Participants: Helēna Demakova, Dace Dzenovska, Anastasiia Federova, Santa Hirša, Jana Kukaine, Mark Allen Svede
Programme: Līna Birzaka-Priekule, Zane Onckule
Organized by: Kim? Contemporary Art Center, Riga
15:00 – 15:20 Introduction
15:20 – 15:50 Helēna Demakova: Why Iveta? (LV)
15:50 – 16.20 Santa Hirša: Waiting for Wild Capitalism: Latvian Art and the Post-Socialist Condition in the 1990s (LV)
16:20 – 16.50 Anastasiia Fedorova: Adidas Made Me Hardcore (ENG)
16:50 – 17.20 Jana Kukaine: Fear of Feminism in Latvia (LV)
17:20 – 17.50 Mark Allen Svede: A Bellyful of Valūta, A City Full of ‘Chanel’: Buying Art in Post-Soviet, Proto-Capitalist Riga (ENG)
17:50 – 18.20 Dace Dzenovska: Order from Chaos: Taming Freedom and Civilizing Selves in the 1990s (LV)
18:20 – 18.50 Līna Birzaka-Priekule, Zane Onckule: Notes of Ieva Kraule-Kūna’s solo exhibition Where My Cards Lay
The final decade of the past century was a time of radical change in the post-Soviet Baltics—a political, social and economic vertigo accompanied by national elation, on the one hand, and fear, insecurity and confusion on the other. This was a period of intense change, in which processes of renewal and self-redefinition took place across all aspects of life, including economic, interpersonal, and cultural. At the same time, a novel state-concept was introduced to Baltic life, ushering a strange parallel world into being—including a cultural avoidance of top-down policy and its conventions. Everything had to be learned and consumed anew, as the space-time of culture was radically reorganizing itself into newly revised chaos, with no map or means of navigation along the way. Instead, a simultaneity, changeability, and murkiness (“fogginess”) introduced by the postmodern era prevailed, evidenced by new state and protection rackets, Ponzi schemes, bribes and forgeries, raves and banquets, easy money and violence, a rise of different spiritual practices and ideologies, shadow economies, and growing rifts between local Latvian and Russian speakers.
At the hybrid-conference-readings Gone Through The Roof, held as part of Ieva Kraule-Kūna’s solo exhibition Where My Cards Lay, theorists, critics and curators will look back from various positions and subjective experiences and share their perspectives on the “unconquered” decade of the 1990s, a time that, as the artist argues, is still here.
An insight into the reading topics:
In her presentation Why Iveta?, Helēna Demakova will talk about this mysterious person and her achievements in the 90s art world in Latvia. All this will be contextualized with reference to the international success of Latvian artists.
Waiting for Wild Capitalism: Latvian Art and the Post-Socialist Condition in the 1990s
The geopolitical shifts of the 1990s stimulated “self-searching” and the development of new collective identities, based on systems of regional and political economies. An indiscriminate adoption of Western and neoliberal capitalist values became a tool for overcoming past traumas. Nationalism alternated with a thirst of proving, at home and to the international public, a belonging to the Western cultural space and, with this, yielding to a new kind of colonization. The forms that contemporary art took in the 1990s likewise manifested these geopolitical shifts either literally or metaphorically, adapting institutions, styles and themes to Western models. The points of conflict between the earlier values and the “new” were brought to the fore across different intonations in the works Latvian artists made in the 1990s, when universally existential reflections alternated with ironic critique both against capitalism and Soviet socialism. This text examines the ambivalent role contemporary art played in constructing the “new identity” of the 1990s’ society, along with the often aleatory ways in which the strange inter-space between post-socialism and pre-capitalism was reflected in Latvian art. Keeping in mind that the point of view of personal experience and “foggy” memories is emphasized in the project statement, the official line will be eschewed, instead looking for and analyzing random parallels, references and motifs within Latvian artworks and art criticism of the 90s, which are indicative of a dialogue with the new aesthetical end ethical values and the articulation of one’s individual experience in the context of wider historical occurrences.
Adidas Made Me Hardcore
The title of the presentation is an homage to Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, a 1999 video by British contemporary artist Mark Leckey, a documentation of both Britain’s underground club scene and the persistent nature of post-digital nostalgia. As the era which encompassed both the collapse of the USSR and the last of the pre-internet age, the 1990s are often regarded with nostalgia—but what does this nostalgia mean specifically for Eastern and Central Europe and their place within global culture? This presentation will cover the so-called “post-Soviet aesthetics” which emerged in global fashion and pop culture in the mid-2010sand the visual and ideological legacy of the 1990s in its DNA. It will also explore the inevitable political implications of cultural imagination, the persistence of regional stereotypes, and the fictional “East” where time stood still.
Fear of Feminism in Latvia
According to a prevailing opinion in post-1989 Eastern Europe, art has no gender and it shouldn’t be mixed with politics. Art representatives in the region are doggedly persistent in repeating that there’s no “gender trouble” within these societies. Attempts at adapting to the ideology of neoliberalism are combined with the inertia of modern discourse, including the cult of genius and the idea of art as an absolute and universal value. These and other myths have produced the fear of feminism prevalent in the region, the manifestations of which can also be observed in present-day Latvia. The symposium’s open reading and accompanying publication will outline the perception of feminism in Latvia’s art scene, with the cultural situation of the 1990s and its characteristic (anti-/post-) feminist attitude serving as a starting point of reference.
Mark Allen Svede
A Bellyful of Valūta, A City Full of ‘Chanel’: Buying Art in Post-Soviet, Proto-Capitalist Riga
An American art historian traveling to newly liberated Latvia in the early 1990s for research, I found a fledgling consumer society, a new generation of artists poised to critique this new material reality, and an unexpected opportunity to bridge the two when I was asked to serve as an acquisition agent for the West’s largest private collection of unofficial and nonconformist art from the former USSR. This presentation will share an outsider’s observations about evolving attitudes towards a local commercial art market, promoting a national cultural heritage even as that national identity was undergoing revision, and those incredible years when Riga’s sidewalks evidenced an inchoate street culture of counterfeit logo-wear, banana peels and UV sunglass decals.
Order from Chaos: Taming Freedom and Civilizing Selves in the 1990s
Those were the years when an egg boiling machine appeared in my parents’ kitchen, and every block in Riga had a household technology store that sold things on credit. Those were the years when people dressed in fake brands from Poland’s markets and installed white plastic windows in their apartments. Those were the years when most people had trouble distinguishing legitimate job offers from exploitative schemes. Those were the years when there was no middle class, and when the state was governed by people who had not governed before. Those were the years when the institutional and legal foundations for current-day Latvia were laid, when the direction of economic policy was set, and when the social and emotional infrastructure of society was formed. Those were the years when all failures were swept under the carpet of “Soviet legacy”. This carpet has now disintegrated; postsocialism has ended. It’s time to look at the self-made legacy of the 90s.
Readings will take place in Latvian and English. After the event, the recording will be available to the public.
Supporters: Ministry of Culture, State Culture Capital Foundation, Riga City Council, Knauf, Tikkurila, VV Foundation, Art Academy of Latvia, Fish farm Tome, Riga National Zoological Garden, National Library of Latvia, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, RIXC Center for New Media Culture, Riga Municipal Police, Arctic Paper, KRASSKY, Satori, Arterritory.com, Green Print, Kokmuižas alus, Gardu muti.