you curated re:public together with solvita krese
and in your profession as an art historian you work on
developments in contemporary latvian art, e.g.in your
essay "the question of changes: the 1990s in latvian
which developments in the last ten years have had an impact
on the current situation?
the essay is mainly about this shift that happened in
the 1990s. very important were two cross-disciplinary
art events: open and bio.sport in 95 and
96, which were basically techno events and brought together
different people and disciplines: musicians, artists,
fashion designers etc. the events were like a lounge and
party space, and at the same time an art space; it also
became clear that you can arrange the setting of visual
art work into a musical environment. it was also important
that people realised that they can somehow aggregate in
certain activities - and not necessarily in the form of
a visual artist's union or sound artist's union, but that
they can mix together, they can try to cross different
genres of art.
in the following years, the
influence of new media added up to this tendency of shifting
between different disciplines. and with the new media
came also the possibility to record and broadcast things,
i.e. as a subcultural music group you were able to produce
a cd, or for example, acoustic space,
an ongoing internet radio project, started in 1996. this
was the time of clubbings and experiments in music, new
media and visual culture and many visual artists tried
to create new solutions for the internet - it was the
beginning of the internet, so it was not yet that commercialised
and there were a lot of idealistic expectations as to
how it would develop, there were hopes it would become
a space for everybody; and there were these hypertext-ideas
behind as well, the possibility to jump through different
pages and to connect completely disconnected things.
but in many respects the situation
is different now. this dj-ing and vj-ing and the chillout-things
got marginalized. somehow people became tired of it, it
disappeared in a way. there are much less clubbings than
in the 90s, for example. it somehow shifted to other forms
such as the creation of web pages or the publishing of
your texts on the net - the portals of rixc are also very important
here -, or it shifted to investing in education and the
organisation of lectures, workshops and conferences. maybe
it has become more institutionalised, but probably it
is also more target-oriented. there are still these influences
of music, and the borders between different genres are
still blurred, but it is a different model of working
now than it was in the 1990ies.
what is the situation of infrastructure for contemporary
arts in latvia like?
there is a terrible lack of infrastructure; for example,
there is no real physical space for contemporary art
in riga, which is strongly noticeable. independent activities
or re-lab/rixc, or the visual communication
department in the art academy are all like small cells,
which try to compensate the lack of infrastructure and
also the lack of funding for art education. that is
why people in karosta are also thinking about founding
a film academy, and rixc received this almost collapsing
annex of the artist's union house and they hope to rebuild
it into a media space in the nearest future. so it is
very much about these visionary ideas, which we have
around now. people just work towards these visions concerning
future perspectives, which is however not supported
by any ministry-of-culture-policy or municipality-policy.
i would like to talk about the political aspects...
are you wondering why there are no political aspects?
that is what western critics are always wondering about.
direct political messages are not very popular in latvian
contemporary art. even the 'workshop for the restoration
of non-existent sensations' - an avantgarde group that
was active in the 80s and could be compared to 'collective
action group' in moscow -, they were also totally apolitical,
their work was about the creative ideas and some represented
a kind of escapism and construction of an alternative
reality to the existing one.
in art history literature
there are many remarks, that latvian art is more constructive
than deconstructive, so it always tries to construct
the alternative to something, like these new institutions
i mentioned. maybe latvian art is not so analytical,
but more trying to construct some alternative world,
like trying to find new passes for existing things.
that is why new media probably is so popular, because
you don't need to deconstruct anything, but they had
this new information highway to put information on,
sort of looking for these alternative interventions
which change something.
there are a few political
projects, like this ecological group in bolderaja,
which i think is more concerned with ecology than it
is an art group. or in the karosta cultural centre in
liepaja, there is the gallery k@2,
where they had an exhibition-trilogy corruption,
promised land, conscience. i think, these
are political subjects at the moment, but dealt with
again in a more creative way, just reflecting about
these three themes.
it is also a question of terminology.
in my opinion latvian art currently is very political
in terms of cultural policy - building up new structures
and new institutions, it is really an intervention in
as a co-curator of re:public you were mainly
working with the artists from abroad. what was the concept
behind the choice of artists?
yes, i was invited to chose international artists for
this project. the composition of them was mainly based
on diversity - artists who are oriented towards different
practices, different concepts of what we consider to
be public space. so the target was mainly to create
a diversity of approaches, but not to make the project
nevertheless, there were political
aspects, for example in marianne bramsen's where
would you like to be born?
she conducted interviews with people from riga and asked
that question, and photograophies of these people and
their answers were afterwards displayed on posters.
there are some remarks by russian speaking people, who
comment on citizenship-issues and there are answers
like that this would be the country where you get citizenship
in the moment you are born there - which is not necessarily
here in latvia.
so marianne bramsen's project
is more political. otherwise, i think re:public
is also about alternative practices like mark bain's
with an fm-radio system, which
is being broadcasted one kilometer around the building.
it is interesting also, because eventually you can do
that yourself, to broadcast one kilometer around, but
it is more about the exploration of public space - how
you explore it and how you make it visible, also visible
to other people, this question of the public space as
some shared space.
a quite different approach
is tellervo kalleinen's white spot.
she spreads advertisements, in which people are asked
to come and direct a film scene, and also to give her
a role in it, and it all happens in an empty white space.
it will really involve approximately ten people in a
very creative process of making a film, and it will
show up something about the behaviour and the fantasies
of people in riga. this is a very personal and somehow
very local approach, strongly localised and determined
by the context of the country, in which it takes place,
as well as about what people think and what the basic
cultural conventions are.
so there is a very broad range of concepts, like the
cooking and music events in local pubs by kalle hamm,
dzamil kamanger and jyri pitkänen,
or hinrich sachs' save harry! the largest harry potter
fan meeting in the country are very different.
yes, the aim was to get a variety of different participatory
practices, and to create a platform for these public
art practices in general, and projects, that could provide
something new for the audience.
thank you very much.