Tanel Rander, aka Chanel Rantier, aka Chanel Dior, aka c:, has been a lawyer, insurance agent, and now works as an artist involved in both research-led art and the creation of a new religion or mental state. He compared his previous work experience to that of the protagonist in the film American Psycho, and talked about how easy it was, in the post-Soviet period in Estonia, to rapidly rise to a position of great power. In 2008, he gave it all up to pursue art after having created his first performance in 2005.
Tanel told me about Oak Night, this new religion he had created together with Erkki Luuk. Oak Night is very much connected with the city of Tartu, and its supernatural and fantastical qualities. He tells me that the name for Oak Night in Estonian, Tammeöö, has a meditative sound to it, and on his website, the artist has described the phenomenon as “a mental state, artificial psychosis, experimental phenomenology, radical essentialism; a study on site-specifics, mythogeography, language, landscape, slowness, desires; destruction of reality, symbolic order and destruction itself; a constant condition beyond whatever; being somewhere underground, before and after any kind of existence.” The artists give psychogeographic tours of the city, introducing interested parties to its buildings and trees. In 2012, the artist created an installation/environment in the Tallinn City Art Hall to try to give viewers an understanding of the space and experience of Oak Night.
In addition to creating his own mythology, the artist is also interested in other myths, for example, that of Eastern Europe or the “former East,” insofar as, in borderless Europe, there is presumably no longer a difference between East and West.
The artist’s concerns with borderless Europe are noteworthy in relation to his own work with Oak Night. He told me that much of the writing and literature about Oak Night is untranslatable, and the artists also use new words that they invent themselves. Perhaps creating a religion or experience that is impenetrable by the outsider is a strategy of self-preservation in this borderless world?