Riga Photography Biennial (RPB), an international contemporary art event, will take place from 5 to 8 April in Riga, Liepāja, Cēsis, Daugavpils and Tartu (Estonia) as part of a wider programme celebrating the centenary of the Republic of Latvia, offering a varied programme of exhibitions, performances, symposium, discussions and masterclasses. The theme of this year’s Biennial is self-awareness – who we are and who we chose to become in times when social, political and cultural dynamics afford us continuous and new transformation opportunities.
The title of the Biennial ‘I Like Your Face’ using face as a metaphor highlights the complex processes involved in the formation of identity and meaning. Face as a mask or a role we take on every day and an image we see when we look at the other. On social media we often ‘like’ something – but what do we really see and what is imagined? Is it possible to convene with the other without categorising and thematising? The biennial examines these relationship issues by questioning how our emotional world manifests itself mentally in the climate that’s transformed by modern technologies and how imagined belonging to some fantastical reality co-exists with daily social identities.
‘Rapid technological developments have necessitated the need to re-evaluate the meaning of images and the message they convey,’ says Inga Brūvere, Director of the Biennial, as she reflects on its thematic range, ‘the aim of the Biennial is to initiate a dialogue – discussion, focusing on one question in particular – how has our understanding of photography and image changed over time and how does this change manifest itself in art?’
Main event: International exhibition ‘Screen Age I: Self-Portrait’ at Riga Art Space, curated by Inga Brūvere in cooperation with the Association of Culture Institutions of Riga City Council. The exhibition will examine various aspects of human identity such as body, gender/sex, social and historical circumstances that are influenced by modern technologies. Twelve artists from ten countries will take part in this exhibition, to name but a few – Kate Cooper (UK), Aneta Grzeszykowska (PL), Antoine Catala (FR / USA), Paul Paper (LT) and Līga Spunde (LV). The exhibition will also offer a bespoke education programme featuring a symposium, discussion, lecture and creative workshops. Work by Diāna Tamane (LV), Taavi Suisalu (EE) and Kristīne Madjare (LV) – the finalists of Riga Photography Biennial Award 2018 ‘Seeking the Latest in Photography!’ will be on show at Riga Art Space.
The discussion on ‘magical identities’ will be supported by two related events: an exhibition ‘Today I’m a mermaid. Tomorrow I’ll be a unicorn’ at Gallery MuseumLV, curated by Šelda Puķīte; and an urban project ‘I Want You!’, in which Latvian photographer Reinis Hofmanis in collaboration with Estonian artist, designer and theorist Margus Tamm will create an imitation photo project recruitment poster. These ironically playful projects problematize the current socio-political climate in the West where extreme nationalists, supporters of authoritarian regimes and representatives from the business world, like stars in a reality-show, have seeped inside the political arena alongside rational decisions based on common sense.
Nowadays image is no longer a static, fixed reality. It has become a dynamic system that can change according to the situation. Dutch artist Rogier Arents’ installation ‘Heart Bloom’ at RIXC Gallery measures the heartbeat of visitors, triggering a plotter pen, which in response draws lines and dots in real-time producing a flower-like image.
In their exhibition ‘Video Salon’, the collective ‘GolfClayderman’ revive and romanticise the aesthetics of daily life by incorporating pop culture and the glamour of consumerist society from the early 2000s in their work. This exhibition will be on show at Alma Gallery. Meanwhile photographer Martin Kohout (CZ) in his series of work studies the relationship between image and its representation, questioning what photography really means in the current time. His exhibition will be on show at 427 Gallery. Whereas Yves Ullens’ (BE) exhibition ‘Tribute’ at Riga Central Library is presented in collaboration with Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre.
We will present two exhibitions at The Latvian Museum of Photography. A solo show ‘The Pleasure of Ignorance’ by Inga Erdmane developed as part of ‘The Pleasure of Ignorance’ project, in which clients of the Probation Service over a lengthy period documented the environment that was very familiar to them but to many of us could’ve remained hidden. Whereas a group exhibition ‘Implicit Memory’ by photographer Andrejs Grants’ students Anda Magone, Laila Halilova and Rūta Kalmuka is a documentation of daily family life and raises questions about the identity of a contemporary woman in this context.
