CILME / fabric as a concept and a material of Latvia’s identity 2018

LIBAU – HALIFAX – LIBAU, 2015, polymer foam, glass fiber, enamel paint, steel rebar, roots, branches

The Latvian word ‘cilme’ stands for origin, in this reference – the origin of Latvian identity. The exhibition is set within the framework of a program celebrating the centenary of Latvia’s first independence (1918). Representing the Academy of Arts in Riga, Latvia, the exhibition is composed of artwork made by its graduates, students and professors and lecturers.

The project has its own objectives – a focus on the Latvian identity and its attributes. Artists have been invited to constitute the project with their interpretation of Latvia and specific characteristics that make up the ‘Latvianness’. Diverse selection of artists presents varied outlook on the same matter based on different experiences, topicalities and craft methods.

Combined within the framework of this exhibition, these diverse interpretations make up a mixture of cultural attributes ascribed to Latvia(n) and simultaneously challenge, overthrow or play with our conceptions of affiliation and the self.

Located in the center of the exhibition hall is Aigars Bikše’s gigantic folk maid “LIBAU – HALIFAX – LIBAU”. Along with other interpretations in the exhibition this sculpture incorporates traditional assets of Latvian culture in a new context. With the extensive roots attached, the figure comments on the affiliation of the diaspora Latvians and their belonging to Latvia.

The sculptor has brought up the topic in the public discourse before addressing the significant amount of displaced Latvians living abroad. A story goes with it – the folk maid Milda has just returned to Latvia while her kin has spent more than a century in exile. This makes us question how far our roots really stretch – the extent to which ‘Latvianness’ expands outside of the country’s borders.

Concurrently, the work attends to the fluid nature of ‘Latvianness’. Along with the culture it constitutes, the meaning of ‘Latvian’ is history and context specific and thus constantly shifting.

 

The Future State

174 year old Melānijs Bloka experiences enlightenment on the shore of the Baltic lake during a frosty thunderstorm, 2017, pine wood and oil paint

A contemporary art exhibition made within the framework of Latvia’s Centenary Programme, The Future State was launched on the 22nd of February and will be open for visitors up until the 20th of May at the ARSENĀLS exhibition hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga.

Exhibition theme has been created by Elita Ansone, also, the curator of the project. It is centered around the puzzling nature and possibly a confusing image of what the future country will resemble. Within this framework over twenty artists have been invited to envision what might be looming ahead. Particularly Aigars Bikše’s work has been located in the repository of LNMA sculptures and object collection. Positioning it among the objects of former topicality serves its purpose – it is not merely limited to visitors’ observation but dismantles the bounds of past, present and future.

The work 174 year old Melānijs Bloka experiences enlightenment on the shore of the Baltic lake during a frosty thunderstorm exhibits a compilation of inner and outer transformation. Brought together under the title of this wooden sculpture are two distinct things – experience of exalted elevation and intersexuality.

It was during a residency in Japan when the idea for the sculpture first came about and, subsequently, the sketches were made. In Buddhist tradition a particular emanation of the Buddha is a man who had become compassionate, kind and attentive towards the world through enlightenment and was thereby partially transformed into a female form. Here the emphasis is on the individual experience – an inner spiritual journey whereby the physical transformation serves as means of expression. It seems a compelling idea to envision the spirituality and exalted elevation in the foreground, leaving the gender-specifics in the background. The feminine and masculine are seen in a different manner from the Western world.

Depiction of an intersex person within the context of Latvian patriarchal society is not a statement on its own although it may easily be perceived as such. Intersexuality is rather a flashing example that represents what cannot be easily accepted or even tolerated. It vividly exemplifies the close relation between our cultural background and morality – the biased and dogmatic vision of our existence. Meanwhile, the exalted elevation is not as easy to bypass – the piety towards the mystical moment of enlightenment persists regardless of cultural background. The work attends the contradictions within a cultural system on its own.

What am I prepared to recognize?

What am I willing to accept and tolerate?

 

 

Representation of the Buddha having partially taken a female form /Temple, Rikuzentakata, Japan 2017/