Latvian Art Talk (New York, 2013)

Just what is it that makes Latvian art so different, so Latvian? A talk on Latvian contemporary art at Art in General, New York, May 4, 2013. Read more about it on Art in General web site: http://www.artingeneral.org/exhibitions/548

As a co-curator (together with Anne Barlow and Courtenay Finn) of North by Northeast, the Latvian Pavilion for the 55th Venice Biennale, I am honored to present the pavilion and the artists, Kaspars Podnieks and Krišs Salmanis, in New York. The talk is part of the pre-biennale presentation of North by Northeast which includes also an exhibition of Podnieks’ and Salmanis’ work in the storefront Project Space of Art in General (March 5 – March 30, 2013).

Works by Latvian contemporary artists Kaspars Podnieks and Krišs Salmanis question the identity of a nation that has to grapple with its always marginal position in the politicized geography of Europe. Under the Soviet rule, Latvia was the westernmost borderland of the Soviet Union. The point of reference radically shifted after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Latvia regained its independence and paradoxically found itself on the north-eastern most border of the European Union. The ideological implications of this changing and always imaginary political geography provoke insecurity and doubt in terms of self-fashioning: what does it mean to be a Latvian artist or a Latvian in general? Is it the patriarchal rural lifestyle, appreciation of local landscape as a redemptive Arcadia, self-imposed laws of merciless work ethic, or traditional oppression of any socially or politically explicit thought? Or rather searching for an escape route from all of it?