Has the time come to start dealing with “soviet-era archeology”? Ieva Astahovska and Inga Lāce, curators of the group exhibition “Revisiting Footnotes”, are convinced that it has. The critical length of time necessary to be able to look at the traumatic events with a dispassionate eye – and also with irony and a natural curiosity – has passed.
From July 4th through the 31st, the “Ofisa” gallery of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art is hosting the second part of the group show “Revisiting Footnotes”. The artists featured include: Kristina Norman and Marge Monko from Estonia; Indrė Klimaitė from Lithuania; Igor and Ivan Buharov from Hungaria; the Latvian Aija Bley; and photographer Henrik Duncker from Finland, whose photo series was photographed in Latvia and begins in the small village of Kapsēde near the city of Liepāja. Actually, Latvia has been Duncker's photographic theme for the last ten years now.
Arterritory.com asked Henrik Duncker to tell us some more about his photographic series – Why did he choose Kapsēde? And why does he take “portraits” of soviet-era objects?
Henrik Duncker (1963) was born in Helsinki and still lives there, working as an independent photographer on an international level. He started out with an interest in music and architectural drawing, and only later on developed an interest in photography. Duncker studied photography at the Helsinki Art and Design University, having been instructed by the likes of Martin Parr, Sakari Sunila and Timo Kelaranta.
On 2 August the exhibition “Revisiting Footnotes” will leave Riga to start on a tour throughout the various regions of Latvia.
1. In making the series "Studio Kapsēde" I was inspired by…
The belongings of my late mother-in-law which had been loitering around the house, on top of bookshelves, behind sofas etc. for a couple of years. For a while we did not quite know what to do with them. Most of these things were produced during the Soviet times, but there are also objects from pre-soviet and post-soviet origin. I guess it was instinct that made us save most of the items.
2. I chose exactly this place, objects and way of photographing them, because…
You see, I have been photographing in Latvia since 2003 or so. Actually, most of my personal work of recent years is related to Latvia. Kapsēde is a village near Liepāja in West Latvia and that is my wife's childhood setting. It just happened that I started to photograph years ago, partly to ease my frustration from not being able to communicate with my limited language skills. How I photographed during the first years was very improvised, kind of street photography but often also indoors, anyway different from the method I chose for Studio Kapsēde. I guess it just took some time for me to figure out how to make "portraits" of these objects. I did some unlucky trials two years ago, and in the summer of 2012, for whatever reason, it just felt natural to build a natural light studio in our living room in Kapsēde and start using colourful backgrounds. Hence the title “Studio Kapsēde” . I tried to avoid too much of nostalgy. Rather than cataloguing everything I allowed myself to choose objects on the basis "if I think this could make a nice picture I will try to photograph it." At some point I needed to expand the project, so I started to also photograph things belonging to other persons. That way, “Studio Kapsēde” grew into a larger, ongoing project which can travel to different locations around the country, for example in February I photographed at The Riga Porcelain Museum (which pictures I will likely show in my September solo exhibition in Rīga.) This traveling mode of “Studio Kapsēde” fits perfectly with LCCA's plans to tour and show Revisiting Footnotes in different venues around the country: to be be shown to audiences beyond the "normal" gallery audience: in a way Kapsēde will be traveling around Latvia. Local becomes universal.
3. I would love if the visitor would notice in my photographs, that…
Well, so far I've been mainly photographing mass produced things. As my photographs are taken from a very close distance, you can see marks of wear, dust etc. on the objects. So, each object — even if it has been produced in hundreds of thousands of copies — each of them carries signs of personal history. Both these aspects are also present in the texts which you can read (and take home with you) in connection to each picture. So, it's not only about local becoming universal but also the anonymous turning into personal — and when many people see the pictures, hopefully in their minds this will trigger both personal processes as well as reflect some common experiences.
Images from photo series “Studio Kapsēde” (c) Henrik Duncker