The festival will also run a varied education programme. Participants in the discussion ‘Image and Propaganda’ will explore the use of image as a tool of visual communication and ideological instrument in art, media and other public spaces. Those interested in the history of photography and historiography are invited to a lecture ‘Landscape in the History of Latvian Photography’ by art historian Katrīna Teivāne-Korpa and ‘Mapping Artistic Research’ – a presentation by Lithuanian curator and theorist Vytautas Michelkevičius. Young people will have the opportunity to create gif images in Viktorija Eksta’s creative workshop ‘Moving Image’, while families and children will transform into magical heroes together with photographer Reinis Hofmanis. And lastly, emerging artists will have a chance to discover the U.S. artist Floris Schönfeld’s (NL) multidisciplinary approach to creative process.
As part of the centenary of the Republic of Latvia, the Biennial will also run a regional programme. A solo exhibition ‘On the Side of the Sun’ by Uldis Briedis at Daugavpils Mark Rothko Centre is a testimony to time gathered over 50 years leading up the centenary of the Republic of Latvia and is the largest show of his work to date. Portraits make up a large portion of this exhibition, taken mainly while Uldis Briedis worked as a photo journalist for several newspapers – initially in Liepāja (1960s-70s) and later in Riga for ‘Padomju Jaunatne’ (Soviet Youth) and ‘Diena’ (Day). Meanwhile Marie Sjøvold’s (NO) solo exhibition ‘They Crept into Their Father’s Sleep’ at Liepaja Museum attempts to create a space for reflexion about traumas, memories and dreams experienced by her family during the World War II. Polish emerging photography will be on show at Cēsis Exhibition Hall, combining in a witty way the experience of digital, post-internet and social network revolution and research on identity and feminism terminology.
Symposium ‘Now Memories’ with eight presentations from critics, historians and artists from the Baltic States and Europe will provide a critical summary on how the history of photography in the three Baltic countries is written and shaped, using as examples ‘nude photography and light porno in the 80s’, ‘the role of photography on social networks’, ‘photographic mapping’ and other subjects.
The official Riga Photography Biennale 2018 publication featuring a collection of articles dedicated to the processes in contemporary photography and visual culture will also be launched during the festival.
Please visit www.rpbiennial.com to see the full programme of Riga Photography Biennial 2018.
The Riga Photography Biennial (RPB) is an international contemporary art event, focusing on the analysis of visual culture and artistic representation. The term ‘photography’ in the title of the biennial is used as an all-embracing concept encompassing a mixed range of artistic image-making practices that have continued to transform the lexicon of contemporary art in the 21 st century. The biennial covers issues ranging from cultural theory to current socio-political processes in the Baltics and the wider European region. Riga Photography Biennial attempts to record changes taking place all over the world and invites us to collectively interpret them whilst translating the complicated and oversaturated contemporary visual language into meaningful relationships between our daily reality, the camera lens, historic material, contemporary art, technologies and the future.
Riga Photography Biennial 2018 is organised in partnership with: State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, Latvia 100, Riga City Council, Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga Art Space, the Association of Culture Institutions of Riga City Council, Gallery Alma, the Center for New Media Culture RIXC, Municipal Agency Cēsis Culture and Tourism Centre, Liepāja Museum, Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre, Latvian Museum of Photography, Tartu Art House, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Gallery Museum LV, Gallery 427, Riga Central Library, Education, Culture and Sports Department of Riga City Council, NoRoutine Books, U.S. Embassy in Latvia, Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Riga, British Council, Embassy of Finland, Estonian Embassy in Latvia, French Institute in Latvia, Embassy of Latvia in Moscow, Rixwell Hotel Konventa Sēta, Lux Express, Antalis, Hibnerstudio, Valmiermuiža Brewery, Reigys Ausmeņa Kebabs, Malduguns Brewery, DSV – Global Transport and Logistics, Jcdecaux, Transeurope Photo.