Exhibition review: And Others – Movements, Explorations and Artists in Latvia 1960–1984

"Results of the Revision." Review of the exhibition And Others – Movements, Explorations and Artists in Latvia 1960–1984, Riga Art Space, Riga, Latvia, November 17 — December 30, 2010.

Published in Studija 76, no. 1 (2011): 30-37.

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Results of the Revision

Excerpt:

A revisionist view of the recent past has become topical, and it could be said that we are experiencing a miniature renaissance. Only instead of antique culture we are once again turning to the relatively recent Soviet period. The development of this renaissance at the beginning of the 21st century in Latvia was marked by a number of large-scale events and publications, which have formed an indispensable background to the AND OTHERS exhibition.

The earliest harbinger of this revision of cultural heritage was in 1993, when the cultural historical exposition The Goat Climbed up into the Sky was opened at the Literature and Art History Museum. It is significant that at that time it was specifically the “informals”, the phenomenon of alternative culture and the meeting place of 1960s young artists and intellectuals (that is, Kaza [or ‘Goat’, a cafe in Old Riga]) that became the focus of public attention. The exhibitions thereafter have focused mainly on a reassessment of established values, staying away from risky “otherness” and informalism.

[. . . ]

The exhibition AND OTHERS expressed the goal of showing those “movements, explorations and artists” who had not yet featured in the contents of exhibitions presented up till now. As Anita Vanaga writes in the exhibition catalogue, “the exhibition AND OTHERS inspects the period of time between 1960 and 1984, hoping to put a finger on some undervalued phenomenon that has stayed under the radar, unnoticed, or hoping at least to find unnoticed connections between known things.”

However, in order to say who those “others” are, one must clearly know who the rest were. According to the catalogue text, this could be “the official artistic canon”6 or “conventional forms of official realism”, but not always. This gives foundation for a theoretical discussion, because, so it seems, as yet art historians have not been able to agree on clear criteria that could characterize “official art” in Latvia during the period of Soviet rule. The curator of the AND OTHERS exhibition, Vilnis Vējš, points out that “to describe the art against which AND OTHERS should be positioned was not the aim of the exhibition. (..) To a certain degree the exhibition must define two things at once, but still focus on the second. Visually, the first could be seen at the retrospective exhibitions held by the Artists’ Union and the Museum.”

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