The Contemporary Art Festival, SURVIVAL KIT 3, Riga September 8-18
It seems as if September should be called the month of local culture. Along with the other art and cultural festivals and forums going on, practically concurrently, in Riga, from September 8-18 everyone interested is invited to attend the international contemporary art festival, SURVIVAL KIT 3. This year, the “survival kit” will contain questions, investigations and, quite possibly, even answers pertaining to the future and the influencing of the future.
Organized by the Contemporary Art Center (CAC), this is the third year for the Riga festival; an extensive program of events is planned, including not only exhibitions, but also evenings of film and discussion, concerts, performances and other happenings. The organizers promise that every visitor to the festival will have the opportunity to see and meet artists at work, as well as take part in creative activities and learn new skills. SURVIVAL KIT 3 itself will also take part in the contemporary cultural celebration, “White Night”, on 10 September, with a program designed especially for the evening.
This year, SURVIVAL KIT 3 will be held in the former Natālija Draudziņa High School building at Ģertrūdes Street 32; visitors will be presented with an expansive exhibition spanning all five floors of the building. In addition to local artists, foreign artists from more than 15 countries will also be taking part in the festival.
In previous years, festival artists and their works were situated in various commercial locales – closed-down stores which, due to the financial crisis, were emptied of their daily occupants – merchants, and were instead filled with artistic creations. This year, the festival's format has been altered – most of the festival's events will take place in one location, a former school.
In speaking with Arterritory.com, the curator of SURVIVAL KIT 3, Solvita Kresse, explained that the change in location is connected to the fact that some of the stores are now occupied and, moreover, in choosing just the one building, space is utilized more rationally and practically. According to the festival's organizers, every year SURVIVAL KIT draws a heretofore unknown map of Riga, which is an interesting way of getting people to explore the “backstage” of the city.
What are the guidelines, main themes and questions concerning SURVIVAL KIT 3 this year?
Every year, within the scope of the festival, we try to focus on current events, markers in time – both globally and locally, here in Latvia. At the beginning of this year, when we committed to the theme of the festival, both in the media and after speaking with artists, the main leitmotiv crystallized as “a look into the future”. The media was full of various future prognostications in such spheres that aren't even connected to futurology, for instance, finance, economics and medicine. We used this theme as the subtitle of this year's SURVIVAL KIT. We were greatly surprised, however, when a quite a few artists decided to look for answers to the future by stepping back into the past, attempting to rewrite history and posing such questions as “what would have happened if...” or “what would have happened if things had been different”. But there are also a number of interesting reflections about future societies and events.
How has SURVIVAL KIT changed since its beginning in 2009?
The first time, we didn't even think of it as a festival. It was just a spontaneous reaction to the situation created as a result of the financial crisis, when there were empty stores all over Riga's main streets; it seemed as if something should be done, and that this could be a great platform for creative expression. That first year, when the financial crisis and hopelessness were really tangible, we invited artists to share their strategies for survival, but asked them to focus more on “do-it-yourself” techniques; when available opportunities are limited, one can really do so many wonderful things and everyone can be creative. This project, which at the time wasn't even a festival yet, was so well-received by the artistic community, and the public was also so very receptive, that we understood that we must continue.
Last year we looked at what had changed in a year's time and noticed that many interesting, new and creative initiatives had come about; this was rather untypical of Riga's environment – a new, creative archipelago had emerged. And so we organized SURVIVAL KIT in cooperation with these creative initiatives, such as the many wonderful shops, workshops and hair salons on Miera Street and in other parts of Riga.
This time, we're trying to look into the future. For the first time, SURVIVAL KIT will take place in one place, in one building – a former school which, in my opinion, is rather symbolic. It leads one to think about the fact that we still have a lot to learn and that we are ready to learn.
How should one prepare before heading to the contemporary art festival, SURVIVAL KIT 3?
I think that the viewer should be very open, because not everything that will be on view in the festival corresponds to the traditional expectations of an art exhibition. There will also be a very comprehensive parallel program that invites the viewer to be interactive, participate and be creative, but also requests a bit of intellectual exertion. I think the festival will be interesting to various target audiences, because it will be possible to just look at works of art in a purely informative way, or to also delve deeper and get involved in some way. I really invite visitors to be open-minded, to get involved and to open themselves up to new experiences.
What definitely shouldn't be missed at SURVIVAL KIT 3?
8 September, the lecture “Abilities and Mechanisms” (18:00, the Hall, ENG); 9 September, the discussion “The Basic Element” (19:00, the Hall, LAT); 15 September, the endeavor “Eat the Future, Swallow a Toad” (18:00, the Hall, LAT); 16 September, a discussion with Dan Perjovschi (19:00, the Hall, ENG); 17 September, the event “Intermission” (12:00 – 21:00, the Hall and the café “Cadets de Gascogne”, Barona Street 52, ENG)