le violon d’Ingres“- literally “Ingres’ violin”; French expression for passion or a hobby, other than that for which one is well-known, or at which one excells, derived after French artist J. A.D. Ingres who used to be a passionate violin-player


Man Ray “Le Violon d’Ingres”, 1924

Inspired by Ingres’s painting “La Grande Baigneuse“, Man Ray , the well-known surrealist photographer, portrayed his mistress Kiki de Montparnasse wearing a turban for his photo of 1924. He transformed the female body into a musical instrument by painting sound-holes on her back, referring to objectification of the lived body and using female nude to depict the object-subject relationship like he did throughout his career. This work is usually intepreted as a visual pun, depicting Ray’s muse as his “violon d’ingres”, also referring to all his love affairs and female muses as his favourite “hobbies”.

The same sound-holes are tattooed on my back, adding my own personal layer and interpretation to this story. They symbolize my main interest – body – which I study, approach and articulate in different ways. Holding a master’s degree in Semiotics and Culturology I am interested in the ways bodies exist in socio-cultural reality, how they become symbols, objects and how we use bodies as mediums to express content from personal emotions to cultural heritage. My focus, however, is on dance and performing arts in general. Since 2012, I have written reviews, essays, articles and done interviews on contemporary dance, performing arts and literature. Academically, I have studied dance and performing arts (including butoh and Estonia’s contemporary dance scene) from the perspective of cultural semiotics. I have moderated artist talks in Estonia’s performing arts centres, worked in Kanuti Gildi SAAL as an editor-dramaturgist and being part of the two international performing arts festivals August Dance Festival and SAAL Biennaal’s team. I have worked as a project manager and dramaturgist at an independent theatre Cabaret Rhizome. I am a member of the Estonian Association of Theatre Researchers and Critics. I am currently working as a project manager at Sõltumatu Tantsu Lava, working as an editor in web-magazine Edasi and occasionally giving lectures at The Tallinn University.

I believe that bodily articulation as the language-preceeding communication system is something essential and natural for human beings. I admire different ways of expression and traditional practices that are rooted in body, be it western contemporary dance, hatha yoga or South -America jagua art. I have a background in ballet and since childhood I have practiced various dance styles that by now, have led me to contemporary dance, yoga and tai chi. Teaching at Helikopter studio (a dance studio and DIY project space in Tallinn) and dealing with my own creative dance projects allows me to deal with movement research in practice.

In addition to being a cultural journalist and researching performing arts, I write poetry and short stories and take photos from time to time. This page presents my passions and viewpoint on humanities, arts, philosophy and culture in general. Ink on my skin reminds me that I exist and experience through my body.

Iiris Viirpalu