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documentation from exhibition RIGA, Karlin Studios 28.03-22.04.2012, Prague - Ivars Gravlejs
April 2nd, 2012
11:15 pm

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documentation from exhibition RIGA, Karlin Studios 28.03-22.04.2012, Prague








Few years ago, Ivars and Petra has decided to leave for Riga for one year. Ivars's origin is in Riga and he therefore wanted to rediscover the city of his childhood. The duo has moved into a new flat, Ivars tried to find a job, but unsuccessful, but anyway he had some savings and both tried to become a part of this city. The result was one year long stay.

The neoliberal reforms are in progress in Latvia since 1991. The first ten years of freedom has created in here, as much as in other post Soviet republics, the new oligarchy. Latvian industry lost within this time 40 per cent of its production capacities. The social inequalities are in a constant growth and the whole country is falling into bigger and bigger circle of unemployment. Around 23 per cent of Latvians are without a job, more than 12 per cent of population works abroad.

One of the most well-known quotations of Henry Ford is, that in case he would have last five dollars, he would give tree out of them for the advertisement. One of the phenomenons showing the level of economic crisis is the number of empty billboards spread around Riga. On one of the videos we can see Petra and Ivars painting on a clean billboard with a brow paint(for floor) the sentence Life is Life. However we may read this public space intervention in different ways. As a notice about tautological pop melody with euphemistic statement, that not everything is usually perfect. Or as a dark sarcastic philosophise about a hopeless situation, pronouncement of helplessness or resignation, but also involving a certain hope. Local public however started to perceive this sentence as an advertisement to an unknown product. Billboard has, within three years being still “empty”, become a part of the area.

In video called Lido we find ourselves in a surround of a franchise restaurant carrying the same name. It's self-service chain, where you can eat well for relatively cheap price. This restaurant is often used for family trips, going together with self-assurements, that situation is not that critical, as it seems to be. In this atmosphere Petra organized a happening – being well dressed, together with friends were finishing the leftovers of food left by other customers.

In the Karlin Studios exhibition space Ivars and Petra presents the documentation of exhibition of contemporary Czech art, organized within their stay in Riga in the house of Cultural centre Iļģuciems. Exhibition program in this institution usually consist of folk art – porcelain, baskets and different types of handcrafts. According to Ivars description the context of contemporary Latvian art scene is totally inconsistent. Therefore the tittle of this show “What is Czech art?” should have create the feeling of didactic approach. However the installed works has made rather alienating expression and it was not possible to reconstruct their original signification. This action was therefore rather absurd, the presentation of an absurd action, when both artists wanted to present Czech art, which is out of interest of the Latvian contemporary art scene, and on top of that on the periphery, which is totally unlinked from the centre. Exhibition was therefore offered rather to the locals, as a total rupture, also asked the question, what is art in general. Finally this act was perceived as a provocation. In this curatorial approach we can find for Ivars typical stupid humour or also several times “switched” irony, which we often feel from his solo works.

Similar kind of humour we find also in another video record. At the entrance of the Latvian capital is placed a huge sculpture word RIGA, welcoming the drivers entering the city. The duo has changed the word in a way that for one afternoon it showed the word PÍČA(cunt). Public space however doesn't work here as a final interpretation place – at the drivers heading to Riga this writing cannot appeal due to the language barrier – and therefore the only people who does find it funny are its authors. The final result is however also the documentation of the intervention in a Czech surround. Absurd is already the existence itself of the huge concrete word PÍČA.

Another piece of Ivars and Petra are appropriated videos of the Riga trolleybus driver acting on Youtube under the name Novi4oks. His excitingly shot videos, speeded up and illustrated with electronic music, are radically different from the experience of authors duo with slow public transport in Riga.

Ivars is putting his family under camera lens so often, that its members are not anymore feeling its presence and behave totally naturally. In one of the video piece we witness thirty minutes long argue of Ivars mother with her twin. The sisters are living for long time together and in the movie are arguing about the banal topic of preparation of a morning pap. From the dialogue itself we can feel a certain everyday resignation but also childish stubbornness.

Ivars has came back to the city of his childhood which has changed under the pressure of economical situation as much as Ivars own perception. Those changes are appearing in front of Ivars as foreigner in a city which used to be once his home with a sharpness unreachable for those who never left it behind. The wideness of this view is being completed by Petra being at the beginning a total foreigner in Riga. Both together are able using focus on particularities well analyse the contemporary state of things and present this analyse to the viewer with a certain improvisation quality, manifest with the lightness of final shapes (but also the lightness with which they appropriate).
(text by Vasil Artamonov)


































Reaction after one year and half. Author unknown.






One hour selection from http://www.youtube.com/user/novi4oks



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