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.