From the very end of August till the mid-September 2017 the workshop owned by artist Andris Eglītis got turned into an unconventional exhibition venue run by him and his wife – artist Katrīna Neiburga. The private working space located in the territory of the former textile factory Boļševička served as a new destination for the ones looking for an alternative way to experience art out of the city centre and the institutional frame. Furthermore, since the opening event a list of supervisors representing different spheres of art, music and culture overlooked the exhibition each taking up a 12-hour shift and coming up with their own set of activities for visitors – performing ritualistic ceremonies, organizing a cucumber painting class, holding a choir rehearsal, playing a dj set, baking pancakes in the ruins that surrounds the premises or just simply giving a guided tour.
When approaching the Boļsevička factory, ghost-like at the first glance, visitors were greeted by a huge neon-green sign saying Pickled Long Cucumbers and arrows sprayed on the ground, leading them to the hangar-type-of-a-building down a lone road. A huge table with the autumn goods and two containers filled with more than 60 kilos of cucumbers (mentioned in the title) right next to the entrance created a feeling of a cosy oasis in a middle of nowhere.
The place became the workshop of Eglītis when he and Neiburga did the preparation-work for the multi-media-installation Armpit for the Latvian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. What’s left there for a few years now is a little shed with a stove and a storage – an actual building inside of a building, made from the materials that were gathered at various Soviet garage and garden cooperatives and left unused for Armpit. Entering the space, it inevitably becomes a part of the landscape of the exposition that blends in perfectly within the environment that might come off as quite rough. Paintings and sculptures made by Eglītis and a video installation created by Neiburga, placed against the old brick walls, create a feeling that they’ve risen (or more like sprouted out) from the debris that surrounds the venue.
Two-channel video-work consist of a material that has been filmed during the summer of 2017 spent in Drusti – the place owned by the family in the countryside of Latvia. That’s the same place where Eglītis has been painting his so called “earth-works” for around ten years now combining the soil, sand and clay he has obtained on site with acrylic and oil paint. The video and the paintings tell a story about a tribe-like co-existence, on every-day life and living together, on the impossibility being completely “natural”. Three re-appearing characters – Katrīna, Andris and with their four-year-old son – performs various activities that might appear irrational, but within the pace of the video that has sound by Canadian electronic music producer Richard Hawtin aka Plastikman, they suddenly seem like the most natural thing to do in order to survive in the wilderness. An Adam-and-Eve-like couple explores their imperceptible surroundings letting the viewer come face to face with the unbearable ease of existence. Documental fragments of making dinner on an open fire and exhuming beaver’s dam mixed with very eye-pleasing scenes from the marshy corners of the forest and birds flying above the tree tops and oil and plastic pollution floating along the stream of a brook captures a portrait of three people that has so to say “returned to the roots”. It makes us think about the meaning of the term “natural state of being” and human of today and helps us grasp the true worth of being only remotely subjected by relentlessness of the nature and affected by its manifestations in a form of a heavy rain, a storm or a drought.
The same can be obtained in the paintings and sculptures of Eglītis. At the bottom wall of the space the visitor face an eight-metre-high canvas with a soft beige landscape having an installation of a mushroom colony made out of office chairs on its right. This inevitably touches the subject of ecology and the course the human kind has taken up with their way of living. It’s the same with the long cucumbers – smooth, thin, more convenient to transport and to consume, one just like the other – but we still tend to prefer the small pickles, right?
Once again one can easily spot the thematic curve the exhibition holds, showing the process of the landscape becoming filled with human presence (video-work) and out-grown from it once again (paintings and sculptures) – same as the cycle of being born and dying. Figures from the video can be found in the paintings from Drusti as well. Katrīna and Ludvigs both naked under the midday sun surrounded by greens.
Moving along the exposition, the works consist of still-life paintings and landscapes with strains of wood, last burning coals in the fire, haystacks, roots and branches that are actually setups by the artist. Same as the oddly titled duo-show is a set-up of a pretended life by two people that somehow happens to be very real at the same time.
Katrina Neiburga (1979) holds a Masters of Art in Visual Communication from the Art Academy of Latvia, and has studied at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. She has exhibited extensively in group and solo projects since 2000, and has participated in the Sydney, Moscow and Venice biennales. In 2008, she was short-listed for the Ars Fennica Award and received the Purvitis Prize, which is the highest Latvian award in fine arts. She has also worked on set designs for the Latvian National Opera, Stanislavsky Theatre, Perm Opera, Opera de Bastille and elsewhere.
Andris Eglitis (1981) has studied fine arts at the Art Academy of Latvia, I E Repin St. Petersburg Institute of Art, as well as the Hoger Instituut Voor Schone Kunsten, Gent, Belgium. He has participated in many exhibitions since 2000 and has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in Latvia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Austria, France among other countries. He received the Purvitis Prize in 2013.
Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis first collaborated together on their work ARMPIT (2015) created for the Latvian pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 that was followed by ARMPIT California Edition (2016) at the Coachella Music and Art festival and WILL O’THE WISP (2016) at Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India.
Photography: Ansis Starks. All images copyright and courtesy of the artists.