Collection of Video Art of the Latvian National Museum of Art
The Latvian National Museum of Art wishes to continue to reach out to its esteemed public and adapts its exhibition format to the conditions of the COVID-19 crisis. From 6 April to 31 May 2020, the visitors of www.lnmm.lv, the homepage of the LNMA, will have the opportunity to see an anti-public exhibition from the video art collection – far away from the museum’s halls, each in their own homes, on their personal display.
For the very first time almost the entire collection of video art of the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA), assembled over the last five years, is shown together. The viewers will see a small yet outstanding selection – video works by Sarmīte Māliņa and Kristaps Kalns, Kārlis Vītols, Ieva Epnere, Ēriks Apaļais, Krišs Salmanis, Kristaps Epners, Miķelis Fišers, Maija Kurševa, Katrīna Neiburga, and Krista Dzudzilo. Several works demonstrate a certain trend which, in the context of this crisis, can be seen as an almost prophetic anti-materialist position. Escapism in nature, the necessity to explain the world in interconnections according to a unifying principle, the inability to find fulfilment and spiritual growth in consumerist culture.
The narrative of these works covers a rather broad range – from the religious miracle of the resurrection of Christ during Easter in Sarmīte Māliņa and Kristaps Kalns’ work Altar (2006) all the way to Miķelis Fišers’ play with conspiracy theories in his work Language Lesson (2015). The earliest work in the LNMA video collection is Katrīna Neiburga’s feminist project from 2003, Traffic, showing a woman in a role that is fairly dangerous to her – that of a taxi driver. Meanwhile one of the most recent is Kārlis Vītols’ animation The End, created in 2018, about a man affected by midlife crisis, who is trapped in his memories and attempts to come to terms with the sense of physical and spiritual end.
It is hardly a secret that exhibition goers frequently do not even watch video works till the end, since time is scarce and the clock is counting the minutes set aside for seeing the display. Yet at this period, staying at home, hurry should not be a problem. The creators of the exhibition believe that now is the right moment to see works you might have missed or would like to see again.
SARMĪTE MĀLIŅA, KRISTAPS KALNS
During Easter proceedings in 2006, Sarmīte Māliņa and Kristaps Kalns’ video installation Altar was placed in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Riga. The artists created an altar where the altar painting was substituted by a video. It shows the body of Christ taken from the cross, his flesh laid down, yet he is not dead: in an instant the seemingly dead is resurrected and the tomb becomes empty. We see the miracle of resurrection in front of our eyes.
The animated film The End deals with the midlife crisis of a man who is trapped in his own memories and struggles to reconcile himself with the sense of physical and spiritual end. This is the concluding part of a trilogy. The first film, The Garden of Fetish (2006), revealed the process of creating a work of art and the search for identity, the second, Eclipse (2010), turned to the ritual of the coming together of a man and a woman.
Pickled Long Cucumbers
This is a poetic and at the same time humorous video about contemporary man’s attempt to become one with nature. A family – a woman, a man and a child – experiences a life situation akin to the primeval couple of Adam and Eve. By struggling with the wild nature, awkwardly breaking through thickets, climbing over beaver lodges, swimming in bogs and engaging in other odd, seemingly irrational activities, it raises the question about our ‘natural state of being’.
Four Edges of Pyramiden
The work was made in Spitzbergen, in the abandoned Soviet coal-mining town of Pyramiden, which is in fact located on an island which is part of Norway and where time has stopped for almost twenty years. The artist has captured the presence of post-Soviet legacy in the present in photographs and interviews with people she encountered in Pyramiden. The protagonists of the documentary video Four Edges of Pyramiden say that on this edge of the world, where time stands still and today’s oversaturated world does not reach, they can feel at one with nature and be happy – in their own way.
Swan / Le Cygne
Ēriks Apaļais creates works based on his interest in linguistics. Language enters his paintings as visual signs. Yet by being painted in a certain guise, these grammatical signs reveal further visual forms, which have entirely different meanings than the ones entailed in the original letter, word, semantics.
The video was made in the context of an exhibition of paintings making use of the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Le Cygne [Swan], where the French le was painted in a notional shape of a swan. In the video, a girl attempts to pronounce the word le cygne under water, but its materiality prevents her from doing it comprehensibly. This small video etude accompanying the exhibition is an apt commentary on the changes our ability to express ourselves clearly encounters under the conditions of external factors and other interfering forces.
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The azure sky and birdsong is interrupted by the powerful sound of a jet engine, it shoots through the peaceful landscape and the rumbling disappears in the distance, gradually a bird reappears in the sky.
Exercises are studies of the movement of a human body – that of a future professional gymnast. In the gymnastics hall, a special atmosphere and relationship exists between coaches and their students, suggesting not only an unwritten agreement and code of conduct, but also a collective sense of family, which interplays with the distinctly focused individual. In exercise, the point of reference is a single canon of perfectly executed movement. The same basic elements are repeated for hours, days, months and even years, determinedly striving to reach the ideal.
Over the last decade, Miķelis Fišers has turned to a story present in conspiracy theories about reptilian dynasties which are said to be the actual rulers of mankind. The evil, cruel, power- and property-thirsty reptilian civilisation rules over the Earth and determines all material processes that affect humans.
In his video Language Lesson, Fišers has decided to approach reptilian language: “The reptilian language is an ancient language from immemorial times and contains countless words that have no equivalents in human language.” The reptilians have a single word ‘PRAN’ which means all words in human language except one – ‘compassion’. In mastering this word, pay attention to the intonation which is demonstrated in the dialogue between the question and the answer.
The video Reptile Drill must be seen in the context of the unbearable situation in which humanity finds itself under reptilian government. Humans must be as determined in their will and as gritty as attempted by the author of the video, artist Miķelis Fišers, who is prepared to walk over burning coal. This test requires practice and spiritual transformation, which will help survive these insufferable times.
In the Studio
Maija Kurševa’s animation In the Studio was made for the exhibition Checkered Order, in which the author considers the processes in her working space. What happens in the artist’s studio when seemingly nothing happens? This gives rise to reflections about being busy, activity, productivity as well as stasis, observation, flow of ideas. The artist’s gaze drifts across a seemingly monotonous, minimalistic collage of a studio view consisting of fields of differing chequered ornaments, gradually provoking imagination and thought, which eventually will lead to creative work.
A feminist project showing a woman in a role that is fairly dangerous to her – that of a taxi driver. How to preserve dignity in provocative situations? The artist sets out on this social investigation in the streets of Riga. This adventure of anthropologic ‘archaeology’ promises interesting life stories, reveals the behavioral models of the passengers and the experiences and opinions of female taxi drivers about this ‘unwomanly’ profession.
00:03:11 min, ∞
We observe the washing of the stairs, which must be repeated as soon as the previous cycle is completed like the wheel of samsara. The repetition of a simple activity becomes a metaphor for human life. It is the clear determination to go around in an endless circle, so that the stairs on which we walk would always already be washed.
Dr. art. Elita Ansone, Head of Collections and Scientific Research Department ARSENĀLS
(2nd Half of the 20th – 21st Century), Latvian National Museum of Art