Kiple was considered a political poet, he even became a resistance hero of some sort. Not of the national movement, but of anarchy. While nowadays graffiti-aesthetes pay respect to the past master, then for a bunch of artists-activists drifting in neopunk wave, Kiple is their man. (Though, how much of a punk Kiple was ...)

Most known of Kiple's texts is definitely: CURE OF ILLS, CONTROLLED: IT S LONELINESS, FREE FOOD AND BED.

It's known that some people recited it as a poem. And there were also English and Finnish versions. Rather poor, but still. That also shows Kiple's scope.

Another famous Kiple's text goes like this: DIVIDE ALL POWER OF THE WORLD TO SINGLES WHO DO NOT KNOW EACH OTHER. FORBID THE BAD. ALLOW ONLY GOOD / .../ UFOS / .../ LEADERS OF THE WORLD, DEMAND FREEDOM FOR ESTONIA!

The last known text by Kiple is: DIPLOMACY HEADS OF STATES HEAD OF STATE OR PARTY CALL TO ORDER WITH 10FOLD POWER AND THE TRUTH OF THE POWER OF THE WORLD BY ALL STATES THIS TRUTH WILL GUARANTEE FREEDOM FOR ALL STATES AND ECONOMIC BLISS LIBERATION FOR STATES. GODS AND

About the way of carrying out the texts it has been learned that the first ones were in block letters, rather small and written on the houses and planks in chalk or crayon. Later, letters turn bigger and white or blue paint is used which is more lasting in different weather conditions and can't be so easily erased. The text is also longer and runs as a strip on the houses, walls and sidewalk edges. Kiple was different from many other anonymous wall scribblers by always signing his texts. For today most of Kiple's messages are vanished. In spring 2000 artist Marko Laimre started restoring the last Kiple's graffiti in Tallinn city space - on the concrete parapet in Harjumägi, near Kiek in de Kök. Laimre managed to refresh barely one third of the vanishing text before the police interrupted.

Graffiti is supposedly the barometer of society showing how healthy or sick it is. Graffiti brings forth suppressed problems, forbidden issues and allows to present alternative truths, which have no place in official discourse. The availabe surface of city space - house walls and planks - become a free platform for public opinion. Attention gives power to those who are normally left aside. The private notes of Kiple that were dropped to the social space, were changed by this context and inevitably possessed broader political meaning.

The confusing texts of mentally unstable world reformer would have hardly aroused so much attention without inclinable situation. More or less, directly or obliquely Kiple's messages catched this collective subconscious that craved for saying out loud. It has been claimed that American graffiti was born as a social phenomenon and Eastern Europe graffiti on the other hand had mainly political character. Maybe, but like you can't treat graffiti as an inheritor of traditional opposition, so is Kiple still exceptional and his motives remain unknown. The typical examples of local "political graffiti" will still be texts like "Russians are dicks" and the street gerilja who has fun watching from the distance how militia patrol is sweatingly cleaning the walls.

MARI LAANEMETS
From A User's Guide To Tallinn, copyright © authors (text).
Published by Eesti Kunstiakadeemia 2002.
ISBN 9985-78-701-3

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