The Summer School of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary titled “Negotiating Gender in the Baltics and Eastern Europe”, 31 July – 5 August 2020, in Kuldīga Artists’ Residence Gallery, gathers young artists, researchers and curators from the Baltic region and other European countries. The focus of the summer school will be on issues of feminism and gender studies from both historical and contemporary perspectives in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. It will map not only regional contexts and collaborations, but also the importance of transdisciplinarity and the connections between practical and theoretical frameworks when thinking about gender issues. Are today’s most pressing feminism and gender issues the same across the Baltic States, Eastern Europe and Western countries? Recent global movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter speak to the urgency of solving systemic inequality and discrimination against particular groups. However, in Eastern Europe these issues are often rejected as “Western problems”, although patriarchal conservatism and exclusionary nationalism in our region is showing an increasingly frightening dominance, twisting together the post-Soviet legacy and effects of today’s neoliberal capitalism.
The Summer School is again held in cooperation with Kuldīga Artists’ Residence and the Art Academy of Latvia. Speakers organising workshops and lectures are artists, political activists, researchers and experts in the fields of visual art, feminist cultural studies and cultural anthropology. Speakers include researchers Redi Koobak (University of Bergen) and Bart Pushaw (University of Copenhagen), critic and curator Jana Kukaine (Art Academy of Latvia), curator, artist and poet Laima Kreivytė (Vilnius) and artists Jaana Kokko (Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki), Vala Tomasz Foltyn | Valentine Tanz (Krakow / Copenhagen), artists and poets Quinsy Gario, Jörgen Gario and curator Margaret Tali. The curators of the Summer School program are Ieva Astahovska and Andra Silapētere. Part of the program will be public and anybody who is interested is welcome.
The summer school program will start on Friday 31 July with the lecture performance by Vala T. Foltyn | Valentine Tanz “Strategies of Soft Resistance: Unveiling the Unspoken Poetics and Politics of Witchcraft”. The return to witchcraft and practices of magic can be seen as an urgent response to the rising tendencies of fascist politics, censorship of queer and feminist artists and the violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community as observed in Poland and other East European countries. Vala T. Foltyn—as an artist, witch and anthropologist—will share her insights on magic as a possible way to influence and re-shape the status quo through a variety of artistic practices. The lecture will be an in-depth presentation of her artistic research and archives that deal with gentrification, exile, the neoliberal politics of exclusion, loss and queer resilience.
On Saturday 1 August Redi Koobak in her talk “How to Do Things with Visual Arts: Rethinking Postsocialism and the Geopolitics of Feminist Knowledge” will map out the intersections of feminisms and neoliberalism in the postsocialist Estonian context while also raising a larger question of how to talk about issues around gender, race and sexuality at the level of the nation-state in the wider context of transnational feminist theory. The genealogy of Estonian feminism in its journey across the neoliberal terrain is full of multi-layered dialogues with and translations of a variety of Western feminist paradigms that tend to view Eastern Europe through a “lag” discourse which needs to be challenged. Drawing on my work at the intersections of the postcolonial and the postsocialist, she will show how the question of geopolitics of knowledge in feminist studies can be thought through the notion that the visual arts is an important starting point for the decolonisation of knowledge and imagination.
On Sunday 2 August artist Jaana Kokko in her talk “About Images and Politics” will focus on the question of the interview as an artistic tool that is often used in her practice as a filmmaker. She will accompany her words with images from the films “Haven” (2015) and “An Hour of a Working Woman” (2020), which are part of her work done on Baltic grounds. “Haven” is an experimental documentary about the model of a woman and the private space in socialist and capitalist society. “An Hour of a Working Woman” is a kind of artist’s essay about silences in the common pasts but also about the work of a woman—which is never done.
On Monday 3 August curator and critic Jana Kukaine will analyze visceral feminist aesthetics as a critical tool for art interpretation. Drawing encouragement from feminist political theory, carnal aesthetics and new materialism, visceral feminism can be used as a tool for art interpretation capable of registering ambiguities of imperial legacies, gendered vulnerabilities and local sensibilities. It enhances corporeality in order to address the visceral dimension of the body and the capacity for a liveable life. The body is not understood as a mere surface of ideological imprints but rather as a vital agent capable of articulating and verifying political claims.
On the same day, 3 August as part of public programme will be the performance by Quinsy Gario and Jörgen Gario “How to See the Spots of the Leopard”. This performance is part of the wider project “Communicating Difficult Pasts”, which aims at understanding the relationships between difficult pasts and articulating their influences and presence today in the Baltic States through the perspective of shared histories. Quinsy and Jörgen Gario will reflect on their Dutch Caribbean heritage and Latvia’s connection to European colonialism. The brothers are from the island of St. Maarten, where in July 1645 Duke Jacob Kettler’s ship “The Hope” was spotted. It was transporting ivory and pepper from present-day Liberia to the Caribbean and from there it took tropical timber to Europe. In 1653 Duke Jacob built the ship “Der Leopard” a slave ship, and forcibly transported abducted Africans to be sold and enslaved on the French island Martinique. The Baltic German-dominated Duchy of Courland is often recalled as a positive period in Latvian history, emphasising ethnic Latvian involvement in the Duchy’s colonial endeavors, especially on the island of Tobago. This involvement has been presented uncritically to the general Latvian public through books, films, plays and place names. With poetry and steelpan music, a musical form invented on Tobago, the Gario’s will walk through Kuldīga towards the statue of Duke Jacob in an attempt to teach everyone how to see the spots of “Der Leopard”.
On Tuesday 4 August the online talk by scholar Bart Pushaw “Racialising Unwritten Histories” will examine how we can combine feminist and queer commitments to writing new art histories with attention to race and ethnicity. In particular, he will explore what whiteness means in a Latvian and Baltic context, and how it is essential to understanding gendered cultural politics throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As a case study in action, he will apply our thinking to the public sculpture park dedicated to the works of Līvija Rezevska (1926–2004) in Kuldīga, and the narratives that coalesce around the musealisation of the heritage of a “national woman artist”.
On Wednesday 5 August curator and artist Laima Kreivytė in her talk “Queer Postcurating” will ask questions such as “What is postcurating?”, “How is it related to art practice and activism?”, “How queer is Fluxus?”. Her presentation will be based on recent postcurating practices at the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vilnius: Obsessions 2-0-2-0: Postexposition and Fluqus Wedding: The Birth of Centaurus, that were a reactivation of the Fluxus Cabinet through concrete poetry, readings, prophecies and rematerialisation of artifacts. During the presentation and discussion, she will analyse how to queer narratives, language and display by dismantling binary oppositions, patriarchal hierarchies and heterosexual division of labour.
The Summer School of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art is held in cooperation with Kuldīga Artist Residency and the Art Academy of Latvia. The project is supported by Kuldīga Municipality, State Culture Capital Foundation, Kuldīga Artist Residency, the Art Academy of Latvia, the Danish Cultural Institute and the Modriaan Fund.