Contemporary Art Festival SURVIVAL KIT 9 Introduces the Artists

August 24, 2017
Author Echo Gone Wrong
Published in Detour News from Latvia
Andrej Polukord, Kaiser Pilz, 2016, Lithuania. Photo: Marius Krivičius

Andrej Polukord, Kaiser Pilz, 2016, Lithuania. Photo: Marius Krivičius

This year, SURVIVAL KIT 9, the biggest annual contemporary art exhibition in the Baltics, presents 24 internationally recognized, as well as emerging young artists. Among the works are both internationally known as well as specially commissioned new pieces aimed at broadening the perception of the world and learning from nature.

The exhibition will run from 8 September to 1 October in the former building of the University of Latvia Faculty of Biology on Kronvalda bulvāris 4.

The title of this year’s SURVIVAL KIT – Becoming an Apricot * an Apple * a Crow * a Tree * a Cockroach * a Glacier * a Plant * a Mushroom * a Shell * a Bird * Algae – was inspired by a series of watercolours by internationally recognized artist Maria Thereza Alves, This is Not an Apricot, which will also be part of the exhibition. Alves is among the internationally best known artists who works with the problematics of environment and globalisation and questions related to human intervention in nature.

Among the festival’s artists the artist duo Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas stands out with their installation The Psychotropic House: Zooetics Pavilion of Ballardian Technologies. It is a discursive experiment that aims to articulate ‘Zooetics’—a notion in progress—and explore new ways for human knowledge and research to engage with other forms of life. The artists will also give a talk during the opening of SURVIVAL KIT 9 on Thursday, 7 September.

The opportunity to see the works of Sámi artist Britta Marakatt-Labba promises to be a special occasion. With the help of a thread and a needle, the artist creates entire worlds in miniature, depicting scenes from everyday life and imbuing them with political reflections and stories of Sámi culture and history. The Sámi people have always lived in harmony with nature, and when moving will return all of their building materials to nature. Marakatt-Labba’s works have also been exhibited in documenta 14.

In his works artist Gernot Wieland links personal narratives, historic reports, scientific facts and fictional elements with tragic and comic events, generating a sense of the uncanny, mostly in an ironic or absurd way. His work Thievery and Songs will be shown at SURVIVAL KIT 9. Wieland will also take part in the festival opening with his lecture-performance Depression in Animals on the relationships between humans and animals and their mechanisms of power and control.

Meanwhile artist James Webb will realise his project There’s No Place Called Home (Riga). It presents recordings of foreign birdsong that are broadcast from speakers concealed in the trees. First produced in 2004, this artwork is remade afresh in each site using a recording of a different species. For SURVIVAL KIT 9, Webb employs the songs of a Sichuan bush warbler (Locustella chengi), native to central China, to subtlety affect the local environment, referencing themes of magic, migration, and ecological contingency.

Among the emerging artists Pakistani-born Ehsan Ul Haq should be marked. He will use specimens from the Museum of Zoology located in the festival’s venue in his I Love Morality, imbuing them with new interpretations. In this manner Ul Haq investigates the egotistic nature of human beings while also negotiating the idea of his own futile existence. He draws attention to the vectors of power in the relationships among humans, animals and plants, and the human wish to classify everything – to name, control, and subordinate. Meanwhile artist Jim Holyoak exhibits his 500-page-long volume Book of Nineteen Nocturnes, hand-drawn over the period of 17 years. Echoing the genres of painterly and musical nocturne, the book is driven by its ambient, night-time setting – a realm populated by wandering monsters. It is about being lost, lonely and homesick, at the same time pointing towards contemporary ecological problems.

Winner of the Purvītis Prize, one of the artists in the Latvian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Art Biennale, Andris Eglītis will exhibit large-format paintings, made over long periods of time out in the pond, swamp, forest and meadow. The sun, wind, rain, insects, birds and animals have left their traces on them, letting Eglītis himself climb out of the role of the anthropocentric creator and feel like one of nature’s creatures. Artist Ieva Epnere has created a video for SURVIVAL KIT 9, researching the special story of Marta Rinka, which unfortunately remains little known to the broader public. Rinka was educated in the renowned Pestalozzi-Froebel-Haus in Berlin in order to return to Latvia, where in 1908,  with the support of shipbuilder and philanthropist Augusts Dombrovskis, she established the Green School and a unique system of kindergarten pedagogy, offering a modern avant-garde educational system to working class children. Finally, artist Krišs Salmanis, another winner of the Purvītis Prize and the representative of the Latvian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Art Biennale, will show a work which hasn’t been previously exhibited in Latvia. In his own words: “A needle attached to a slender birch tree reads from a vinyl record the song of a chaffinch recorded a couple of years ago. Back then, the bird had perched within arm’s reach on a similar branch of a tree, intoxicated by its own song. I managed to film it. Since then, from time to time I have wondered how the chaffinch is doing and how I might return to this incident once more. There are no amplifiers or speakers in the installation; the situation is almost analogue.”

The exhibition will also include works by artists such as Laurie Anderson, Jonathas de Andrade, Lotta Antonsson, Hildur Bjarnadóttir, Juris Boiko, Annika Eriksson, Andris Grinbergs / Laima Žurgina, Nona Inescu, Christine Ödlund, Jean Painlevé, Wong Kit Yi and Andrej Polukord. More information about all the works in SURVIVAL KIT 9 is available at

SURVIVAL KIT 9 is supported by State Culture Capital Foundation, Riga City Council, Goethe-Institut Riga, Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Latvia, Embassy of Canada to Latvia, Institut français de Lettonie, Embassy of Sweden in Riga, Icelandic Art Center, European Cultural Foundation, Le conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec, University of Latvia, National Archives of Latvia, VFS FILMS, 2zoles, ar putniem, café PIENS, AUGA group, NP Properties, Valmiermuižas alus, ABSOLUT., Kino Bize, Ģertrūdes ielas teātris, Dirty Deal Teatro, Skaņu mežs festival un AKVA D LIFE.


Established in 2009, SURVIVAL KIT is the biggest contemporary art event in the Baltics, attracting more than 10 000 visitors every year. It arose in reaction to the crisis in Latvia with the aim of calling on society to respond to changes in the contemporary world and consider various survival strategies. Each year, a socially relevant and important theme is selected for the festival. Empty buildings in Riga are used as festival venues, thus offering new development strategies in urban planning.

This year, the contemporary art festival is directed towards broadening perceptions of the world and learning from nature, and proposes future ecologies in which equality and rights are not limited to humankind. The venue for SURVIVAL KIT 9 is the former building of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia at Kronvalda bulvāris 4, which after its completion in 1901 became a laboratory where significant discoveries were made by many researchers of the natural sciences and their students.