Photo reportage from the exhibition 'Unexpected Encounters' at the Arsenals Exhibition Hall, Riga

January 8, 2020
Author Echo Gone Wrong

On December 12, at 6 pm, the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LLMC) opened a science fiction themed exhibition, “Unexpected Encounters”, at the “Arsenals” Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMM). The exhibition, which is part of Latvia’s centenary program, includes historical research as well as reflections of science fiction in the work of contemporary artists. The exhibition will run from 13 December until 23 February 2020.

The LLMC exhibition “Unexpected Encounters” will focus on the impact of science fiction in Latvian culture in the second half of the last century, with reference to the exhibition series “Science and Science Fiction” that ran from 1975 to 1982. It will include works by contemporary artists highlighting current issues such as feminism, ecology and politics, all imagining alternative futures. The title of the project, “Unexpected Encounters”, is taken from the Strugatsky brothers’ short story collection of the same name, published in Riga in 1987.

In the Soviet period, science fiction was an ideology-backed genre that manifested utopias driven by progress and scientific development, in keeping with the paradigm and ideas of communism. However, here too, strict censorship was observed, preventing ideas that questioned the system of power and its mechanisms from coming forward. Today, on the other hand, we are experiencing an unprecedented growth in technology, the progress of which contrasts with an equally rapid shift in socio-political processes towards right-wing conservatism. As with various other points of intense development in history, there is a growing interest in science fiction, which both offers advanced utopias and provokes frightening dystopias. Alongside the connection with science and technology, these utopias offered by science fiction also reflect issues such as colonialism, class, racial and gender inequalities, and imminent ecological disasters.

The participating artists of the “Unexpected Encounters” exhibition are: Māris Ārgalis, Ieva Balode, Auseklis Baušķenieks, Maija Dragūne, Aleksandrs Dembo, Kristaps Epners, Dzidra Ezergaile, Pēteris Džigurs, Nash Glynn, Alberts Goltjakovs, Inārs Helmūts, Ann Lislegaard, Zenta Logina, Malda Muižule, Deimantas Narkevičius, Bahar Noorizadeh, Artūrs Ņikitins, Pakui Hardware, Ivars Poikāns, Māra Rikmane, Artūrs Riņķis, Vladislav Shapovalov, Genādijs Suhanovs, Kirils Šmeļkovs, Viktor Timofeev, Anton Vidokle, Artūrs Virtmanis, Sif Itona Westerberg, Ylva Westerlund, Driant Zeneli, Zheng Bo.

The first exhibition of the “Unexpected Encounters” project, titled “Cosmic Existence”, was held in Copenhagen from September 13 to October 28, in cooperation with the Contemporary Art Centre Den Frie.

Photography: Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art