Sea of Living Memories
8/12/2016 – 15/01/2017
“Today again Russian submarines and ships have been sighted in Latvia’s vicinity”, “The Baltic States should worry about the EU collapsing”, “A total of 18 Russian military vessels and nine aircraft were observed at the Latvian border in July”, “NATO will continue to closely monitor what is happening in the Baltic Sea region”, “A high-ranking US analyst: The third world war could begin in Latvia” – these are Ieva Epnere’s notes in preparation for the exhibition. Loosely translated, these headlines-statements from local and international media, whose adequacy and legitimacy of facts is a question in itself, is more than the introduction of a problematic situation. They indicate that today’s so-called era of individuality is consciously directed towards a new Cold War situation. Seemingly peaceful condition of the present day is beginning to waver and general surveillance and monitoring in a new manifestation has returned to this coast.
Thinking about the distinction between friend vs. foe, one of us vs. foreign, participant vs. observer, in her new body of works Epnere focuses on the material evidence of the Soviet legacy, as well as its psychological imprints on people’s lives. For her territorial and content-based framework Epnere has selected Latvia’s western border – an ever symbolically and politically charged strip along the Baltic Sea, which at one point had been the far western boundary of one power, but now is the east of another entity.
Based on personal experiences, research and significant coincidences (encountered persons, obtained facts, etc.) and things heard and disclosed in conversations, Epnere’s video-works, photographs and the exhibition scenography is based on the question surrounding the volatility of identity. In response to societal development processes in post-Soviet Latvia, the artist investigates how an individual’s memory functions and what is its role in the construction of collective memory; how unwelcome experiences are repelled and how someone who has grown up and worked most of his or her life in a single regime, is able or unable to cope with the new situation and to integrate in it.
The exhibition theme is introduced through the brownish-pink wall tone in the first exhibition room, which has been deliberately chosen for its likeness to the warm tones of the Army Fleet divers undergarments; photographs have been placed upon it – levitating objects encased in a black matted background, military seamen’s status affirming high seas sailing trophies, such as whale ivory, coral and other coveted objects.
Stylistic references and notable details continue in the spatially separating grey curtains – symbolizing war, industrialization, as well as secrecy and shadows. This slightly wavy cloth in the tones of the Baltic Sea is like a watershed that frames the exhibition space and divides it from the section of living narrative – the six documentary film videos screened behind the curtains: first-person narratives as told by residents of the Baltic coast’s former forbidden zones.
In the second exhibition room the central piece is projected – a video titled Potom (translation from Russian – later) where, with the assistance of a captivating environment, time and personal conditionality some ambiguous “former military official” erring is constructed in this historically charged time and space.
The video’s first few minutes announce something unknown and unexplainable, story-wise it’s the appearance of the film’s character in various environments: on the seashore, on a ship, in the specific area of Liepāja, Karosta, and ritual situations: morning routine, bodily exercises and donning a uniform. Similarly, the symbolic replacement of different powers is tangible in the film, from Soviet occupation to the restoration of state independence, so that past experience is increasingly merged with today’s situation, the ending frames yet again return to the sea and conjure up clear indications pre-shadowing threat.
Curated by Zane Onckule
Sea of Living Memories was first presented at Art in General, New York as part of the organizations New Commissions programme in September-October, 2016 during Epnere’s residency at International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) as the recipient of kim? Residency Award 2016.
Ieva Epnere (b. 1977) lives and works in Riga, Latvia. She creates photographs, video works and films, where personal, private stories are the starting point for artistic reflections on identity, traditions and rituals. Latest solo-exhibitions: Sea of Living Memories, Art in General, New York (2016); Pyramiden and other stories, Zacheta Project Room, Warsaw (2015); A No-Man’s Land, An Everyman’s Land, kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga and The Liepāja Museum (2015); Waiting Room (2015), Contretype, Brussels; Galerie des Hospices (2014), Canet-en-Roussillon (2014); Mindscapes (2013), kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga. Group exhibitions: Contemporary Landscape, Cēsis Art Festival, Cēsis (2016); 62nd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany (2016); Identity: Behind the Curtain of Uncertainty, Ukrainian National Art Museum, Kiev (2016); Something eerie, Signal – Contemporary Art Centre Malmo (2016); Le fragole del Baltico, Careof, Milan (2015); Ornamentalism. The Purvītis Prize (2015), Arsenale, Venice; 61st International Short film Festival (2015), International Competition, Oberhausen, 6th International Contemporary Art Biennale in Moscow (2015).
Message: 147 of 494
8/12/2016 – 15/01/2017
From almost imperceptible movements and awkward gestures, Diāna Tamane follows traffic routes from Eastern to Western Europe, so during the working process her family members become the main characters. That’s the artist’s dad, who has been regularly traveling to Germany since the 90s, purchasing cars, electronic equipment and other stuff and selling them in Latvia, and that’s her mom, who became a long-distance truck driver a few years ago, when her business went bankrupt.
The artist’s first exhibition in Latvia is a documentation, arising from Tamane’s mother’s experiences. The exhibition title Message: 147 of 494 is taken from the exhibited video “Letters from mom”, it represents a letter sequence in the mother and daughter conversation in Tamane’s e-mail inbox. The exhibition also includes a video entitled “On the Road” – a static video shot taken from a lorry’s front window with a phone conversation in the background; it’s placed in a dialogue with a large-scale photo print “Mom” and is exhibited beside text that contains information about Tamane’s mother’s movements across Europe in the last year: where she drove A-Z, what goods she transported A-Z.
What began as an activity reinforcing kinship ties, incorporating family members in Tamane’s works has now become an autonomous adventure with an element of a play and constant participants. The family is viewed as a reduced version of society, in which the prevailing relationships are always intense – regardless of whether the family is united in harmony or conflict. Beside her own documented shots, working with video, text and found objects, Tamane regularly uses vernacular photography taken by her family members, whose involvement in the artistic act is regularly accompanied by tension and flickers of emotion.
Along with an interest in relationship psychology, her practice also considers the social and economic facets. Through the exhibition’s implicit main character – Tatjana Tamane, a representative of a stereotypically “unwomanly” profession, the artist draws attention to her observations about a woman who grew up in Soviet Latvia and who shaped her views in today’s language of distinctive character and symbolism. In Soviet-era propaganda posters the ideal woman was shown being strong and cheerful, posing in front of the constantly growing housing blocks, a factory or driving a tractor. Tamane’s mother’s large-scale portrait behind the wheel of a glossy and sizably impressive vehicle, becomes a direct reflection of this experience and memory.
Viewed all together, Tamane’s work covers questions concerning family, the origin of working class aesthetics, the role of women in society and the new social order. This theme follows the changes in the region in the early 90s; by highlighting social processes, labour relations and the dynamics of mobility, the artist creates her own version of a contemporary post-Soviet society’s portrait.
Diāna Tamane (b. 1986), born in Riga, graduated from the Tartu Art College, received a Masters Degree at the Sint-Lukas Brussels University of Art and is currently studying at the HISK Institute in Belgium. She primarily works with photography and video as she examines themes of identity, memory and familial ties – closeness and estrangement. Tamane has had several solo-exhibitions: Art House Tartu; Recyclart Brussels; Y galerii Tartu, and has participated in group exhibitions in Belgium, Russia, Turkey, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Currently her work is on view at the HISK laureate group exhibition The Empty Fox Hole. In the summer of 2016, Tamane received the Modern Art Museum Friends of S.M.A.K. award in Ghent, and was also selected as the New Belgian Talent for the publication tiff, which is published by FoMu, the Photo Museum in Antwerp.